Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of ‘The Divine Comedy’

Herein follows an incomplete list of book-links related to Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

Readers of the poethead blog will note that I dedicate Saturday mornings to the work of women writers, editors and translators. The translation of The Divine Comedy undertaken by  Dorothy L. Sayers  was completed in part by Barbara Reynolds.

Dorothy L. Sayers considered her translation of The Commedia to be her most important work,  and yet only one copy of the book was available through the Dublin Library Service last week. The Guardian Newspaper devoted just a single line to the fact that this work of translation was undertaken by Sayers. In the same instance both The Guardian and the Dublin library service suffer a surfeit of Sayers’ genre or detective stories.

The Divine Comedy translated by Dorothy L. Sayers ( some useful links)

Bibliography for Barbara Reynolds (Wikipedia)

Alegorical portrait of Dante, Agnolo Bronzino, c. 1530 The book he holds is a copy of the Divine Comedy, open to Canto XXV of the Paradiso.
Allegorical portrait of Dante, Agnolo Bronzino, c. 1530 The book he holds is a copy of the Divine Comedy, open to Canto XXV of the Paradiso.

Dorothy L. Sayers produced a classic translation of Dante’s Hell and Purgatorio which is still read. The problem with media and literary journals not citing Sayers or Glasscoeappears to be based in an institutionalised sexism which is a contributory factor in the invisibility of women editors. Evidently, The Guardian Newspaper and the Dublin library service give more attention to Sayers’ genre works than they do to her translation and other works.

It does not seem to pose great difficulty for male editors and writers to consistently cite what they feel are the definitive texts when the writer happens to be a dude. I believe that women editors and writers must begin to cite the works of women when quoting classical works of literature. If nothing else it may help those women journalists who seem incapable of taking women’s literature seriously.

Note : Recent attacks on Dante’s Commedia delineated  in this article show a lack of critical discernment and appreciation by those who would chose what anyone may read.

Some related texts

Further Papers on Dante

The Lost Tools of Learning

Are Women Human ?

A.N Wilson Dante in Love

Dreaming poems; editing “Julian of Norwich” and ‘The Dream of the Rood’

1. ‘Lo! I will tell of the best of dreams,
what I dreamed in the middle of the night,
after the speech-bearers were in bed.
It seemed to me that I saw a very wondrous tree
5. lifted into the air, enveloped by light,
the brightest of trees.’
from The Dream of the Rood (electronic edition),  created by Mary Rambaran-Olm.

A few weeks ago my attention was called to an annotated electronic edition of the Dream of the Rood , created by Mary Rambaran-Olm.  I thought to link this edition on Poethead  to compliment some of my earlier posts about women editors and writers. There are an amount of works on the blog dedicated to the poetry of the mystic-writer, these posts deal specifically with the woman’s mystic voice rather than approaches to contemporary editing by women.

The sole exception to the above is based in a few scattered posts that allude to Marion Glasscoe’s magnificent editing of Julian Of Norwich’s  A Revelation of Divine love. Glasscoe’s Julian is in my opinion a seminal text, and I have retained my copy since I studied it in UCD some years ago. There are many modern versions of Julian’s Revelation which attempt to bring her luminous writing toward a contemporary audience, however, mostly the texts that I have read go nowhere near the Glasscoe for clarity of expression. I have referenced ideas and images from the Glasscoe in a couple of  Poethead posts , which I am adding here and here. 

To my mind a masterpiece is a work of art that has the ability to generate interest and to inspire derivatives in the visual and musical arts. The work that has gone into the creation of the electronic edition of The Dream of the Rood allows for a contemporary audience to access it’s unique quality of expression. Here, in Mary Rambaran-Olm’s pages are her transcriptions, translations and notes from the original manuscript. The translation pages  run along the left-hand column of the Rood home page and are subdivided to allow for easier reading. There are also extensive images of the Vercelli Book (Folios 104v-106r).  It’s an online treasure-trove.  The poem is available on the right-hand of the home-page under the heading of Translation and Original Poem.

I did question whether I should write a post about Julian of Norwich and the Dream of the Rood for this Saturday, and I hope my regular readers enjoy the piece. I believe that poets are inspired across a variety of modes of expression and that the contemporary modes of dissemination can ameliorate access to masterpieces such as the two above-mentioned triumphs of editing by both Glasscoe and Rambaran-Olm.  Dreaming and vision-poems have an agelessness about them that defies time.

I am wary of some translations which I have discussed before now, but there is an endurance in this writing which has influenced many a writer. One quick search for Julian’s writing uncovers a vast array of related works. It is really up to the reader in how they wish to access the works mentioned above, but I’d feel somehow that I’d have let down my readers if I did not acknowledge the trojan work by these two women editors in their creation of accessible translations for modern readers.

Note. It’s rather alarming that  a dreaming poem such as  Dante’s The Divine Comedy has been subject to an attempt at evisceration and censorship at this moment.  If there is a loss anywhere in this issue it is in the Gherush92 campaign.   I have said online and elsewhere this past week that this campaign is about getting into newspapers in the most risible  fashion, rather than about  any offense caused by a  poem that continues to inspire  a great deal of visual and literary art.

Beati in Apocalipsin libri duodecim 900-950 (Spain)