14° Episodio di “Impara l’inglese con Dante”, grazie a Sinclair de Courcy Williams

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Rubrica a cura di Sinclair de Courcy Williams – Talking Dante. Episode 14

Christ! is a mild slang interjection (interiezione). An interjection is a word or a phrase used in an exclamation, often expressing emotion. Christ! expresses surprise or anger or disbelief (incredulità). Other interjections are yippee (urrà) to express delight (piacere); opps (ops) or rats or fiddlesticks to say that you’ve made a mistake; phew to express relief (sollievo); ouch (ahi, ahia) to say that you’ve hurt yourself; eek (oddio, aiuto) to say, for example, that you have seen a mouse (che hai appena visto un topo). There are many more, and they are a very nice aspect of a language. I am well aware (ben consapevole) that Dante would never have used the interjection Christ! The interjection he uses is Ahi! I could have used Alas! or Gosh! or Golly! or Yikes! or Good grief or even Holy smoke or, as they often say in Dublin, Janey Mack! But I felt that I really needed something stronger and more overwhelming (travolgente)! My idea is to make this a modern translation.
We know that Dante should (dovrebbe) tell his story from a passage in Canto XVII of Paradiso, where Cacciaguida, his ancestor (antenato) tells him that, when he has returned to earth, it will be his duty (il suo dovere) to use his parola brusca (his crude, sharp, blunt words) to tell his story at whatever cost (a qualunque costo): ‘Tutta tua visïon fa manifesta – e lascia pur grattar dov’è la rogna (make your visions as clear as possible, and let others scratch wherever the mange has come)’. The problem is that we don’t know for the moment (and more importantly, Dante himself doesn’t know) whether he will be capable (se sarà capace) of doing that. This is a very important point to make: you see, if Dante is now beginning to write the Divine Comedy, it means that he has returned from his journey. You would imagine, therefore, that he has resolved (che avesse risolto) his problems. Evidently, however, that is not so (non è così). Even thinking about the selva renews his fear (il pensier rinova la paura). Writing about it is sure to be (sarà sicuramente) even worse (ancora peggio). Will he be able to carry it off (farcela, cavarsela)? It seems for the moment that he doesn’t really want to (non ne ha voglia)! We will see that almost the the whole of the Inferno is a kind of stop and go process (un processo a singhiozzo), which very often looks as if it will end in defeat (sconfitta). That is especially true of the first two cantos!
I like this solution: ‘How hard it is to say how hard it was (a dir qual era è cosa dura).
Weird (stranissimo, bizarre) is an adjective which means strange, queer (bizarro) or incomprehensible. It can also mean uncanny (prodigioso, misterioso, inspiegabile) or supernatural. It is probably a bit overused (una parola abusata) these days also to talk about things that are only a bit strange, not really weird. The original Old English word had connections with fate, destiny, fortune, chance (il caso, il destino) or with the Fates themselves (le Moire). If I remember correctly the witches in Macbeth are called ‘the weird sisters’, because of the same connection. A person who is strange or simply a bit eccentric is sometimes called a weirdo. Dante was probably a weirdo!
A waste (terra desolata) is in this case a wasteland (la selva). The English poet who most closely connected himself with Dante was T. S. Eliot, and one of his most famous works is called The Wasteland.
Horrifying (spaventoso) is an adjective used to speak about something that arouses (che suscita) horror or shock. A similar adjective is horrendous.
Recall is a verb that means remember (call back to mind – richiamare alla mente). Here recalling is the subject (the circumstance of remembering the selva).
Daze (stordire, confondere) is a verb that means stupefy or bewilder (disorientare, sconcertare). If you are in a daze, then you are in a state of confusion or bewilderment. It is important to remember that it was not only being in (il fatto che era nella) the selva that put Dante in a daze. Even remembering (la circostanza di ricordarla) it or simply thinking that he now has to write about it brings back (far tornare) his original sense of horror!
Claim (sostenere) is here a verb that means assert (affermare, asserire) or contend. It can also mean have as a consequence (costare), as in ‘The fire (incendio) claimed many lives’.
Bitter (amaro, pungente) is an adjective. If something is bitter it has a sharp, pungent taste and it is not sweet. There is a type of English beer called bitter. If you have bitter memories or if you have had a bitter disappointment (delusion) then they cause you mental pain or resentment, and they are difficult to accept. You can also go on with something until the bitter end (portare qualcosa fino in fondo, alla sua conclusione). Bitterness (rancore, amarezza) is the noun.
Again it is absolutely vital that Dante associates the selva with dying. When he was in the selva, he felt as if he was dying (come se stesse morendo). In the real sense, I mean – not only allegorically!
Weird (stranissimo, bizarro) is an adjective which means strange, queer (bizzarro) or incomprehensible. It can also mean uncanny (prodigioso, misterioso, inspiegabile) or supernatural. It is probably a bit overused (una parola abusata) these days also to talk about things that are only a bit strange, not really weird. The original Old English word had connections with fate, destiny, fortune, chance (il caso, il destino) or with the Fates themselves (le Moire). If I remember correctly the witches in Macbeth are called ‘the weird sisters, because of the same connection. A person who is strange is sometimes called a weirdo. Dante was probably a weirdo.
A waste (terra desolata) is in this case a wasteland (la selva). The English poet who most closely connected himself with Dante was T. S. Eliot, and one of his most famous works is called The Wasteland.
Horrifying (spaventoso) is an adjective used to speak about something that arouses (che suscita) horror or shock. A similar adjective is horrendous.
Recall is a verb that means remember (call back to mind – richiamare all mente). Here recalling is the subject (the circumstance of remembering the selva).
Daze (stordire, confondere) is a verb that means stupefy or bewilder (disorientare, sconcertare). If you are in a daze, then you are in a state of confusion or bewilderment. It is important to remember that it was not only being in (il fatto che era nella) the selva that put Dante in a daze. Even remembering it (il fatto di ricordarla) or simply thinking that he now has to write about it brings back (far tornare) his original sense of horror!
Claim (sostenere) is here a verb that means assert (affirmare, asserire) or contend. It can also mean have as a consequence (costare), as in ‘The fire (incendio) claimed many lives’.
Bitter (amaro, pungente) is an adjective . If something is bitter it has a sharp, pungent taste and it is not sweet. If you have bitter memories or a bitter disappointment (delusion) then they cause you mental pain or resentment and they are difficult to accept. You can also go on with something until the bitter end (portare qualcosa fino in fondo, alla sua conclusion). Bitterness (rancore, amarezza) is the noun. There are a lot of \ei\ sounds in these lines: say, waste, dazes, same. As you know, that is called assonance.
Again it is absolutely vital that Dante associates the selva with dying. When he was in the selva, he felt as if he was dying (come se stesse morendo).

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