.." subordinator, and ending with main clauses that open with "so..." Rendered by a single translator, these similes tie together disparate styles encountered between analogies; codified by a recurring language of analogy, they give us a dark comfort just as Homer's tropes of analogy--"Wine dark sea," "Rose fingered dawn"--comfort us.
If we can safely assume that what we have accomplished sounds better than prose, can we also believe that we have dislodged Dante's sense little enough to justify the effort It all comes down to no more and no less than that. It seems fair to conclude with a test case. Here is the lovely simile, a mixture of Virgilian pastoral and everyday Tuscan agricultural elements that opens Inferno 24, first in John Sinclair's prose, and then in our free verse. The situation is this: Virgil has been irritated by the mocking of his intelligence by the shade of a Jovial Friar from Bologna, since he had been tricked by a devil and almost gotten Dante killed in an ambush:
Dante's style changes with different speakers and settings, and the translator must adjust his style to suit that variety. Francesca's mode in telling of the love that brought her to hell, is very different from the tone Ulysses uses in recalling how he inspired his men to follow him to the ends of the earth. Bertran de Born, holding his head up like a lantern as he tells his sin, has a voice very different from Ugolino's expression of pain and vicious fury. Language and mood shift with the shifting canvas. The simile of the arsenal in Venice as the workmen caulk their unsound ships' with viscous pitch' which introduces the scene devoted to the devils of barratry is different in language and mood from the hoarfrost' image of a country scene evoked to describe the protagonist's feelings of relief at seeing Virgil smile again.
Dante succeeds in commemorating not only the paramount movement from visual to verbal levels but the contrary movement from the verbal surface to the picture or vision that lies behind it. The acrostics are something between writing and picture. They have neither the differentiated articulation of a discursive argument nor the representative density of a picture, nor are they as schematic as a diagram, although their numerological distribution has diagrammatic elements. They instantiate rather the locus of a contest among the arts. On the side of vision is the immediacy that places as a picture in "logical space" the Dantean message of man's connection with pride--the fundamental sin. Vision, not discourse, is that toward which the power of the poet