from Inferno Canto XX : Two Translations

Certo io piangea, poggiato a un de’ rocchi
del duro scoglio, sì che la mia scorta
mi disse: «Ancor se’ tu de li altri sciocchi?

Qui vive la pietà quand’ è ben morta;
chi è più scellerato che colui
che al giudicio divin passion comporta?

-Inferno, XX Ln.25-30


In the 8th circle of hell, in the 4th ditch, where astrologists, seers and are punished, Dante falls into yet another crying jag for the sinners. Vergil, his guide, rebukes him for his impiety  (translation by Anthony Esolen):

I leaned upon an outcrop of the bridge
and surely wept; I wept so, that my guide
said, “Even now, with all the other fools!

Here pity lives the best when it is dead.
Who is more wicked than the man who longs
to make God’s judgment yield to human force?”

My translation:

Truly I wept, leaning upon the rock
of hard stumbling, so that my guide
said, “Are you as foolish as the rest?

Here pieta lives when it is best left dead.
Who is more wicked than the one
who feels compassion at divine judgment?”


1 Peter 2:8 “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”

Pietà can mean both Pity and Piety and both senses play a role in Dante’s transformation so therefore I favor a transliteration so that the reader must struggle alongside of Dante: piety or pity?

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