A passage from Dante Alighieri's Inferno (Canto 27, lines 61-66) spoken by Guido da Montefeltro in response to the questions of Dante, whom Guido supposes is dead, since he is in Hell: The flame in which Guido is encased vibrates as he speaks:

    "If I thought that I was replying to someone who would ever return to the world, this flame would cease to flicker. But since no one ever returns from these depths alive, if what I've heard is true, I will answer you without fear of infamy."

This pair of stanzas from Dante's La Commedia Divina is perhaps most famous, among English speakers at least, for being the epigraph to T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The original and some translations:

``S'i' credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria sanza più scosse;

ma però che già mai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
sanza tema d'infamia ti rispondo . . . .''

--Dante Alighieri, La Commedia Divina: Inferno, Canto XXVII.61--66

``If I thought that I were speaking to a soul
Who someday might return to see the world,
most certainly this flame would cease to flicker;

but since no one, if I have heard the truth,
ever returns alive from this deep pit,
with no fear of dishonor I answer you . . . .''

--Mark Musa

``If I thought my reply were meant for one
who ever could return into the world,
this flame would stir no more; and yet, since none---

if what I hear is true---ever returned
alive from this abyss, then without fear
of facing infamy, I answer you . . . .''

--Allen Mandelbaum

. . . ``If I thought that I were making
Answer to one that might return to view
The world, this flame should evermore cease shaking

But since from this abyss, if I hear true,
None ever came alive, I have no fear
Of infamy, but give thee answer due

--Dorothy Sayers

If I thought my answer were to one who ever could return to the world, this flame should shake no more;

but since none ever did return alive from this depth, if what I hear be true, without fear of infamy I answer thee.

--John Aitken Carlyle

If I believed that my response were made
to one returning to the world above,
this flame would cease to quiver evermore;

because, though, from this depth none ever has
returned alive, if I have heard the truth,
I answer with no fear of infamy


It is interesting to note that, although Guido da Montefeltro is deceived in thinking that Dante is a shade, Dante does not correct him. Montefeltro is, of course, in the circle of Fraud.

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