A painting depicts Dante (Orwell) holding a copy of his poems (prose)
The Divine Comedy (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

In researching for trips to England to follow in Orwell's footsteps I read biographies so as to know where the significant places in his life were and to then go there. During my HOMAGE TO ORWELL in 2003, I visited the hospital where Orwell died on January 21st, 1950. And I also visited the cemetary where he is buried and knelt at his grave.

Friends who had visited Orwell in the hospital -- where he spent months -- have told stories of their conversations with him and describe his room. They say the book Orwell was reading, leading up to his death, was DANTE'S DIVINE COMEDY which was on his bedside table.


Since then I've wanted to read THE DIVINE COMEDY but as years went by it wasn't a top priority and I forgot about it really. My only real knowledge of the classic was that it's also called DANTE'S INFERNO because it decribes nine circles of hell that Dante has to descend into before ascending into heaven. It's the origin of the phrase "to hell and back".

Then, a couple of years ago, as often happens, the book jumped off the shelf at me as I was browsing in a used book store. I knew Orwell had sent it and gleefully bought it.

DanteCover DanteBackCvr

DanteTitlePage DanteFace

When I got the book home -- it's massive and very heavy (literally and figuratively) -- I set it on the coffee table and made a plan to read a few pages a day. It's a beautiful edition of the original DIVINE COMEDY which came out 700 years ago, in 1321, just before Dante died. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that it was translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- the most famous poet in America who wrote PAUL REVERE'S RIDE and THE SONG OF HIAWATHA which all children learned the opening lines to. We kids used to chant, "I'm a poet and don't even know it but my feet show it cus they're LONG fellows" - hahaha. Orwell would have gotten a kick out of that cus his feet were size 12 and he had a hell (pardon the pun) of a time finding shoes to fit.

There are 384 pages, including 136 full-page masterpiece-quality black-paint drawings. The individual poems -- there are 100 altogether -- are called "cantos". The book is divided into 3 chapters -- INFERNO, PURGATORY and PARADISE with each comprising approximately 33 cantos.

Below I scanned the first page of the first poem (cantro 1) of each of the 3 chapters -- INFERNO, PURGATORIO & PARADISO -- and transcribed the intro of each.

CantoInfernoPg12 CantoPurgatoryPg166 CantoParadiso289


In the middle of his life, Dante has left the 'straightforward pathway' and is lost in a dark forest. He tries to regain the path by climbing a mountain but his way is barred by a Leopard, a Lion and a She-Wolf.
Each creature represents a different sin. Virgil appears and offers to show him another way, one that leads through Hell and Purgatory. After that, a 'more worthy' guide (Beatrice) will lead him to Paradise: Virgil, as a Pagan, is not allowed to go there. Dante gladly adopts Virgil as his leader.


Having emerged from Hell, Dante and Virgil find themselves on the shores of Purgatory. They are gruffly challenged by the guardian of the mountain, Cato of Utica, a Roman statesman famous for his Stoic virtue. Mistaking them for doomed souls escaped from Hell, he asks whether there has been a shift in the order of the universe. Virgil explains that Dante still lives and is there at the command of a lady from Heaven. He then prepares Dante for his ascent by washing his face and tying a reed girdle around his waist to safeguard him against Pride, the source of all sin.


Dante still finds himself in the natural world after drinking from the waters of Eunoe in the Garden of Eden (Purgatory, Canto XXXIII). Beatrice, who is at his side, turns to gaze into the midday sun of the Spring Equinox, the noblest time of the day within the perfect season. Blinded by its brilliance, Dante appeals to Apollo, the pagan sun god, to help him look at it unflinchingly. Upon hearing the music of the cosmos in motion, Dante realizes that he and Beatrice have risen above the Earth into the heavens helped by the universal law of gravity.

The basic gist of DIVINE COMEDY, as I understand it, is that Dante, due to the intervention of some divine power, is given a choice of taking a different route to getting into heaven -- one without dying or having to struggle over the obstacles of life, like climbing the mountain. This alternate route will take him through hell but Dante is assured he'll be protected by Virgil, from the spirit world, who will accompany him all the way. And there's one condition: If Dante chooses this detour to heaven he must write an epic poem sharing with the world what he saw in Hell so people living on Earth or in Purgatory will do what they must to avoid going there.

Dante, in writing the DIVINE COMEDY not only describes Hell but also names names of sinners he saw there -- and those names are recognizable as people from history going back over a thousand years and also contemporary people of Dante's day. Dante, in descending the nine circles of hell, explains the sins that differentiate the level, ie the smallest of sins are punished less than the huge sins. Most of the book is Dante describing the tortures suffered by the sinners and it's gruesome, deranged, nauseating, horrific reading. Dante had one hell (pardon the pun again) of an imagination -- and was full of total hate for some of the people he was figuratively torturing. For example, the hottest place in Hell (although in INFERNO it's cold as ice cus Hell has frozen over) is reserved for conspirators and assassins -- like those who murdered Julius Ceasar. In our day, we can be assured that that's the circle where the evil-doing conspirators behind the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy are abiding in Hell for eternity. The devil possesses their soul.


Below is the first page, and intro, of the last canto of INFERNO explaining what I just described:



Across the lake can be glimpsed the shape of Lucifer like a windmill through the distant fog. The impotent creature stands alone in Judecca, the fourth division, immobile from the chest down, flapping his wings, each of his three faces chewing one of humankind's worst sinners -- Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ, and Brutus and Cassius, joint conspirators against Caesar. Virgil carries Dante in piggyback fashion as they climb down Lucifer's back and thighs. Having passed through the centre of the Earth, they struggle back up to a cave where a path will lead them to the safety of Mount Purgatory.

As previously mentioned it was my intention, when I first got the book, to read a canto a day of DIVINE COMEDY -- like maybe what Orwell was doing with it beside his deathbed all those months. But that was before I realized how tough-slogging it would be to plough through the ancient language and comprehend what Dante was talking about.

But, luckily, a person doesn't really need to read what Dante's saying because most everything in his epic is depicted in the verbatim illustrations. In other words, you can just look at the pictures and figure out what's going on. I tended to flip through the pages until I came to an illustration that really grabbed my interest, and then read the canto referenced.


For example, the horrific scene depicted above is from the PURGATORY chapter, not INFERNO, and I'd jumped through the pages until coming to that.

After a short period of time I got saturated and overwhelmed reading Dante, and I put the book away in its designated shelf in the bookcase.

(social justice do-gooders doing more harm than good)
True North, November 8, 2022

The author of the news article above, who'd taken a walk in the heart of the city's drug-neighbourhood (and it could be any city in North America) used her pen to paint a picture. He's an excerpt:

"...It was like watching a horrifying multi-vehicle accident.
I wanted to unsee the decay and the mass of zombie-like drugged-out people clustered together.
But I couldn't take my eyes off this Apocalyptic scene. Could this be what we call hell on earth?
The area was becoming a Dante's Inferno..."

InfernoStenchPg134 DoublyDeadPg249

After taking a break from reading THE DIVINE COMEDY (which is not funny) I'll be continuing with its parallels to life on Earth today.

All the best,
Jackie Jura, December 2022


35.Big Brother's Brotherhood (... Members of the Brotherhood are prepared to: give one's life; commit murder; commit acts of sabotage; betray one's country to foreign powers; cheat, forge, and blackmail; corrupt the minds of children; distribute habit-forming drugs; encourage prostitution; disseminate venereal diseases; do anything which is likely to cause demoralization of society...)

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com