I’m in the midst of reading a long essay that was prompted by the appearance of three new translations of Dante’s Purgatory, which were recently published to coincide with the seven-hundredth anniversary of Dante’s death, at fifty-six, in September of 1321. While devoted primarily to Purgatory, the essayist eventually brings into play the depravities rendered in Dante’s Inferno, the place where (as one writer put it) “the self and its despair [are] forever inseparable”. At that point the essayist included this quotation from an Inferno translation:
I never saw a barrel burst apart,
Having sprung a hoop or slipped a stave,
Like that man split down to where we fart,
His guts between his legs, his body splayed,
Its organs hanging out, among them that foul sac
Which turns to shit all that we eat.
As I beheld this gore he looked at me
And even wider tore his breast apart
“See how I spread myself,” said he.
Not long after stopping at that blood-congealing point in my reading, I listened for the first time to the song we’re premiering today, and became equally horrified. The juxtaposition couldn’t have been more abominably perfect.