This new blank verse translation of the first ""Canticle"" of Dante's 14th-century masterpiece compares interestingly with some of the recent English versions by American poets, though it suffers particularly by comparison with Allen Mandelbaum's graceful blank verse one. Its aim to provide ""a clear, readable English version . . . that nevertheless retains some of the poetry of the original"" is only imperfectly fulfilled, owing partly to moments of unimaginative informality (""In Germany, where people drink a lot""), though these are intermittently redeemed by simple sublimity (""Night now revealed to us the southern stars,/While bright Polaris dropped beneath the waves./It never rose again from ocean's floor""). Translator Zappulla, an American Dante scholar and teacher, offers helpful historical and biographical information in an Introduction and exhaustive Notes following each of the poem's 34 ""Cantos."" Readers new to Dante may find his plainspoken version eminently satisfying; those who know the poem well may be disappointed by it.