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In 1838, twenty-nine years before publishing his translation of Dante`s Inferno, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote that "to understand Dante- it is absolutely necessary to understand the Italian Language." How true was Longfellow to his own dictum? Judging by the problems he had in composing a simple inscription, his ability to express himself in Italian was probably modest. However, this does not mean his understanding of the written language was inadequate. Longfellow`s translation is on the whole not only correct but accurate and attentive to the semantic nuances of the original. Indeed, the literalness of his translation shows he understood Dante`s language so well that he felt duty bound to render into English its extraordinary precision, richness, and variety.