The Wider Circle

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

The journey into hell and out again to light is not for one person, but for all souls. It is the journey we must make to discover who we really are. Whilst creating The English Cantos, James has been overwhelmed not only by the incredible support for his effort, but also by the responses. Artists, poets, cinematographers, and novelists have all bent their efforts to unveiling a little more of the world depicted in The English Cantos. On this page you will find these wonderful contributions enshrined, along with links to the creators.


A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core
To every captive soul and gentle heart
nel cui cospetto ven lo dir presente,
before whose sight the present words are brought,
in ciò che mi rescrivan suo parvente,
on which they may write back to me their thoughts,
salute in lor segnor, cioè Amore.
greetings in their lord, Love, I here impart.

Già eran quasi che atterzate l’ore
Of the time in which the stars are all aglimmer,
del tempo che onne stella n’è lucente,
almost a third of the hours passed from here,
quando m’apparve Amor subitamente,
when, suddenly before me, Love appeared,
cui essenza membrar mi dà orrore.
whose essence gives me horror to remember.

Allegro mi sembrava Amor tenendo
At first, Love seemed so joyful to me, keeping
meo core in mano, e ne le braccia avea
my heart within his hand, and in his arms
madonna involta in un drappo dormendo.
a woman wrapped inside a cloth and sleeping.

Poi la svegliava, e d’esto core ardendo
And then he woke her up, and humbly eating,
lei paventosa umilmente pascea:
fearful, she grazed upon that burning heart:
appresso gir lo ne vedea piangendo.
and next I saw him going off and weeping.

The first sonnet in Dante’s Vita Nuova, presented in the original Italian with a translation by J. Simon Harris. Dante sent this poem to various poets including Guido Cavalcanti, who would later write a sonnet in response.

To see J. Simon Harris’ translation of the first Canto of Dante’s Inferno, visit the Society of Classical Poets.


Proserpina was the Roman goddess of the Underworld. The mythology relating to the abduction of the daughter of the goddess Ceres was taken from Greek legend. Proserpina was abducted by Pluto whilst she was picking flowers.

James Sale: As always, the brilliance is in the small details. Proserpina was stolen from the land of the living, by her husband to be – Pluto or death – see how her head turns to glimpse one last time the receding exit of light. We cannot see the face of the Queen of death, but we can see the full, sensuous body that Pluto so desires. Behind we see the red, rawness of flowers or blood that will soon be diluted in the blue waters of the River Styx where all that is life is submerged and forgotten. What drama the artist visualises in this moment!


“Such was my prayer. And she, so far away, / Or so it seemed, looked down at me and smiled; / Then to Eternal Light she turned once more.” Dante, Paradise, Canto 32, 91-93

Linda Sale: The inspiration for my series of paintings called ‘Beatrice Turns Away’ was inspired by James reading me these lines. He was deeply moved by them and a strong image came to my mind and I got to work immediately! Around the same time we decided to visit Ravenna and pay our respects at Dante’s tomb. I was looking forward to the trip but was completely unprepared for the astonishing artwork we were to see there. The freshness of the mosaics within the forms of the basilicas literally took my breath away. When we returned I felt I needed to incorporate some of this into the painting I had started. One (the image on the far right) became the cover for James’ latest poetry book Divine Comedies.


This video was produced by my son, Joseph Sale, and Robert Monaghan, a film director from Bournemouth.