abandon all hope

You have to read the story accompanying Chelsea’s tattoo.

I have Crohn’s disease, which is an aggressive and often debilitating chronic disease that affects the digestive tract for which there is no cure. The symptoms are embarrassing, painful, and life altering. When I got the tattoo almost four years ago, I was in the middle of a major flare, a medication had caused all of my hair to fall out, I was crippled with related arthritis, and bloated with steroids. As a “so there” to my disease, I inscribed my favorite line from one of my favorite pieces of literature above my crack, which would be the gateway to the particular body system afflicted.

I got it as a joke, although having Crohn’s really is hellish, which has proven funny time and time again during hospital trips and surgeries, where I ask medical personnel if they can identify the source document. The tattoo artist said it was the weirdest tattoo he had ever done until then, and I had previously watched him tattoo Kurt Vonnegut’s asshole drawing on the back of a girl’s neck.

Literary Tattoos: The Divine Comedy Inferno Dante Alighieri

 “Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of Power divine,
Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

- Dante’s Inferno, Canto III

Dante’s Inferno

Literary Tattoos: The Divine Comedy Inferno Dante Alighieri

Tony’s tattoo is from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s a bit difficult to read, because it is based on the calligraphy of a 14th century manuscript. It is the final line of the poem, “E quindi uscimmo a rivider le stelle.” Canto XXXIV, line 139. Translations treat this line in different ways, but I prefer the one that William Styron cites as the final line in his memoir, Darkness Visible: “And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.”