About A Greek Poet, Later Forgotten

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There is a clink.

“This is the first circle,” Virgil says. “The home of the virtuous pagans.”

Dante looks up. The clouds are very far above. White pillars, as thick around as Dante’s wrist, rise into the sky.

There is another clink. Something small and hard strikes the back of Dante’s head. “Metal,” he says.

“Here you will meet Emperor Augustus,” Virgil says. “Scribonia, his wife. Daughter Julia. Her boy Marcellus. And, of course, the poets.”

There is a clink.

“We were born before the light of the revelation,” Virgil says. “So Heaven has no place for us.”

There is a clink. “Ow,” Dante says.

Virgil makes a face.

“This is your punishment?” Dante leans down. He runs his hand along the ground. He pulls one of the metal bits from the grass. “For being pagan? A metal rain?”

It is a small hollow circle, edged in metal teeth.

“Some throw down sprockets,” Virgil says. “Others cogs. It is not important.”

There is a clink.

“We have built a citadel of reason,” Virgil says. “As bright as—”

“Who throws down sprockets?” Dante asks.

“Those above,” Virgil says. “They seek to build a Heaven of their own with the false God technology. But our citadel is superior.”

A trickle of cogs and sprockets rain down.

“Do they do this out of malice?” Dante asks.

There is the distant echo of a voice. It might be a dog’s. It might be a man’s. It might be God’s.

“It is hard on us,” Virgil says. “You must understand. Leisure in exile is a strain upon the mind. So people become strange.”

“But you have poetry.”

“I have poetry,” Virgil says. There is a clink. A cog strikes Virgil above the eyebrow. Sluggishly, the dead poet bleeds. In Latin, he intones, “De mortuis nihil nisi bene.”

“Very fine,” agrees Dante, whose secret shame is that he does not know Latin.

“But there are those for whom ‘Eep app ork ah-ah’ seems great art.”

Dante considers. “I cannot translate—”

“It means ‘I love you,’” says Virgil.


“They have no art,” says Virgil. “To keep them sane.”

Dante and Virgil walk rapidly now, rapidly towards the citadel, to avoid the metal rain.

“So they have gone mad,” Virgil says.

Dante squeezes Virgil’s shoulder.

“And Spacely,” says Virgil. “Spacely is the maddest of them all.”

They walk.

They walk.

Dante enters the Citadel of Human Reason. He sees gathered before him the greatest pagan souls of all antiquity.

The glory is blinding.

“Ah!” Dante cries, overcome. “Homer! And Ovid! And Horace. And Lucan!”

Virgil nods.

“But … where is Jetson?” Dante asks.

There is silence.

“He has left us,” says Virgil. “He has left us.”

The rain of metal is unceasing now, there, down below, in the first circle of Hell.

“He has gone to them.

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