Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing a Dante's Inferno-Like Satire

Our son recently chose to write a Dante's inferno-like satire for his Omnibus class through Veritas Academy. Here it is:

The Heaven of the Philosophers

by

Krister Eide


At the midpoint of my adolescence, I found myself in a dark cavern. There was a dim red glow. The air was thick, musty, and hot, as in some ancient and poorly air-conditioned library in the middle of summer. I found it difficult to breathe without collapsing.

I saw the faint outline of a man in the distance. From what I could gather, he appeared to be a middle-aged man, and as with many middle-aged men there appeared to be a good deal of him about the middle. He came forward with a reassuring smile on his face and stood beside me, then put his hand on my shoulder.

"My name is Clive. Don't worry. I'm going to guide you. You will see some fascinating things in this place." He gave me a wry smile and gestured at me to follow him.

I followed Clive into a large, dimly-lit room. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor were all made up of dingy, warped mirrors. Throughout the room, I saw men standing on pedestals, all wearing different kinds of clothing, and each facing one of the mirrors. I inched my way through the crowded room towards one of the men who grabbed my fancy by his distinguished appearance. He was a handsome-looking person who wore a powdered wig and a red velvet waistcoat with brass buttons. He was looking around the room, observing his reflection from various angles, then he caught a glimpse of us staring at him in his mirror. He smiled, adjusted his clothing, and turned towards us.

"Come in, come in", the man said. "My name is Fran├žois-Marie Arouet, but you might know me better by my nom de plume of Voltaire." He turned to look at himself in the mirror again. "You caught me in the middle of one of my finest soliloquies, and I cannot be troubled to begin again. As I was saying, this simpleton Rousseau appears to demand that we walk on all fours like... like common beasts!" The man adjusted his wig. "Man, the most perfect of creatures, the archetype of angels, behaving like savages! But man, it is a noble creature. And mankind at its height--" here he adopted a noble pose and glanced at himself fondly in the mirror from the corner of his eye "--is a paragon of reason."

"What?!" came an astonished and angry cry from across the room. Another man, presumably Rousseau, leapt off his pedestal and walked towards the first man, flailing his arms in anger. "You corrupt devil!" he shouted. "I never stated that men should act like savages! We have not the purity of soul now to resume our native innocence even if we should wish it, so corrupted have we been by the evils of society! I simply stated that men in their current condition should not have everything they want handed to them on a platter! You're putting false words into my mouth. You are a vain and foolish man! You are the very face of corruption itself, dressing like a fop with your finely laced shoes and your powdered wig! You are the perfect demonstration and proof of the truth of my brilliant observations!"

"C'est ridicule! You're just reinforcing my point, now aren't you?" Voltaire's face turned the color of a beet as he clenched his fists. "You want all men to be savages, and you act like a savage! How dare you interrupt me with such nonsense!" Voltaire replied.

Rousseau responded by knocking Voltaire off his pedestal and onto the ground. Voltaire lunged at Rousseau, and the two wrestled on the ground. Demons started to surround the two men, cheering on the fight. Clive whispered into my ear, "Perhaps we'd better move on to the next area."

The two of us walked on down a dark, musty corridor of mirrors. The air grew heavier and heavier, until we finally caught sight of a tiny lantern that dimly illuminated the scenery. When we got closer to it, I saw that it was being carried by an old, bearded man wearing a toga. He looked at us rather skeptically. "I am looking for a human being," he explained, "but all I can find are rascals and scoundrels." He took another look at us, and appeared disappointed by what he saw.

"Have you looked for a carpenter from Nazareth?" Clive replied. "He is the light of the world."

"Bah!" The man scowled and walked past us.

We eventually found ourselves in a somewhat larger room. I saw a dark-haired, bespectacled, mustachioed man wearing a smoking jacket. He was standing on top of a pedestal, similar to those Voltaire and Rousseau had stood upon. Despite his predicament, he seemed rather cheerful. He seemed to observe my surprise at his attitude, and this made him smile all the more. "Ah, you seem to be surprised by how contented I am."

"I must admit--" I began, but the man cut me off.

"That's because you do not understand the greatness of the tragic artistic consciousness. I will my greatness, therefore I am great, even in these surroundings. I create my heaven, therefore heaven surrounds me. I am as happy in this heaven of hells as I was in Germany! Never forget, man is the play-actor of his ideals. Little wonder these fools around me still act as fools. Yet I, I am still the tragic hero."

"It is grand, I admit," I replied, "but don't you think it's a little silly when you could go to the true heaven if you chose?"

"Ah, but you see, it wouldn't be true to me. The truest mark of a great man is his overcoming of the prejudice of truth over the creative fantasy of the individual will. Where would I be if I preferred the true heaven over my heaven? I would be a mere bit-player in God's drama, rather than the star, writer, and director of my own--uh, could you move a bit, you're standing in my light."

I shifted a bit and the man went on with this self-aggrandizing drivel. We heard words like "master" and "slave" and "power" and "will", but all these words began to swirl together in my mind. Clive looked at me and said, "Perhaps its best to move on to where this more light and more air to breathe." I was very grateful indeed!

Reference: Photograph is from Dore's Inferno

1 comment:

david said...

to be a very good inspiration, so I the spirit of learning to write

Previous Latin Sayings of the Week

"Soli deo gloria." - For the glory of God alone.


Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit! - Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!



"Lex malla, lex nulla." - St. Thomas Aquinas
(A bad law is no law.)


"Cantantes licet usque (minus via laedit) eamus. " - Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious.


"Caelitus mihi vires." - My strength is from heaven.

"Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo Salvatore meo" - My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior (Luke 1:45)

In Omnibus Ipse Primatum Tenens “That in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:16-18)


"Qui bene cantat bis orat." - He who sings well, prays twice - (St Augustine)

"Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te." -
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. (St Augustine)

"Caelitus mihi vires
." - My strength is from heaven.

"Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est." - Where there is charity and love, God is there.

"Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis ."

Unless you will have believed, you will not understand. - St Augustine

"Deo vindice" - With God as Protector


"Credite amori vera dicenti." - Believe love speaking the truth. (St. Jerome)


De vitiis nostris scalam nobis facimus, si vitia ipsa calcamus." - If we tread our vices under feet, we make them a ladder to rise to higher things. (St. Augustine)

Dei gratia - By the grace of God

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum. - The Word of the Lord Endures Forever.

"Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis." - Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (St. Augustine)

"Deo iuvante" - with God's help

"Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus." - That God may be glorified in all things

"Pax vobiscum." Peace be with you.

"Jubilate Deo." Be joyful in the Lord.

"Ille vir, haud magna cum re, sed plenus fidei." He is a man, not of ample means, but full of good faith.

"Facit enim mihi magna qui potens est." - For He that is mighty does to me great things.

"Oremus semper pro invicem." - Let us ever pray for each other.

"Distrahit animum librorum multitudo." - Seneca
A multitude of books distracts the mind.

"Nullam est nunc dictum, quod sit non dictum prius." - Terence
There is nothing said now, that has not been said before.

"Nosce te ipsum." - Plato
Know thyself.

"Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis" - Not for you, not for me, but for us.

"Primum non nocere." - First, do no harm (Hippocrates)

"Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis." - Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (St. Augustine)

"Deo iuvante" - with God's help

"Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus." - That God may be glorified in all things

"Pax vobiscum." Peace be with you.

"Jubilate Deo." Be joyful in the Lord.

"Ille vir, haud magna cum re, sed plenus fidei." He is a man, not of ample means, but full of good faith.

"Facit enim mihi magna qui potens est." - For He that is mighty does to me great things.

"Oremus semper pro invicem." - Let us ever pray for each other.

"Distrahit animum librorum multitudo." - Seneca
A multitude of books distracts the mind.

"Nullam est nunc dictum, quod sit non dictum prius." - Terence
There is nothing said now, that has not been said before.

"Nosce te ipsum." - Plato
Know thyself.

"Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis" - Not for you, not for me, but for us.

"Primum non nocere." - First, do no harm (Hippocrates)

"Dei plena sunt omnia." - Cicero (All things are full of God.)