Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: Italian literature

Things I Didn’t Do



The Things I Didn’t Do


(for Maggie Perry)


“Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,

parole di dolore, accenti d’ira,

voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle

facevano un tumulto.”


I most regret the things I didn’t do,

The things I didn’t manage to convey.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—


And only Dante really had a clue

About the phrases that the damned might say.

I most regret the things I didn’t do,


The grammar points that might have rung as true

As cries in the abyss from shades gone gray.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—


The gnawing conversation of the crew

Who from all hope at last had crept away.

I most regret the things I didn’t do,


Not those I did – though justice does pursue

Our misdeeds day on unrelenting day.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—


And I its proper spokesman when the cue

Was given.  What a duty to betray!

I most regret the things I didn’t do.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you!


–Tom Riley

Great Books Program

Great Books Program



Sir: with Virgil you’ll chat. Ain’t that swell?
And to Dante you’ll speak. All is well
with your future: it cooks!
It’ll be like great books–
though of course you will meet them in Hell.



–Tom Riley

Papas in Infernum

Papas in Infernum



Dante, you put so many popes in Hell
that lots of pious readers take offense.
Not I, though. Sir: it makes a lot of sense
to see the flaws of prelates and to tell
their fates. Besides, you do it so damn well:
skill justifies your judgment, though immense
objections may arise. For all intents
and purposes, your pointed lines compel
agreement. And I readily agree.
Let all in lofty offices now heed you,
the most impressive font of poetry
the world has ever known! With joy I read you–
but also with a sense of loss. To me,
the question is: where are you when we need you?



–Tom Riley

Dark Words

Dark Words

Queste parole di colore oscuro

Vid’io scritte al sommo d’una porta….”

Inferno, III, 10-11.

Out of the stuff we must regard as petty,

He fashioned what in verse is most sublime.

Italians often manage this: spaghetti

Covered with blood for sauce, truth shaped from crime,

Mere temporary things transcending time,

And Heaven touched through Hell.  If you should bet

Against these guys, you’d likely lose your dime

And even writhe in infinite regret.

Dante’s place in this company is set.

By such a student, Vergil is outdone.

My first infernal trip I won’t forget:

It was enlightening — and even fun.

I gaze on Dante’s words and cannot cope.

Facing such standards, I abandon hope.

–Tom Riley