Tag Archives: underworld


[from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

We came then to a place where figures scoff
Eternally at those they call “unclean”.
Through verbal clouds of scorn that made me cough,
I spied that justly famous Florentine
Who put in Hell all men who’d pissed him off.
[…I shouldn’t use a phrase so damn obscene
To speak of he who used his words to paint
What Hell is plus a bit of what it ain’t].

Although the cloudy place was poorly lit,
I could perceive that Dante was quite sore,
And Will explained the cause of Dante’s fit:
“The poet, being one whom most adore,
Resents that some aspiring modern wit
Has housed him on the Righteous Scoffers’ Shore.
To Purgatory, Hell, or worlds below,
The Florentine had planned no more to go.

And now he feels as though he’s being mocked
And skewered by a batty youthful hack
[Not even thirty years from being rocked
Inside a cradle; lest he’d meet the rack,
The little lad should keep his dwelling locked
And, as you Yankees say it, watch his back.
[…but shields for blocking blows from weaponry
Don’t stop Assaults by Means of Poetry].

Increasing Dante’s rage, despair, and grief
Is that he’s been removed from Paradise
(To dwell in Hades’) by that scoundrel-thief.
This heathen underworld of fire and ice
Has gained his hate but never his belief.
To clarify, this couplet will suffice:
“I loathe this pagan place,” he oft insists
While still denying that the place exists.

The fruit produced by Dante’s fertile mind—
The works which landed him among the greats—
Include a realm of tortures he designed
[Where, by him, people were to hellish fates
And never-ending pain and woe consigned].
Into the pits of Hell they all were heaved
If not believing as he had believed.

He nonetheless will hold a stubborn grudge
Against this fledgling poet who now dares
To judge the man who likes to play the judge.
Although he whines, his torture’s one that bears
A gentler stamp…he pushed but gets a nudge:
He’s forced to visit all the lonely lairs
Where those condemned before (by him) now dell
[That is, he visits those he sent to Hell].”

Although I didn’t verbally reply,
I thought, “It’s sad but not the least unjust
To see believers in “an eye for eye”
Enraged when that belief in which they trust
Is plucked from dwelling in the holy sky
And brought to where one might perceive its rust.
But soon I had a change of attitude
[Which better fits a kind, compassionate dude].

[It’s only fair to say he does presume
To place some souls in Paradise, as well…
But readers mostly like to read of gloom
And tend to focus on the book of Hell.
(Of Milton’s epics, it’s the one of doom
That English teachers have to learn so well…)
Unless you have an academic post,
The happy books are where your cup might coast.]”


Captains of Industry and Finance

An “Underworld” scene from *The New House of Fame* (by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess)

His type is one we all too often find:
The sort to spoil a parrot or a pair
But sleep without a hint of troubled mind
When other parrots soaring through the air
Are casualties to orders, which he’s signed,
To strip the creatures’ leafy homes ‘til bare.
He’s one to lavish love upon the boar
Who’s mascot for his ham and bacon store.

He’s not—to use a popular cliché—
The type to beat a dog or harm a fly,
But, though his gentle hands aren’t apt to slay,
They’ll cause a distant swarm to starve or die
If it begins to slow or block his way
To owning all the Planet’s land and sky
[…resources which preserve his mental health
By showing how he bests the rest in wealth.]

To state the case with greater clarity:
His noble breed is one which often awes
The world with acts of private charity
Despite supporting policies and laws
That nurture social class disparity
As ill effects are nurtured by a cause
(…Or causal web of threads that intersect—
Since there’s no simple chain of cause/effect].

Before we ventured further down the hall,
I asked him, “What’s the fellow’s bloody name?”
At first, he changed the theme to Adam’s fall
To prove that ignorance should cause no shame
But soon confessed: “In sooth, I don’t recall.
Precision’s never been my fav’rite game.
My speeches are a peaceful compromise
Between the warring clans of Truth and Lies.

A bard ensures a story never starves
By seeing that it’s generously fed
With meaty bits the skillful teller carves
From flocks of sheep inside his head.
In winter, he’ll bedeck a tale in scarves
He knits from wool those mental sheep have shed.”
His speech, though crammed with sheep ‘til nearly full,
Contained, as well, a hefty share of bull.

“…and when the frost of Father Winter’s gone”
…I cut him short and said, “You have abused
My ears enough. It’s time for moving on.”
Despite my words, I often was amused
By madness that his addled brain would spawn.
He seemed a clever clown or sage confused.
His wit, at times, was straight as jets in flight,
But, other times, it was a flailing kite.

“In the Underworld”

[Selections from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

In epic poems, it’d be a fatal fault
To find no journey to the world below.
To shield myself from critical assault,
I’ll lead you, readers, where I dread to go:
The House’s dank and dreary burial vault
As black as feathers from the darkest crow.
[No matter how you earn your daily bread.
The worms and flies will feast upon your head.]

“That hair, those lashes curled by skillful hand
Will fall one day from your decaying skull.
That skin you have so diligently tanned
Will fade until it has become quite dull.
Your famous frame, your sunken ship unmanned,
In time,  will be a rotting, hollow hull.
For many decades your body will endure
without a perm or proper pedicure.”

“Who’d think that Death could take so many souls

across the river Greeks once knew as Styx?
The Reaper reaps the carriers of coals.
He buries builders skilled at laying bricks
and people smiling when the cam’ra rolls
[but,when it’s off, assaulting aides with kicks].
Of spirits dead there’s such a high amount
that I’d not try to take a thorough count.