(Canto II last updated 5/30/01 with tercet triplet entitled Palm Psalm by Monica Shearer)


A Divine Comedy Word Game

Lucifer, King of Hell
(The Opening Tercet Triplet for Al Dante by Stanley E. Anderson)

That bane to comfort, modern men endure.
Yes, even epicurean treats are stained
at times by 'tie' food rules. Is there no cure?
The Souls of the Proud, bearing Heavy Stones
Encumbered, still, the neck might yet be trained
to bear the blue cravat and not to hollar,
for only light constriction has remained.
The Saintly Throng in the Form of a Rose
But far the best (and cheapest) for my dollar
and worn with ease by those who self-employ
is naught but freedom gained: the open collar!
by Gustav Doré:
Lucifer, King of Hell,
The Souls of the Proud,
bearing Heavy Stones,
The Saintly Throng
in the Form of a Rose

The Al Dante word game was inspired by The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and the Doggerel section of Susie's Place: The Word Games Place. Although I have enjoyed contributing several passages to the Doggerel page, it is, in general, a bit too random and mindless for my tastes. Now, mindless pleasures are wonderful things to enjoy at times, but I wanted to see a page where some real planning and cleverness were demonstrated by the contributors and could be enjoyed as such by the readers. Thus was born Al Dante.

Dante's Divine Comedy is an epic poem divided into three parts called Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradisio (Heaven). In English, the lines are written in iambic pentameter (five beats per line), which, by the way, is only a rough equivalent of the original Italian Undecasillabo. The verse is grouped into three line stanzas called tercets which are then grouped into Cantos of approximately forty to fifty tercets each.

The rhyme scheme is aba-bcb-cdc-ded-efe, etc. Dante called this structure terza rima and the interesting thing about it is that the middle line in each tercet is a hanging rhyme; in other words it needs the next tercet in order to have something to rhyme with. In this way it is a kind of infinite rhyme scheme.

I decided to use this property to devise an ongoing word game wherein the next player in line writes three tercets (that I am calling a tercet triplet) in Dante's terza rima style with the following properties: The first line of the first tercet rhymes with the middle line of the previous player's last tercet (the leftover hanging rhyme), and each of the three tercets represent a personal (and presumably often humourous or witty) vision or example of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

For the purposes of this word game, Purgatory will generally represent a kind of middle ground between the Heavenly and the Hellish. In order to make the progression and subject of the tercet triplets easier to follow, each tercet's representation of Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradisio is indicated in brackets (although this distinction is less clear cut in some triplets as in others, and the bracketed indicators become downright muddled for some of the triplets, so consider these to be only approximate guides -- in fact, I may decide to discard them after a time), and a title or short description appears with the authour's name (with a mailto link) after the triplet

A tercet triplet is linked to the previous set by the connecting rhyme, but, additionally, the authour may carry over some kind of connecting theme (although this is not required). The tercets progress in order from Hell to Purgatory to Heaven, or in reverse order from Heaven to Purgatory to Hell as wit and humour dictate. After about 15 sets have been added to a Canto, a new Canto will be started to keep the files and download times to a reasonable length.

Since the rhyme scheme of Al Dante is precisely prescribed, random contributions (as occurs in Susie's Doggerel page) would not work well here. Therefore, I will be manually creating a list of contributors who have requested to join in, and, who will "wait in line" to do the next tercet triplet. As I receive each new tercet triplet, I will add it to the end of the latest Canto and notify the next person in the queue to start working on his or her set. In this way, the poem will grow indefinately.

If you would like to contribute to Al Dante, find out how on the contributor's instruction page

Finally, many thanks to Martin H. Booda for suggesting the game's title, Al Dante and to Otfried Lieberknecht for his much appreciated expertise on matters Dantean.


(select the desired Canto)

Canto I

  • Neckware
  • Napkins
  • Musical Instruments for Sacred Songs
  • Poetic Structure
  • Wine, Women, and Song (not necessarily in that order)
  • Planets in the Night Sky
  • Heaven for Ken or Barbie Minds
  • A More Discerning Mind
  • Auto Luxury Options
  • Cyberspace Aggression
  • Graffiti
  • Non-human Species
  • Revenge of the Quadrapeds
  • Bars of Gold
  • Roads to Death and Life
  • (circle back around to Neckware)

Canto II

  • School Subjects
  • Drawing
  • Crustaceans
  • Favorite Foods
  • Wines
  • Delivery Systems for Beer
  • Pub-lickin's
  • Loose Lips Sink Quips
  • The Golden Mean
  • Sensuality
  • The Cutting of the First Tree
  • Paradise Pulverized
  • Palm Psalm

Canto III

  • (not yet begun)

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