The idea came to him while reading Ovid.
Suddenly, he thought the poet had not been ambitious enough.
Yes, Ovid had written a history of the world beginning with the deepest lore of Greek mythology up to the deification of Caesar—but so much felt glossed over. There were so many corners cut.
So this would be his answer to Ovid: a new translation from the Latin, but interspersed with his own translations of Homer. But he would introduce his own verse as well. When Ovid got to the Trojan War and glossed over nine years worth of battles, he would layer in new stories of the heroes, then connect wholesale to the Iliad, then keep going. An entire verse history of the Western world, calling on all the great poets. Link up and hold hands with Virgil. Then compose a whole new epic based on Gibbon for the fall of Rome. Thousands of new lines to cover the Dark Ages. Meet up with Beowulf, sure. Why not? The poetry would come alive again with the Renaissance. There would be cantos for each great artist, each great thinker. Traipse from Michelangelo all the way to Shakespeare and then Newton—Locke, Descartes, Roseau. A whole epic for the Age of Reason. Who should be the heroes for the conquest of the Americas? Surely a war poem for Washington, but he’d need others in between. No matter, he could shift focus as liberally as Ovid himself did. Eventually, he’d reach the apex of human conflict—an epic beyond all previous epics for World War II. Then treat the Cold War with the same sort of muted meter he had the Dark Ages. Weave that into the doldrums of the early twenty-first century, through plague and corruption.
And then…then go further. Beyond his own era, the whole poem would become science fiction. Convert Kim Stanley Robinson to iambic hexameter. He salivated at the prospect of a space battle modeled on Hector’s flight from Achilles. And beyond. Reembrace myth. Follow Superman to the doom of the sun, finally weakening when its rays turn red.
As he considered the scope of it, he thought constantly of Chaucer and the unfinished Canterbury Tales, but tried to encourage himself. He was a young man, after all. If he could live to ninety, then he had a chance of finishing. There was time. He mapped out a schedule on the wall of his apartment. There would be no room in his life for something so mundane as a job now. He’d have to rely on some kind of public assistance. And Carol and the kids would have to go. Unneeded distractions.
But he would really have to learn Ancient Greek to get started.