From The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Volume I, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901; pp. 351-353.
ANGELO, MICHEL, also known as MICHELANGO BUONARROTTI, the eminent Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet; born at Caprese, March 6, 1475; died at Rome, February 18, 1564. Of world-wide and lasting renown as an artist and architect, his claim to literary fame rests upon his sonnets and letters. The best edition of his “Poems” was published at Florence, 1863; an English translation of the sonnets by Symonds, London, 1892. A volume of “Letters” was published at Florence, 1865.
(Translated by J. A. Symonds.)
WHAT joy hath you glad wreath of flowers that is
Around her golden hair so deftly twined,
Each blossom pressing forward from behind,
As though to be the first her brows to kiss!
The livelong day her dress hath perfect bliss,
That now reveals her breast, now seems to bind;
And that fair woven net of gold refined
Rests on her cheek and throat in happiness.
Yet still more blissful seems to me the band
Gilt at the tips, so sweetly doth it ring
And clasp the bosom that it serves to lace;
Yea! and the belt to such as understand,
Bound round her waist, saith — “Here I’d ever cling!”
What would my arm do in that girdle’s place?
(A Dialogue with Love.)
NAY! prithee tell me, Love! when I behold
My Lady, do mine eyes her beauty see
In truth, or dwells that loveliness in me
Which multiplies her grace a thousandfold?
352 Thou needs must know, — for thou with her of old
Comest to stir my soul’s tranquillity;
Yet would I not seek one sigh less, or be
By loss of that loved flame more simply cold. —
“The beauty thou discernest is all hers;
But grows in radiance as it soars on high
Through mortal eyes unto the soul above:
’T is there transfigured, — for the soul confers,
On what she holds, her own divinity:
And this transfigured beauty wins they love.”
NOW on the one foot, on the other now,
’Twixt vice and virtue balancing below,
Wearied and anxious in my troubled mind,
Seeking where’er I may salvation find.
Like one to whom the stars by clouds are crossed;
Who, turn which way he will, errs, and is lost.
Therefore take thou my heart’s unwritten page,
And write thou on it what is wanted there;
And hold before it, in life’s daily stage,
The line of action which it craves in prayer.
So that, amid the errors of my youth,
My own shortcomings may not hide the truth:
If humble sinners lower in heaven stood,
Than the proud doers of superfluous good.
Not all unworthy of the boundless grace
Which thou, most noble lady, hast bestowed,
I fain at first would pay the debt I owed,
And some small gift for thy acceptance place.
But soon I felt, ’t is not alone desire
That opes the way to reach an aim so high;
My rash pretensions their success deny,
And I grow wise while failing to aspire.
And well I see how false it were to think
That any work, faded and frail, of mine,
Could emulate the perfect grace of thine.
Genius and art and daring backward shrink;
A thousand works from mortals like to me
Can ne’er repay what Heaven has given thee!
When godlike art has, with superior thought,
The limbs and motions in idea conceived,
A simple form, in humble clay achieved,
353 Is the first offering into being brought:
Then stroke on stroke from out the living rock,
Its promised work the practised chisel brings.
And into life a form so graceful springs.
That none can fear for it time’s rudest shock.
Such was my birth: in humble mould I lay
At first; to be by thee, oh, lady high!
Renewed, and to a work more perfect brought;
Thou giv’st what lacking is, and filest away
All roughness: yet what tortures lie,
Ere my wild heart can be restrained and taught!
WHEN she, the aim of every hope and prayer,
Was called by death to yon celestial spheres,
Nature, who ne’er had fashioned aught so fair,
Stood there ashamed, and all who saw shed tears.
O cruel fate, quenching the dreams of love!
O empty hopes! O spirit rare and blest!
Where art thou now? On earth thy fair limbs rest:
Thy holy thoughts have found their home above.
Yet let us think not cruel death could e’er
Have stilled the sound of all thy virtuous ways:
Lethe’s oblivion could extinguish nought;
For, robbed of thee, a thousand records fair
Speak of thee yet; and death from heaven conveys
Thy powers divine, and thy immortal thought.
* For another short biographical note and some more of his poems in both Italian and English, see Michelangelo Buonarrotti, translated by Lorna de’ Lucchi. — Elf.Ed.