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The Complete Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Part 28 out of 31

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There is a charm,
A certain something in the atmosphere,
That all men feel, and no man can describe.


Yes, malaria of the mind,
Out of this tomb of the majestic Past!
The fever to accomplish some great work
That will not let us sleep. I must go on
Until I die.

Do you ne'er think of Florence?

Yes; whenever
I think of anything beside my work,
I think of Florence. I remember, too,
The bitter days I passed among the quarries
Of Seravezza and Pietrasanta;
Road-building in the marshes; stupid people,
And cold and rain incessant, and mad gusts
Of mountain wind, like howling dervishes,
That spun and whirled the eddying snow about them
As if it were a garment; aye, vexations
And troubles of all kinds, that ended only
In loss of time and money.

True; Maestro,
But that was not in Florence. You should leave
Such work to others. Sweeter memories
Cluster about you, in the pleasant city
Upon the Arno.

In my waking dreams
I see the marvellous dome of Brunelleschi,
Ghiberti's gates of bronze, and Giotto's tower;
And Ghirlandajo's lovely Benci glides
With folded hands amid my troubled thoughts,
A splendid vision! Time rides with the old
At a great pace. As travellers on swift steeds
See the near landscape fly and flow behind them,
While the remoter fields and dim horizons
Go with them, and seem wheeling round to meet them,
So in old age things near us slip away,
And distant things go with as. Pleasantly
Come back to me the days when, as a youth,
I walked with Ghirlandajo in the gardens
Of Medici, and saw the antique statues,
The forms august of gods and godlike men,
And the great world of art revealed itself
To my young eyes. Then all that man hath done
Seemed possible to me. Alas! how little
Of all I dreamed of has my hand achieved!

Nay, let the Night and Morning, let Lorenzo
And Julian in the Sacristy at Florence,
Prophets and Sibyls in the Sistine Chapel,
And the Last Judgment answer. Is it finished?

The work is nearly done. But this Last Judgment
Has been the cause of more vexation to me
Than it will be of honor. Ser Biagio,
Master of ceremonies at the Papal court,
A man punctilious and over nice,
Calls it improper; says that those nude forms,
Showing their nakedness in such shameless fashion,
Are better suited to a common bagnio,
Or wayside wine-shop, than a Papal Chapel.
To punish him I painted him as Minos
And leave him there as master of ceremonies
In the Infernal Regions. What would you
Have done to such a man?

I would have killed him.
When any one insults me, if I can
I kill him, kill him.

Oh, you gentlemen,
Who dress in silks and velvets, and wear swords,
Are ready with your weapon; and have all
A taste for homicide.

I learned that lesson
Under Pope Clement at the siege of Rome,
Some twenty years ago. As I was standing
Upon the ramparts of the Campo Santo
With Alessandro Bene, I beheld
A sea of fog, that covered all the plain,
And hid from us the foe; when suddenly,
A misty figure, like an apparition,
Rose up above the fog, as if on horseback.
At this I aimed my arquebus, and fired.
The figure vanished; and there rose a cry
Out of the darkness, long and fierce and loud,
With imprecations in all languages.
It was the Constable of France, the Bourbon,
That I had slain.

Rome should be grateful to you.

But has not been; you shall hear presently.
During the siege I served as bombardier,
There in St. Angelo. His Holiness,
One day, was walking with his Cardinals
On the round bastion, while I stood above
Among my falconets. All thought and feeling,
All skill in art and all desire of fame,
Were swallowed up in the delightful music
Of that artillery. I saw far off,
Within the enemy's trenches on the Prati,
A Spanish cavalier in scarlet cloak;
And firing at him with due aim and range,
I cut the gay Hidalgo in two pieces.
The eyes are dry that wept for him in Spain.
His Holiness, delighted beyond measure
With such display of gunnery, and amazed
To see the man in scarlet cut in two,
Gave me his benediction, and absolved me
From all the homicides I had committed
In service of the Apostolic Church,
Or should commit thereafter. From that day
I have not held in very high esteem
The life of man.

And who absolved Pope Clement?
Now let us speak of Art.

Of what you will.

Say, have you seen our friend Fra Bastian lately,
Since by a turn of fortune he became
Friar of the Signet?

Faith, a pretty artist
To pass his days in stamping leaden seals
On Papal bulls!

He has grown fat and lazy,
As if the lead clung to him like a sinker.
He paints no more, since he was sent to Fondi
By Cardinal Ippolito to paint
The fair Gonzaga. Ah, you should have seen him
As I did, riding through the city gate,
In his brown hood, attended by four horsemen,
Completely armed, to frighten the banditti.
I think he would have frightened them alone,
For he was rounder than the O of Giotto.

He must have looked more like a sack of meal
Than a great painter.

Well, he is not great
But still I like him greatly. Benvenuto
Have faith in nothing but in industry.
Be at it late and early; persevere,
And work right on through censure and applause,
Or else abandon Art.

No man works harder
Then I do. I am not a moment idle.

And what have you to show me?

This gold ring,
Made for his Holiness,--my latest work,
And I am proud of it. A single diamond
Presented by the Emperor to the Pope.
Targhetta of Venice set and tinted it;
I have reset it, and retinted it
Divinely, as you see. The jewellers
Say I've surpassed Targhetta.

Let me see it.
A pretty jewel.

That is not the expression.
Pretty is not a very pretty word
To be applied to such a precious stone,
Given by an Emperor to a Pope, and set
By Benvenuto!

Messer Benvenuto,
I lose all patience with you; for the gifts
That God hath given you are of such a kind,
They should be put to far more noble uses
Than setting diamonds for the Pope of Rome.
You can do greater things.

The God who made me
Knows why he made me what I am,--a goldsmith,
A mere artificer.

Oh no; an artist
Richly endowed by nature, but who wraps
His talent in a napkin, and consumes
His life in vanities.

Michael Angelo
May say what Benvenuto would not bear
From any other man. He speaks the truth.
I know my life is wasted and consumed
In vanities; but I have better hours
And higher aspirations than you think.
Once, when a prisoner at St. Angelo,
Fasting and praying in the midnight darkness,
In a celestial vision I beheld
A crucifix in the sun, of the same substance
As is the sun itself. And since that hour
There is a splendor round about my head,
That may be seen at sunrise and at sunset
Above my shadow on the grass. And now
I know that I am in the grace of God,
And none henceforth can harm me.

None but one,--
None but yourself, who are your greatest foe.
He that respects himself is safe from others;
He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.

I always wear one.

O incorrigible!
At least, forget not the celestial vision.
Man must have something higher than himself
To think of.

That I know full well. Now listen.
I have been sent for into France, where grow
The Lilies that illumine heaven and earth,
And carry in mine equipage the model
Of a most marvellous golden salt-cellar
For the king's table; and here in my brain
A statue of Mars Armipotent for the fountain
Of Fontainebleau, colossal, wonderful.
I go a goldsmith, to return a sculptor.
And so farewell, great Master. Think of me
As one who, in the midst of all his follies,
Had also his ambition, and aspired
To better things.

Do not forget the vision.

[Sitting down again to the Divina Commedia.

Now in what circle of his poem sacred
Would the great Florentine have placed this man?
Whether in Phlegethon, the river of blood,
Or in the fiery belt of Purgatory,
I know not, but most surely not with those
Who walk in leaden cloaks. Though he is one
Whose passions, like a potent alkahest,
Dissolve his better nature, he is not
That despicable thing, a hypocrite;
He doth not cloak his vices, nor deny them.
Come back, my thoughts, from him to Paradise.




MICHAEL ANGELO, not turning round.
Who is it?

Wait, for I am out of breath
In climbing your steep stairs.

Ah, my Bastiano,
If you went up and down as many stairs
As I do still, and climbed as many ladders,
It would be better for you. Pray sit down.
Your idle and luxurious way of living
Will one day take your breath away entirely.
And you will never find it.

Well, what then?
That would be better, in my apprehension,
Than falling from a scaffold.

That was nothing
It did not kill me; only lamed me slightly;
I am quite well again.

But why, dear Master,
Why do you live so high up in your house,
When you could live below and have a garden,
As I do?

From this window I can look
On many gardens; o'er the city roofs
See the Campagna and the Alban hills;
And all are mine.

Can you sit down in them,
On summer afternoons, and play the lute
Or sing, or sleep the time away?

I never
Sleep in the day-time; scarcely sleep at night.
I have not time. Did you meet Benvenuto
As you came up the stair?

He ran against me
On the first landing, going at full speed;
Dressed like the Spanish captain in a play,
With his long rapier and his short red cloak.
Why hurry through the world at such a pace?
Life will not be too long.

It is his nature,--
A restless spirit, that consumes itself
With useless agitations. He o'erleaps
The goal he aims at. Patience is a plant
That grows not in all gardens. You are made
Of quite another clay.

And thank God for it.
And now, being somewhat rested, I will tell you
Why I have climbed these formidable stairs.
I have a friend, Francesco Berni, here,
A very charming poet and companion,
Who greatly honors you and all your doings,
And you must sup with us.

Not I, indeed.
I know too well what artists' suppers are.
You must excuse me.

I will not excuse you.
You need repose from your incessant work;
Some recreation, some bright hours of pleasure.

To me, what you and other men call pleasure
Is only pain. Work is my recreation,
The play of faculty; a delight like that
Which a bird feels in flying, or a fish
In darting through the water,--nothing more.
I cannot go. The Sibylline leaves of life
Grow precious now, when only few remain.
I cannot go.

Berni, perhaps, will read
A canto of the Orlando Inamorato.

That is another reason for not going.
If aught is tedious and intolerable,
It is a poet reading his own verses,

Berni thinks somewhat better of your verses
Than you of his. He says that you speak things,
And other poets words. So, pray you, come.

If it were now the Improvisatore,
Luigia Pulci, whom I used to hear
With Benvenuto, in the streets of Florence,
I might be tempted. I was younger then
And singing in the open air was pleasant.

There is a Frenchman here, named Rabelais,
Once a Franciscan friar, and now a doctor,
And secretary to the embassy:
A learned man, who speaks all languages,
And wittiest of men; who wrote a book
Of the Adventures of Gargantua,
So full of strange conceits one roars with laughter
At every page; a jovial boon-companion
And lover of much wine. He too is coming.

Then you will not want me, who am not witty,
And have no sense of mirth, and love not wine.
I should be like a dead man at your banquet.
Why should I seek this Frenchman, Rabelais?
And wherefore go to hear Francesco Berni,
When I have Dante Alighieri here.
The greatest of all poets?

And the dullest;
And only to be read in episodes.
His day is past. Petrarca is our poet.

Petrarca is for women and for lovers
And for those soft Abati, who delight
To wander down long garden walks in summer,
Tinkling their little sonnets all day long,
As lap dogs do their bells.

I love Petrarca.
How sweetly of his absent love he sings
When journeying in the forest of Ardennes!
"I seem to hear her, hearing the boughs and breezes
And leaves and birds lamenting, and the waters
Murmuring flee along the verdant herbage."

Enough. It is all seeming, and no being.
If you would know how a man speaks in earnest,
Read here this passage, where St. Peter thunders
In Paradise against degenerate Popes
And the corruptions of the church, till all
The heaven about him blushes like a sunset.
I beg you to take note of what he says
About the Papal seals, for that concerns
Your office and yourself.

Is this the passage?
"Nor I be made the figure of a seal
To privileges venal and mendacious,
Whereat I often redden and flash with fire!"--
That is not poetry.

What is it, then?

Vituperation; gall that might have spirited
From Aretino's pen.

Name not that man!
A profligate, whom your Francesco Berni
Describes as having one foot in the brothel
And the other in the hospital; who lives
By flattering or maligning, as best serves
His purpose at the time. He writes to me
With easy arrogance of my Last Judgment,
In such familiar tone that one would say
The great event already had occurred,
And he was present, and from observation
Informed me how the picture should be painted.

What unassuming, unobtrusive men
These critics are! Now, to have Aretino
Aiming his shafts at you brings back to mind
The Gascon archers in the square of Milan,
Shooting their arrows at Duke Sforza's statue,
By Leonardo, and the foolish rabble
Of envious Florentines, that at your David
Threw stones at night. But Aretino praised you.

His praises were ironical. He knows
How to use words as weapons, and to wound
While seeming to defend. But look, Bastiano,
See how the setting sun lights up that picture!

My portrait of Vittoria Colonna.

It makes her look as she will look hereafter,
When she becomes a saint!

A noble woman!

Ah, these old hands can fashion fairer shapes
In marble, and can paint diviner pictures,
Since I have known her.

And you like this picture.
And yet it is in oil; which you detest.

When that barbarian Jan Van Eyck discovered
The use of oil in painting, he degraded
His art into a handicraft, and made it
Sign-painting, merely, for a country inn
Or wayside wine-shop. 'T is an art for women,
Or for such leisurely and idle people
As you, Fra Bastiano. Nature paints not
In oils, but frescoes the great dome of heaven
With sunset; and the lovely forms of clouds
And flying vapors.

And how soon they fade!
Behold yon line of roofs and belfries painted
Upon the golden background of the sky,
Like a Byzantine picture, or a portrait
Of Cimabue. See how hard the outline,
Sharp-cut and clear, not rounded into shadow.
Yet that is nature.

She is always right.
The picture that approaches sculpture nearest
Is the best picture.

Leonardo thinks
The open air too bright. We ought to paint
As if the sun were shining through a mist.
'T is easier done in oil than in distemper.

Do not revive again the old dispute;
I have an excellent memory for forgetting,
But I still feel the hurt. Wounds are not healed
By the unbending of the bow that made them.

So say Petrarca and the ancient proverb.

But that is past. Now I am angry with you,
Not that you paint in oils, but that grown fat
And indolent, you do not paint at all.

Why should I paint? Why should I toil and sweat,
Who now am rich enough to live at ease,
And take my pleasure?

When Pope Leo died,
He who had been so lavish of the wealth
His predecessors left him, who received
A basket of gold-pieces every morning,
Which every night was empty, left behind
Hardly enough to pay his funeral.

I care for banquets, not for funerals,
As did his Holiness. I have forbidden
All tapers at my burial, and procession
Of priests and friars and monks; and have provided
The cost thereof be given to the poor!

You have done wisely, but of that I speak not.
Ghiberti left behind him wealth and children;
But who to-day would know that he had lived,
If he had never made those gates of bronze
In the old Baptistery,--those gates of bronze,
Worthy to be the gates of Paradise.
His wealth is scattered to the winds; his children
Are long since dead; but those celestial gates
Survive, and keep his name and memory green.

But why should I fatigue myself? I think
That all things it is possible to paint
Have been already painted; and if not,
Why, there are painters in the world at present
Who can accomplish more in two short months
Than I could in two years; so it is well
That some one is contented to do nothing,
And leave the field to others.

O blasphemer!
Not without reason do the people call you
Sebastian del Piombo, for the lead
Of all the Papal bulls is heavy upon you,
And wraps you like a shroud.

Sharp is the vinegar of sweet wine, and sharp
The words you speak, because the heart within you
Is sweet unto the core.

How changed you are
From the Sebastiano I once knew,
When poor, laborious, emulous to excel,
You strove in rivalry with Badassare
And Raphael Sanzio.

Raphael is dead;
He is but dust and ashes in his grave,
While I am living and enjoying life,
And so am victor. One live Pope is worth
A dozen dead ones.

Raphael is not dead;
He doth but sleep; for how can he be dead
Who lives immortal in the hearts of men?
He only drank the precious wine of youth,
The outbreak of the grapes, before the vintage
Was trodden to bitterness by the feet of men.
The gods have given him sleep. We never were
Nor could be foes, although our followers,
Who are distorted shadows of ourselves,
Have striven to make us so; but each one worked
Unconsciously upon the other's thought;
Both giving and receiving. He perchance
Caught strength from me, and I some greater sweetness
And tenderness from his more gentle nature.
I have but words of praise and admiration
For his great genius; and the world is fairer
That he lived in it.

We at least are friends;
So come with me.

No, no; I am best pleased
When I'm not asked to banquets. I have reached
A time of life when daily walks are shortened,
And even the houses of our dearest friends,
That used to be so near, seem far away.

Then we must sup without you. We shall laugh
At those who toil for fame, and make their lives
A tedious martyrdom, that they may live
A little longer in the mouths of men!
And so, good-night.

Good-night, my Fra Bastiano.

[Returning to his work.

How will men speak of me when I am gone,
When all this colorless, sad life is ended,
And I am dust? They will remember only
The wrinkled forehead, the marred countenance,
The rudeness of my speech, and my rough manners,
And never dream that underneath them all
There was a woman's heart of tenderness.
They will not know the secret of my life,
Locked up in silence, or but vaguely hinted
In uncouth rhymes, that may perchance survive
Some little space in memories of men!
Each one performs his life-work, and then leaves it;
Those that come after him will estimate
His influence on the age in which he lived.



TITIAN'S studio. A painting of Danae with a curtain before it.

So you have left at last your still lagoons,
Your City of Silence floating in the sea,
And come to us in Rome.

I come to learn,
But I have come too late. I should have seen
Rome in my youth, when all my mind was open
To new impressions. Our Vasari here
Leads me about, a blind man, groping darkly
Among the marvels of the past. I touch them,
But do not see them.

There are things in Rome
That one might walk bare-footed here from Venice
But to see once, and then to die content.

I must confess that these majestic ruins
Oppress me with their gloom. I feel as one
Who in the twilight stumbles among tombs,
And cannot read the inscriptions carved upon them.

I felt so once; but I have grown familiar
With desolation, and it has become
No more a pain to me, but a delight.

I could not live here. I must have the sea,
And the sea-mist, with sunshine interwoven
Like cloth of gold; must have beneath my windows
The laughter of the waves, and at my door
Their pattering footsteps, or I am not happy.

Then tell me of your city in the sea,
Paved with red basalt of the Paduan hills.
Tell me of art in Venice. Three great names,
Giorgione, Titian, and the Tintoretto,
Illustrate your Venetian school, and send
A challenge to the world. The first is dead,
But Tintoretto lives.

And paints with fires
Sudden and splendid, as the lightning paints
The cloudy vault of heaven.

Does he still keep
Above his door the arrogant inscription
That once was painted there,--"The color of Titian,
With the design of Michael Angelo"?

Indeed, I know not. 'T was a foolish boast,
And does no harm to any but himself.
Perhaps he has grown wiser.

When you two
Are gone, who is there that remains behind
To seize the pencil falling from your fingers?

Oh there are many hands upraised already
To clutch at such a prize, which hardly wait
For death to loose your grasp,--a hundred of them;
Schiavone, Bonifazio, Campagnola,
Moretto, and Moroni; who can count them,
Or measure their ambition?

When we are gone
The generation that comes after us
Will have far other thoughts than ours. Our ruins
Will serve to build their palaces or tombs.
They will possess the world that we think ours,
And fashion it far otherwise.

I hear
Your son Orazio and your nephew Marco
Mentioned with honor.

Ay, brave lads, brave lads.
But time will show. There is a youth in Venice,
One Paul Cagliari, called the Veronese,
Still a mere stripling, but of such rare promise
That we must guard our laurels, or may lose them.

These are good tidings; for I sometimes fear
That, when we die, with us all art will die.
'T is but a fancy. Nature will provide
Others to take our places. I rejoice
To see the young spring forward in the race,
Eager as we were, and as full of hope
And the sublime audacity of youth.

Men die and are forgotten. The great world
Goes on the same. Among the myriads
Of men that live, or have lived, or shall live
What is a single life, or thine or mime,
That we should think all nature would stand still
If we were gone? We must make room for others.

And now, Maestro, pray unveil your picture
Of Danae, of which I hear such praise.

TITIAN, drawing hack the curtain.

What think you?

That Acrisius did well
To lock such beauty in a brazen tower
And hide it from all eyes.

The model truly
Was beautiful.

And more, that you were present,
And saw the showery Jove from high Olympus
Descend in all his splendor.

From your lips
Such words are full of sweetness.

You have caught
These golden hues from your Venetian sunsets.


Or from sunshine through a shower
On the lagoons, or the broad Adriatic.
Nature reveals herself in all our arts.
The pavements and the palaces of cities
Hint at the nature of the neighboring hills.
Red lavas from the Euganean quarries
Of Padua pave your streets; your palaces
Are the white stones of Istria, and gleam
Reflected in your waters and your pictures.
And thus the works of every artist show
Something of his surroundings and his habits.
The uttermost that can be reached by color
Is here accomplished. Warmth and light and softness
Mingle together. Never yet was flesh
Painted by hand of artist, dead or living,
With such divine perfection.

I am grateful
For so much praise from you, who are a master;
While mostly those who praise and those who blame
Know nothing of the matter, so that mainly
Their censure sounds like praise, their praise like censure.

Wonderful! wonderful! The charm of color
Fascinates me the more that in myself
The gift is wanting. I am not a painter.

Messer Michele, all the arts are yours,
Not one alone; and therefore I may venture
To put a question to you.

Well, speak on.

Two nephews of the Cardinal Farnese
Have made me umpire in dispute between them
Which is the greater of the sister arts,
Painting or sculpture. Solve for me the doubt.

Sculpture and painting have a common goal,
And whosoever would attain to it,
Whichever path he take, will find that goal
Equally hard to reach.

No doubt, no doubt;
But you evade the question.

When I stand
In presence of this picture, I concede
That painting has attained its uttermost;
But in the presence of my sculptured figures
I feel that my conception soars beyond
All limit I have reached.

You still evade me.

Giorgio Vasari, I have often said
That I account that painting as the best
Which most resembles sculpture. Here before us
We have the proof. Behold those rounded limbs!
How from the canvas they detach themselves,
Till they deceive the eye, and one would say,
It is a statue with a screen behind it!

Signori, pardon me; but all such questions
Seem to me idle.

Idle as the wind.
And now, Maestro, I will say once more
How admirable I esteem your work,
And leave you, without further interruption.

Your friendly visit hath much honored me.



If the Venetian painters knew
But half as much of drawing as of color,
They would indeed work miracles in art,
And the world see what it hath never seen.



VITTORIA COLONNA, seated in an armchair; JULIA GONZAGA, standing
near her.

It grieves me that I find you still so weak
And suffering.

No, not suffering; only dying.
Death is the chillness that precedes the dawn;
We shudder for a moment, then awake
In the broad sunshine of the other life.
I am a shadow, merely, and these hands,
These cheeks, these eyes, these tresses that my husband
Once thought so beautiful, and I was proud of
Because he thought them so, are faded quite,--
All beauty gone from them.

Ah, no, not that.
Paler you are, but not less beautiful.

Hand me the mirror. I would fain behold
What change comes o'er our features when we die.
Thank you. And now sit down beside me here
How glad I am that you have come to-day,
Above all other days, and at the hour
When most I need you!

Do you ever need me?


Always, and most of all to-day and now.
Do you remember, Julia, when we walked,
One afternoon, upon the castle terrace
At Ischia, on the day before you left me?

Well I remember; but it seems to me
Something unreal, that has never been,--
Something that I have read of in a book,
Or heard of some one else.

Ten years and more
Have passed since then; and many things have happened
In those ten years, and many friends have died:
Marco Flaminio, whom we all admired
And loved as our Catullus; dear Valldesso,
The noble champion of free thought and speech;
And Cardinal Ippolito, your friend.

Oh, do not speak of him! His sudden death
O'ercomes me now, as it o'ercame me then.
Let me forget it; for my memory
Serves me too often as an unkind friend,
And I remember things I would forget,
While I forget the things I would remember.

Forgive me; I will speak of him no more,
The good Fra Bernardino has departed,
Has fled from Italy, and crossed the Alps,
Fearing Caraffa's wrath, because he taught
That He who made us all without our help
Could also save us without aid of ours.
Renee of France, the Duchess of Ferrara,
That Lily of the Loire, is bowed by winds
That blow from Rome; Olympia Morata
Banished from court because of this new doctrine.
Therefore be cautious. Keep your secret thought
Locked in your breast.

I will be very prudent
But speak no more, I pray; it wearies you.

Yes, I am very weary. Read to me.

Most willingly. What shall I read?

Triumph of Death. The book lies on the table;
Beside the casket there. Read where you find
The leaf turned down. 'T was there I left off reading.

JULIA, reads.

"Not as a flame that by some force is spent,
But one that of itself consumeth quite,
Departed hence in peace the soul content,
In fashion of a soft and lucent light
Whose nutriment by slow gradation goes,
Keeping until the end its lustre bright.
Not pale, but whiter than the sheet of snows
That without wind on some fair hill-top lies,
Her weary body seemed to find repose.
Like a sweet slumber in her lovely eyes,
When now the spirit was no longer there,
Was what is dying called by the unwise.
E'en Death itself in her fair face seemed fair"--

Is it of Laura that he here is speaking?--
She doth not answer, yet is not asleep;
Her eyes are full of light and fixed on something
Above her in the air. I can see naught
Except the painted angels on the ceiling.
Vittoria! speak! What is it? Answer me!--
She only smiles, and stretches out her hands.

[The mirror falls and breaks.

Not disobedient to the heavenly vision!
Pescara! my Pescara! [Dies.

Holy Virgin!
Her body sinks together,--she is dead!

[Kneels and hides her face in Vittoria's lap.


Hush! make no noise.

How is she?

Never better.

Then she is dead!

Alas! yes, she is dead!
Even death itself in her fair face seems fair.
How wonderful! The light upon her face
Shines from the windows of another world.
Saint only have such faces. Holy Angels!
Bear her like sainted Catherine to her rest!

[Kisses Vittoria's hand.




Macello de' Corvi. A room in MICHAEL ANGELO'S house. MICHAEL
ANGELO, standing before a model of St. Peter's.

Better than thou I cannot, Brunelleschi,
And less than thou I will not! If the thought
Could, like a windlass, lift the ponderous stones
And swing them to their places; if a breath
Could blow this rounded dome into the air,
As if it were a bubble, and these statues
Spring at a signal to their sacred stations,
As sentinels mount guard upon a wall.
Then were my task completed. Now, alas!
Naught am I but a Saint Sebaldus, holding
Upon his hand the model of a church,
As German artists paint him; and what years,
What weary years, must drag themselves along,
Ere this be turned to stone! What hindrances
Must block the way; what idle interferences
Of Cardinals and Canons of St. Peter's,
Who nothing know of art beyond the color
Of cloaks and stockings, nor of any building
Save that of their own fortunes! And what then?
I must then the short-coming of my means
Piece out by stepping forward, as the Spartan
Was told to add a step to his short sword.

[A pause.

And is Fra Bastian dead? Is all that light
Gone out, that sunshine darkened; all that music
And merriment, that used to make our lives
Less melancholy, swallowed up in silence
Like madrigals sung in the street at night
By passing revellers? It is strange indeed
That he should die before me. 'T is against
The laws of nature that the young should die,
And the old live; unless it be that some
Have long been dead who think themselves alive,
Because not buried. Well, what matters it,
Since now that greater light, that was my sun,
Is set, and all is darkness, all is darkness!
Death's lightnings strike to right and left of me,
And, like a ruined wall, the world around me
Crumbles away, and I am left alone.
I have no friends, and want none. My own thoughts
Are now my sole companions,--thoughts of her,
That like a benediction from the skies
Come to me in my solitude and soothe me.
When men are old, the incessant thought of Death
Follows them like their shadow; sits with them
At every meal; sleeps with them when they sleep;
And when they wake already is awake,
And standing by their bedside. Then, what folly
It is in us to make an enemy
Of this importunate follower, not a friend!
To me a friend, and not an enemy,
Has he become since all my friends are dead.



POPE JULIUS III. seated by the Fountain of Acqua Vergine,
surrounded by Cardinals.

Tell me, why is it ye are discontent,
You, Cardinals Salviati and Marcello,
With Michael Angelo? What has he done,
Or left undone, that ye are set against him?
When one Pope dies, another is soon made;
And I can make a dozen Cardinals,
But cannot make one Michael Angelo.

Your Holiness, we are not set against him;
We but deplore his incapacity.
He is too old.

You, Cardinal Salviati,
Are an old man. Are you incapable?
'T is the old ox that draws the straightest furrow.

Your Holiness remembers he was charged
With the repairs upon St. Mary's bridge;
Made cofferdams, and heaped up load on load
Of timber and travertine; and yet for years
The bridge remained unfinished, till we gave it
To Baccio Bigio.

Always Baccio Bigio!
Is there no other architect on earth?
Was it not he that sometime had in charge
The harbor of Ancona.

Ay, the same.

Then let me tell you that your Baccio Bigio
Did greater damage in a single day
To that fair harbor than the sea had done
Or would do in ten years. And him you think
To put in place of Michael Angelo,
In building the Basilica of St. Peter!
The ass that thinks himself a stag discovers
His error when he comes to leap the ditch.

He does not build; he but demolishes
The labors of Bramante and San Gallo.

Only to build more grandly.

But time passes:
Year after year goes by, and yet the work
Is not completed. Michael Angelo
Is a great sculptor, but no architect.
His plans are faulty.

I have seen his model,
And have approved it. But here comes the artist.
Beware of him. He may make Persians of you,
To carry burdens on your backs forever.



Come forward, dear Maestro! In these gardens
All ceremonies of our court are banished.
Sit down beside me here.

MICHAEL ANGELO, sitting down.
How graciously
Your Holiness commiserates old age
And its infirmities!

Say its privileges.
Art I respect. The building of this palace
And laying out these pleasant garden walks
Are my delight, and if I have not asked
Your aid in this, it is that I forbear
To lay new burdens on you at an age
When you need rest. Here I escape from Rome
To be at peace. The tumult of the city
Scarce reaches here.

How beautiful it is,
And quiet almost as a hermitage!

We live as hermits here; and from these heights
O'erlook all Rome and see the yellow Tiber
Cleaving in twain the city, like a sword,
As far below there as St. Mary's bridge.
What think you of that bridge?

I would advise
Your Holiness not to cross it, or not often
It is not safe.

It was repaired of late.

Some morning you will look for it in vain;
It will be gone. The current of the river
Is undermining it.

But you repaired it.

I strengthened all its piers, and paved its road
With travertine. He who came after me
Removed the stone, and sold it, and filled in
The space with gravel.

Cardinal Salviati
And Cardinal Marcello, do you listen?
This is your famous Nanni Baccio Bigio.

There is some mystery here. These Cardinals
Stand lowering at me with unfriendly eyes.

Now let us come to what concerns us more
Than bridge or gardens. Some complaints are made
Concerning the Three Chapels in St. Peter's;
Certain supposed defects or imperfections,
You doubtless can explain.

This is no longer
The golden age of art. Men have become
Iconoclasts and critics. They delight not
In what an artist does, but set themselves
To censure what they do not comprehend.
You will not see them bearing a Madonna
Of Cimabue to the church in triumph,
But tearing down the statue of a Pope
To cast it into cannon. Who are they
That bring complaints against me?

Of the commissioners; and they complain
Of insufficient light in the Three Chapels.

Your Holiness, the insufficient light
Is somewhere else, and not in the Three Chapels.
Who are the deputies that make complaint?

The Cardinals Salviati and Marcello,
Here present.

With permission, Monsignori,
What is it ye complain of?

We regret
You have departed from Bramante's plan,
And from San Gallo's.

Since the ancient time
No greater architect has lived on earth
Than Lazzari Bramante. His design,
Without confusion, simple, clear, well-lighted.
Merits all praise, and to depart from it
Would be departing from the truth. San Gallo,
Building about with columns, took all light
Out of this plan; left in the choir dark corners
For infinite ribaldries, and lurking places
For rogues and robbers; so that when the church
Was shut at night, not five and twenty men
Could find them out. It was San Gallo, then,
That left the church in darkness, and not I.

Excuse me; but in each of the Three Chapels
Is but a single window.

Perhaps you do not know that in the vaulting
Above there are to go three other windows.

How should we know? You never told us of it.

I neither am obliged, nor will I be,
To tell your Eminence or any other
What I intend or ought to do. Your office
Is to provide the means, and see that thieves
Do not lay hands upon them. The designs
Must all be left to me.

Sir architect,
You do forget yourself, to speak thus rudely
In presence of his Holiness, and to us
Who are his cardinals.

MICHAEL ANGELO, putting on his hat.
I do not forget
I am descended from the Counts Canossa,
Linked with the Imperial line, and with Matilda,
Who gave the Church Saint Peter's Patrimony.
I, too, am proud to give unto the Church
The labor of these hands, and what of life
Remains to me. My father Buonarotti
Was Podesta of Chiusi and Caprese.
I am not used to have men speak to me
As if I were a mason, hired to build
A garden wall, and paid on Saturdays
So much an hour.

No wonder that Pope Clement
Never sat down in presence of this man,
Lest he should do the same; and always bade him
Put on his hat, lest he unasked should do it!

If any one could die of grief and shame,
I should. This labor was imposed upon me;
I did not seek it; and if I assumed it,
'T was not for love of fame or love of gain,
But for the love of God. Perhaps old age
Deceived me, or self-interest, or ambition;
I may be doing harm instead of good.
Therefore, I pray your Holiness, release me;
Take off from me the burden of this work;
Let me go back to Florence.

Never, never,
While I am living.

Doth your Holiness
Remember what the Holy Scriptures say
Of the inevitable time, when those
Who look out of the windows shall be darkened,
And the almond-tree shall flourish?

That is in

And the grasshopper
Shall be a burden, and desire shall fail,
Because man goeth unto his long home.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all
Is vanity.

Ah, were to do a thing
As easy as to dream of doing it,
We should not want for artists. But the men
Who carry out in act their great designs
Are few in number; ay, they may be counted
Upon the fingers of this hand. Your place
Is at St. Peter's.

I have had my dream,
And cannot carry out my great conception,
And put it into act.

Then who can do it?
You would but leave it to some Baccio Bigio
To mangle and deface.

Rather than that
I will still bear the burden on my shoulders
A little longer. If your Holiness
Will keep the world in order, and will leave
The building of the church to me, the work
Will go on better for it. Holy Father,
If all the labors that I have endured,
And shall endure, advantage not my soul,
I am but losing time.

JULIUS, laying his hands on MICHAEL ANGELO'S shoulders.
You will be gainer
Both for your soul and body.

Not events
Exasperate me, but the funest conclusions
I draw from these events; the sure decline
Of art, and all the meaning of that word:
All that embellishes and sweetens life,
And lifts it from the level of low cares
Into the purer atmosphere of beauty;
The faith in the Ideal; the inspiration
That made the canons of the church of Seville
Say, "Let us build, so that all men hereafter
Will say that we were madmen." Holy Father,
I beg permission to retire from here.

Go; and my benediction be upon you.

[Michael Angelo goes out.

My Cardinals, this Michael Angelo
Must not be dealt with as a common mason.
He comes of noble blood, and for his crest
Bear two bull's horns; and he has given us proof
That he can toss with them. From this day forth
Unto the end of time, let no man utter
The name of Baccio Bigio in my presence.
All great achievements are the natural fruits
Of a great character. As trees bear not
Their fruits of the same size and quality,
But each one in its kind with equal ease,
So are great deeds as natural to great men
As mean things are to small ones. By his work
We know the master. Let us not perplex him.



A street in Rome. BINDO ALTOVITI, standing at the door of his


Good-morning, Messer Michael Angelo!

Good-morning, Messer Bindo Altoviti!

What brings you forth so early?

The same reason
That keeps you standing sentinel at your door,--
The air of this delicious summer morning.
What news have you from Florence?

Nothing new;
The same old tale of violence and wrong.
Since the disastrous day at Monte Murlo,
When in procession, through San Gallo's gate,
Bareheaded, clothed in rags, on sorry steeds,
Philippo Strozzi and the good Valori
Were led as prisoners down the streets of Florence,
Amid the shouts of an ungrateful people,
Hope is no more, and liberty no more.
Duke Cosimo, the tyrant, reigns supreme.

Florence is dead: her houses are but tombs;
Silence and solitude are in her streets.

Ah yes; and often I repeat the words
You wrote upon your statue of the Night,
There in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo:
"Grateful to me is sleep; to be of stone
More grateful, while the wrong and shame endure;
To see not, feel not, is a benediction;
Therefore awake me not; oh, speak in whispers."

Ah, Messer Bindo, the calamities,
The fallen fortunes, and the desolation
Of Florence are to me a tragedy
Deeper than words, and darker than despair.
I, who have worshipped freedom from my cradle,
Have loved her with the passion of a lover,
And clothed her with all lovely attributes
That the imagination can conceive,
Or the heart conjure up, now see her dead,
And trodden in the dust beneath the feet
Of an adventurer! It is a grief
Too great for me to bear in my old age.

I say no news from Florence: I am wrong,
For Benvenuto writes that he is coming
To be my guest in Rome.

Those are good tidings.
He hath been many years away from us.

Pray you, come in.

I have not time to stay,
And yet I will. I see from here your house
Is filled with works of art. That bust in bronze
Is of yourself. Tell me, who is the master
That works in such an admirable way,
And with such power and feeling?


Ah? Benvenuto? 'T is a masterpiece!
It pleases me as much, and even more,
Than the antiques about it; and yet they
Are of the best one sees. But you have placed it
By far too high. The light comes from below,
And injures the expression. Were these windows
Above and not beneath it, then indeed
It would maintain its own among these works
Of the old masters, noble as they are.
I will go in and study it more closely.
I always prophesied that Benvenuto,
With all his follies and fantastic ways,
Would show his genius in some work of art
That would amaze the world, and be a challenge
Unto all other artists of his time.

[They go in.




What have you here alone, Messer Michele?

I come to learn.

You are already master,
And teach all other men.

Nay, I know nothing;
Not even my own ignorance, as some
Philosopher hath said. I am a schoolboy
Who hath not learned his lesson, and who stands
Ashamed and silent in the awful presence
Of the great master of antiquity
Who built these walls cyclopean.

His name was, I remember. His reward
Was to be thrown alive to the wild beasts
Here where we now are standing.

Idle tales.

But you are greater than Gaudentius was,
And your work nobler.

Silence, I beseech you.

Tradition says that fifteen thousand men
Were toiling for ten years incessantly
Upon this amphitheatre.

How wonderful it is! The queen of flowers,
The marble rose of Rome! Its petals torn
By wind and rain of thrice five hundred years;
Its mossy sheath half rent away, and sold
To ornament our palaces and churches,
Or to be trodden under feet of man
Upon the Tiber's bank; yet what remains
Still opening its fair bosom to the sun,
And to the constellations that at night
Hang poised above it like a swarm of bees.

The rose of Rome, but not of Paradise;
Not the white rose our Tuscan poet saw,
With saints for petals. When this rose was perfect
Its hundred thousand petals were not Saints,
But senators in their Thessalian caps,
And all the roaring populace of Rome;
And even an Empress and the Vestal Virgins,
Who came to see the gladiators die,
Could not give sweetness to a rose like this.

I spake not of its uses, but its beauty.

The sand beneath our feet is saturate
With blood of martyrs; and these rifted stones
Are awful witnesses against a people
Whose pleasure was the pain of dying men.

Tomaso Cavalieri, on my word,
You should have been a preacher, not a painter!
Think you that I approve such cruelties,
Because I marvel at the architects
Who built these walls, and curved these noble arches?
Oh, I am put to shame, when I consider
How mean our work is, when compared with theirs!
Look at these walls about us and above us!
They have been shaken by earthquake; have been made
A fortress, and been battered by long sieges;
The iron clamps, that held the stones together,
Have been wrenched from them; but they stand erect
And firm, as if they had been hewn and hollowed
Out of the solid rock, and were a part
Of the foundations of the world itself.

Your work, I say again, is nobler work,
In so far as its end and aim are nobler;
And this is but a ruin, like the rest.
Its vaulted passages are made the caverns
Of robbers, and are haunted by the ghosts
Of murdered men.

A thousand wild flowers bloom
From every chink, and the birds build their nests
Among the ruined arches, and suggest
New thoughts of beauty to the architect,
Now let us climb the broken stairs that lead
Into the corridors above, and study
The marvel and the mystery of that art
In which I am a pupil, not a master.
All things must have an end; the world itself
Must have an end, as in a dream I saw it.
There came a great hand out of heaven, and touched
The earth, and stopped it in its course. The seas
Leaped, a vast cataract, into the abyss;
The forests and the fields slid off, and floated
Like wooded islands in the air. The dead
Were hurled forth from their sepulchres; the living
Were mingled with them, and themselves were dead,--
All being dead; and the fair, shining cities
Dropped out like jewels from a broken crown.
Naught but the core of the great globe remained,
A skeleton of stone. And over it
The wrack of matter drifted like a cloud,
And then recoiled upon itself, and fell
Back on the empty world, that with the weight
Reeled, staggered, righted, and then headlong plunged
Into the darkness, as a ship, when struck
By a great sea, throws off the waves at first
On either side, then settles and goes down
Into the dark abyss, with her dead crew.

But the earth does not move.

Who knows? who knowst?
There are great truths that pitch their shining tents
Outside our walls, and though but dimly seen
In the gray dawn, they will be manifest
When the light widens into perfect day.
A certain man, Copernicus by name,
Sometime professor here in Rome, has whispered
It is the earth, and not the sun, that moves.
What I beheld was only in a dream,
Yet dreams sometimes anticipate events,
Being unsubstantial images of things
As yet unseen.




So, Benvenuto, you return once more
To the Eternal City. 'T is the centre
To which all gravitates. One finds no rest
Elsewhere than here. There may be other cities
That please us for a while, but Rome alone
Completely satisfies. It becomes to all
A second native land by predilection,
And not by accident of birth alone.

I am but just arrived, and am now lodging
With Bindo Altoviti. I have been
To kiss the feet of our most Holy Father,
And now am come in haste to kiss the hands
Of my miraculous Master.

And to find him
Grown very old.

You know that precious stones
Never grow old.

Half sunk beneath the horizon,
And yet not gone. Twelve years are a long while.
Tell me of France.

It were too long a tale
To tell you all. Suffice in brief to say
The King received me well, and loved me well;
Gave me the annual pension that before me
Our Leonardo had, nor more nor less,
And for my residence the Tour de Nesle,
Upon the river-side.

A princely lodging.

What in return I did now matters not,
For there are other things, of greater moment,
I wish to speak of. First of all, the letter
You wrote me, not long since, about my bust
Of Bindo Altoviti, here in Rome. You said,
"My Benvenuto, I for many years
Have known you as the greatest of all goldsmiths,
And now I know you as no less a sculptor."
Ah, generous Master! How shall I e'er thank you
For such kind language?

By believing it.
I saw the bust at Messer Bindo's house,
And thought it worthy of the ancient masters,
And said so. That is all.

It is too much;
And I should stand abashed here in your presence,
Had I done nothing worthier of your praise
Than Bindo's bust.

What have you done that's better?

When I left Rome for Paris, you remember
I promised you that if I went a goldsmith
I would return a sculptor. I have kept
The promise I then made.

Dear Benvenuto,
I recognized the latent genius in you,
But feared your vices.

I have turned them all
To virtues. My impatient, wayward nature,
That made me quick in quarrel, now has served me
Where meekness could not, and where patience could not,
As you shall hear now. I have cast in bronze
A statue of Perseus, holding thus aloft
In his left hand the head of the Medusa,
And in his right the sword that severed it;
His right foot planted on the lifeless corse;
His face superb and pitiful, with eyes
Down-looking on the victim of his vengeance.

I see it as it should be.

As it will be
When it is placed upon the Ducal Square,
Half-way between your David and the Judith
Of Donatello.

Rival of them both!

But ah, what infinite trouble have I had
With Bandinello, and that stupid beast,
The major-domo of Duke Cosimo,
Francesco Ricci, and their wretched agent
Gorini, who came crawling round about me
Like a black spider, with his whining voice
That sounded like the buzz of a mosquito!
Oh, I have wept in utter desperation,
And wished a thousand times I had not left
My Tour do Nesle, nor e'er returned to Florence,
Or thought of Perseus. What malignant falsehoods
They told the Grand Duke, to impede my work,
And make me desperate!

The nimble lie
Is like the second-hand upon a clock;
We see it fly; while the hour-hand of truth
Seems to stand still, and yet it moves unseen,
And wins at last, for the clock will not strike
Till it has reached the goal.

My obstinacy
Stood me in stead, and helped me to o'ercome
The hindrances that envy and ill-will
Put in my way.

When anything is done
People see not the patient doing of it,
Nor think how great would be the loss to man
If it had not been done. As in a building
Stone rests on stone, and wanting the foundation
All would be wanting, so in human life
Each action rests on the foregone event,
That made it possible, but is forgotten
And buried in the earth.

Even Bandinello,
Who never yet spake well of anything,
Speaks well of this; and yet he told the Duke
That, though I cast small figures well enough,
I never could cast this.

But you have done it,
And proved Ser Bandinello a false prophet.
That is the wisest way.

And ah, that casting
What a wild scene it was, as late at night,
A night of wind and rain, we heaped the furnace
With pine of Serristori, till the flames
Caught in the rafters over us, and threatened
To send the burning roof upon our heads;
And from the garden side the wind and rain
Poured in upon us, and half quenched our fires.
I was beside myself with desperation.
A shudder came upon me, then a fever;
I thought that I was dying, and was forced
To leave the work-shop, and to throw myself
Upon my bed, as one who has no hope.
And as I lay there, a deformed old man
Appeared before me, and with dismal voice,
Like one who doth exhort a criminal
Led forth to death, exclaimed, "Poor Benvenuto,
Thy work is spoiled! There is no remedy!"
Then, with a cry so loud it might have reached
The heaven of fire, I bounded to my feet,
And rushed back to my workmen. They all stood
Bewildered and desponding; and I looked
Into the furnace, and beheld the mass
Half molten only, and in my despair
I fed the fire with oak, whose terrible heat
Soon made the sluggish metal shine and sparkle.
Then followed a bright flash, and an explosion,
As if a thunderbolt had fallen among us.
The covering of the furnace had been rent
Asunder, and the bronze was flowing over;
So that I straightway opened all the sluices
To fill the mould. The metal ran like lava,
Sluggish and heavy; and I sent my workmen
To ransack the whole house, and bring together
My pewter plates and pans, two hundred of them,
And cast them one by one into the furnace
To liquefy the mass, and in a moment
The mould was filled! I fell upon my knees
And thanked the Lord; and then we ate and drank
And went to bed, all hearty and contented.
It was two hours before the break of day.
My fever was quite gone.

A strange adventure,
That could have happened to no man alive
But you, my Benvenuto.

As my workmen said
To major-domo Ricci afterward,
When he inquired of them: "'T was not a man,
But an express great devil."

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