by Michael Angelo Buonarroti & Tommaso Campanella
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[Greek: Chruseon chalkeia]





After some deliberation, and at the risk of offending the sensibility of scholars, I have adopted the old English spelling of Michael Angelo's name, feeling that no orthographical accuracy can outweigh the associations implied in that familiar title. Michael Angelo has a place among the highest with Homer and Titian, with Virgil and Petrarch, with Raphael and Paul; nor do I imagine that any alteration for the better would be effected by substituting for these time-honoured names Homeros and Tiziano, Vergilius and Petrarca, Raffaello and Paulus.

I wish here to express my heartiest thanks to Signore Pasquale Villari for valuable assistance kindly rendered in the interpretation of some difficult passages of Campanella, and to Signore V. de Tivoli for calling my attention to the sonnet of Michael Angelo deciphered by him on the back of a drawing in the Taylor Gallery at Oxford.

Portions both of the Introduction and the Translations forming this volume, have already appeared in the 'Contemporary Review' and the 'Cornhill Magazine.'


Dec. 1877.











It is with diffidence that I offer a translation of Michael Angelo's sonnets, for the first time completely rendered into English rhyme, and that I venture on a version of Campanella's philosophical poems. My excuse, if I can plead any for so bold an attempt, may be found in this—that, so far as I am aware, no other English writer has dealt with Michael Angelo's verses since the publication of his autograph; while Campanella's sonnets have hitherto been almost utterly unknown.

Something must be said to justify the issue of poems so dissimilar in a single volume. Michael Angelo and Campanella represent widely sundered, though almost contemporaneous, moments in the evolution of the Italian genius. Michael Angelo was essentially an artist, living in the prime of the Renaissance. Campanella was a philosopher, born when the Counter-Reformation was doing all it could to blight the free thought of the sixteenth century; and when the modern spirit of exact enquiry, in a few philosophical martyrs, was opening a new stage for European science. The one devoted all his mental energies to the realisation of beauty: the other strove to ascertain truth. The one clung to Ficino's dream of Platonising Christianity: the other constructed for himself a new theology, founded on the conception of God immanent in nature. Michael Angelo expressed the aspirations of a solitary life dedicated to the service of art, at a time when art received the suffrage and the admiration of all Italy. Campanella gave utterance to a spirit, exiled and isolated, misunderstood by those with whom he lived, at a moment when philosophy was hunted down as heresy and imprisoned as treason to the public weal.

The marks of this difference in the external and internal circumstances of the two poets might be multiplied indefinitely. Yet they had much in common. Both stood above their age, and in a sense aloof from it. Both approached poetry in the spirit of thinkers bent upon extricating themselves from the trivialities of contemporary literature. The sonnets of both alike are contributions to philosophical poetry in an age when the Italians had lost their ancient manliness and energy. Both were united by the ties of study and affection to the greatest singer of their nation, Dante, at a time when Petrarch, thrice diluted and emasculated, was the Phoebus of academies and coteries.

This common antagonism to the degenerate genius of Italian literature is the link which binds Michael Angelo, the veteran giant of the Renaissance, to Campanella, the audacious Titan of the modern age.


My translation of Michael Angelo's sonnets has been made from Signor Cesare Guasti's edition of the autograph, first given to the world in 1863.[1] This masterpiece of laborious and minute scholarship is based upon a collation of the various manuscripts preserved in the Casa Buonarroti at Florence with the Vatican and other Codices. It adheres to the original orthography of Michael Angelo, and omits no fragment of his indubitable compositions.[2] Signor Guasti prefaces the text he has so carefully prepared, with a discourse upon the poetry of Michael Angelo and a description of the manuscripts. To the poems themselves he adds a prose paraphrase, and prints upon the same page with each composition the version published by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1623.[3]

Before the publication of this volume, all studies of Michael Angelo's poetry, all translations made of it, and all hypotheses deduced from the sculptor's verse in explanation of his theory or his practice as an artist, were based upon the edition of 1623. It will not be superfluous to describe what that edition was, and how its text differed from that now given to the light, in order that the relation of my own English version to those which have preceded it may be rightly understood.[4]

Michael Angelo seems to have entertained no thought of printing his poems in his lifetime. He distributed them freely among his friends, of whom Sebastiano del Piombo, Luigi del Riccio, Donato Giannotti, Vittoria Colonna, and Tommaso de' Cavalieri were in this respect the most favoured. In course of time some of these friends, partly by the gift of the originals, and partly by obtaining copies, formed more or less complete collections; and it undoubtedly occurred to more than one to publish them. Ascanio Condivi, at the close of his biography, makes this announcement: 'I hope ere long to make public some of his sonnets and madrigals, which I have been long collecting, both from himself and others who possessed them, with a view to proving to the world the force of his inventive genius and the beauty of the thoughts produced by that divine spirit.' Condivi's promise was not fulfilled. With the exception of two or three pieces printed by Vasari, and the extracts quoted by Varchi in his 'Lezione,'[5] the poems of Michael Angelo remained in manuscript for fifty-nine years after his death. The most voluminous collection formed part of the Buonarroti archives; but a large quantity preserved by Luigi del Riccio, and from him transferred to Fulvio Orsini, had passed into the Vatican Library, when Michelangelo the younger conceived the plan of publishing his granduncle's poetry. Michelangelo obtained leave to transcribe the Vatican MSS. with his own hand; and after taking pains to collate all the autographs and copies in existence, he set himself to compare their readings, and to form a final text for publication. Here, however, began what we may call the Tragedy of his Rifacimento. The more he studied his great ancestor's verses, the less he liked or dared to edit them unaltered. Some of them expressed thoughts and sentiments offensive to the Church. In some the Florentine patriot spoke over-boldly. Others exposed their author to misconstruction on the score of personal morality.[6] All were ungrammatical, rude in versification, crabbed and obscure in thought—the rough-hewn blockings-out of poems rather than finished works of art, as it appeared to the scrupulous, decorous, elegant, and timorous Academician of a feebler age. While pondering these difficulties, and comparing the readings of his many manuscripts, the thought occurred to Michelangelo that, between leaving the poems unpublished and printing them in all their rugged boldness, lay the middle course of reducing them to smoothness of diction, lucidity of meaning, and propriety of sentiment.[7] In other words, he began, as Signer Guasti pithily describes his method, 'to change halves of lines, whole verses, ideas: if he found a fragment, he completed it: if brevity involved the thought in obscurity, he amplified: if the obscurity seemed incurable, he amputated: for superabundant wealth of conception he substituted vacuity; smoothed asperities; softened salient lights.' The result was that a medley of garbled phrases, additions, alterations, and sophistications was foisted on the world as the veritable product of the mighty sculptor's genius. That Michelangelo meant well to his illustrious ancestor is certain. That he took the greatest pains in executing his ungrateful and disastrous task is no less clear.[8] But the net result of his meddlesome benevolence has been that now for two centuries and a half the greatest genius of the Italian Renaissance has worn the ill-fitting disguise prepared for him by a literary 'breeches-maker.' In fact, Michael Angelo the poet suffered no less from his grandnephew than Michael Angelo the fresco painter from his follower Daniele da Volterra.

Nearly all Michael Angelo's sonnets express personal feelings, and by far the greater number of them were composed after his sixtieth year. To whom they were addressed, we only know in a few instances. Vittoria Colonna and Tommaso de' Cavalieri, the two most intimate friends of his old age in Rome, received from him some of the most pathetically beautiful of his love-poems. But to suppose that either the one or the other was the object of more than a few well-authenticated sonnets would be hazardous. Nothing is more clear than that Michael Angelo worshipped Beauty in the Platonic spirit, passing beyond its personal and specific manifestations to the universal and impersonal. This thought is repeated over and over again in his poetry; and if we bear in mind that he habitually regarded the loveliness of man or woman as a sign and symbol of eternal and immutable beauty, we shall feel it of less importance to discover who it was that prompted him to this or that poetic utterance. That the loves of his youth were not so tranquil as those of his old age, appears not only from the regrets expressed in his religious verses, but also from one or two of the rare sonnets referable to his manhood.

The love of beauty, the love of Florence, and the love of Christ, are the three main motives of his poetry. This is not the place to discuss at length the nature of his philosophy, his patriotism, or his religion; to enquire how far he retained the early teaching of Ficino and Savonarola; or to trace the influence of Dante and the Bible on his mind. I may, however, refer my readers who are interested in these questions, to the Discourse of Signor Guasti, the learned essay of Mr. J.E. Taylor, and the refined study of Mr. W.H. Pater. My own views will be found expressed in the third volume of my 'Renaissance in Italy'; and where I think it necessary, I shall take occasion to repeat them in the notes appended to my translation.


Michael Angelo's madrigals and sonnets were eagerly sought for during his lifetime. They formed the themes of learned academical discourses, and won for him the poet's crown in death. Upon his tomb the Muse of Song was carved in company with Sculpture, Architecture, and Painting. Since the publication of the rifacimento in 1623, his verses have been used among the testi di lingua by Italians, and have been studied in the three great languages of Europe. The fate of Campanella's philosophical poems has been very different. It was owing to a fortunate chance that they survived their author; and until the year 1834 they were wholly and entirely unknown in Italy. The history of their preservation is so curious that I cannot refrain from giving some account of it, before proceeding to sketch so much of Campanella's life and doctrine as may be necessary for the understanding of his sonnets.

The poems were composed during Campanella's imprisonment at Naples; and from internal evidence there is good reason to suppose that the greater part of them were written at intervals in the first fourteen years of the twenty-five he passed in confinement.[9] In the descriptive catalogue of his own works, the philosopher mentions seven books of sonnets and canzoni, which he called 'Le Cantiche.'[10] Whether any of these would have been printed but for a mere accident is doubtful. A German gentleman, named Tobia Adami, who is supposed to have been a Court-Counsellor at Weimar, after travelling through Greece, Syria, and Palestine, in company with a young friend called Rodolph von Bunau, visited Campanella in his dungeon. A close intimacy sprang up between them, and Adami undertook to publish several works of the philosopher in testimony of his admiration. Among these were 'Le Cantiche.' Instead, however, of printing the poems in extenso, he made a selection, choosing those apparently which took his fancy, and which, in his opinion, threw most light on Campanella's philosophical theories. It is clear that he neglected the author's own arrangement, since there is no trace of the division into seven books. What proportion the selection bore to the whole bulk of the MS. seems to me uncertain, though the latest editor asserts that it formed only a seventh part.[11] The manuscript itself is lost, and Adami's edition of the specimens is all that now remains as basis for the text of Campanella's poems.

This first edition was badly printed in Germany on very bad paper, without the name of press or place. Besides the poems, it contained a brief prose commentary by the editor, the value of which is still very great, since we have the right to suppose that Adami's explanations embodied what he had received by word of mouth from Campanella. The little book bore this title:—'Scelta d' alcune poesie filosofiche di Settimontano Squilla cavate da' suo' libri detti La Cantica, con l'esposizione, stampato nell' anno MDCXXII.' The pseudonym Squilla is a pun upon Campanella's name, since both Campana and Squilla mean a bell; while Settimontano contains a quaint allusion to the fact that the philosopher's skull was remarkable for seven protuberances.[12] A very few copies of the unpretending little volume were printed; and none of these seem to have found their way into Italy, though it is possible that they had a certain circulation in Germany. At any rate there is reason to suppose that Leibnitz was not unacquainted with the poems, while Herder, in the Renaissance of German literature, published free translations from a few of the sonnets in his 'Adrastea.'

To this circumstance we owe the reprint of 1834, published at Lugano by John Gaspar Orelli, the celebrated Zurich scholar. Early in his youth Orelli was delighted with the German version made by Herder; and during his manhood, while residing as Protestant pastor at Bergamo, he used his utmost endeavours to procure a copy of the original. In his preface to the reprint he tells us that these efforts were wholly unsuccessful through a period of twenty-five years. He applied to all his literary friends, among whom he mentions the ardent Ugo Foscolo and the learned Mazzuchelli; but none of these could help him. He turned the pages of Crescimbeni, Quadrio, Gamba, Corniani, Tiraboschi, weighty with enormous erudition—and only those who make a special study of Italian know how little has escaped their scrutiny—but found no mention of Campanella as a poet. At last, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, he received the long-coveted little quarto volume from Wolfenbuttel in the north of Germany. The new edition which Orelli gave to the press at Lugano has this title:—'Poesie Filosofiche di Tommaso Campanella pubblicate per la prima volta in Italia da Gio. Gaspare Orelli, Professore all' Universita di Zurigo. Lugano, 1834.' The same text has been again reprinted at Turin, in 1854, by Alessandro d'Ancona, together with some of Campanella's minor works and an essay on his life and writings. This third edition professes to have improved Orelli's punctuation and to have rectified his readings. But it still leaves much to be desired on the score of careful editorship. Neither Orelli nor D'Ancona has done much to clear up the difficulties of the poems—difficulties in many cases obviously due to misprints and errors of the first transcriber; while in one or two instances they allow patent blunders to pass uncorrected. In the sonnet entitled 'A Dio' (D'Ancona, vol. i. p. 102), for example, bocca stands for buca in a place where sense and rhyme alike demand the restitution of the right word.

At no time could the book have hoped for many readers. Least of all would it have found them among the Italians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to whom its energetic language and unfamiliar conceptions would have presented insuperable difficulties. Between Dante and Alfieri no Italian poet except Michael Angelo expressed so much deep thought and feeling in phrases so terse, and with originality of style so daring; and even Michael Angelo is monotonous in the range of his ideas and uniform in his diction, when compared with the indescribable violence and vigour of Campanella. Campanella borrows little by way of simile or illustration from the outer world, and he never falls into the commonplaces of poetic phraseology. His poems exhibit the exact opposite of the Petrarchistic or the Marinistic mannerism. Each sonnet seems to have been wrenched alive and palpitating from the poet's heart. There is no smoothness, no gradual unfolding of a theme, no rhetorical exposition, no fanciful embroidery, no sweetness of melodic cadence, in his masculine art of poetry. Brusque, rough, violent in transition, leaping from the sublime to the ridiculous—his poems owe their elevation to the intensity of their feeling, the nobleness and condensation of their thought, the energy and audacity of their expression, their brevity, sincerity, and weight of sentiment. Campanella had an essentially combative intellect. He was both a poet and a philosopher militant. He stood alone, making war upon the authority of Aristotle in science, of Machiavelli in state-craft, and of Petrarch in art, taking the fortresses of phrase by storm, and subduing the hardest material of philosophy to the tyranny of his rhymes. Plebeian saws, salient images, dry sentences of metaphysical speculation, logical summaries, and fiery tirades are hurled together— half crude and cindery scoriae, half molten metal and resplendent ore— from the volcano of his passionate mind. Such being the nature of Campanella's style, when in addition it is remembered that his text is sometimes hopelessly corrupt and his allusions obscure, the difficulties offered by his sonnets to the translator will be readily conceived.


At the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, philosophy took a new point of departure among the Italians, and all the fundamental ideas which have since formed the staple of modern European systems were anticipated by a few obscure thinkers. It is noticeable that the States of Naples, hitherto comparatively inert in the intellectual development of Italy, furnished the five writers who preceded Bacon, Leibnitz, Schelling, and Comte. Telesio of Cosenza, Bruno of Nola, Campanella of Stilo, Vanini and Vico of Naples are the chief among these novi homines or pioneers of modern thought. The characteristic point of this new philosophy was an unconditional return to Nature as the source of knowledge, combined with a belief in the intuitive forces of the human reason: so that from the first it showed two sides or faces to the world—the one positive, scientific, critical, and analytical; the other mystical, metaphysical, subjective. Modern materialism and modern idealism were both contained in the audacious guesses of Bruno and Campanella; nor had the time arrived for clearly separating the two strains of thought, or for attempting a systematic synthesis of knowledge under one or the other head.

The men who led this weighty intellectual movement burned with the passionate ardour of discoverers, the fiery enthusiasm of confessors. They stood alone, sustained but little by intercourse among themselves, and wholly misunderstood by the people round them. Italy, sunk in sloth, priest-ridden, tyrant-ridden, exhausted with the unparalleled activity of the Renaissance, besotted with the vices of slavery and slow corruption, had no ears for spirit-thrilling prophecy. The Church, terrified by the Reformation, when she chanced to hear those strange voices sounding through 'the blessed mutter of the mass,' burned the prophets. The State, represented by absolute Spain, if it listened to them at all, flung them into prison. To both Church and State there was peril in the new philosophy; for the new philosophy was the first birth-cry of the modern genius, with all the crudity and clearness, the brutality and uncompromising sincerity of youth. The Church feared Nature. The State feared the People. Nature and the People—those watchwords of modern Science and modern Liberty—were already on the lips of the philosophers.

It was a philosophy armed, errant, exiled; a philosophy in chains and solitary; at war with society, authority, opinion; self-sustained by the prescience of ultimate triumph, and invincible through the sheer force of passionate conviction. The men of whom I speak were conscious of Pariahdom, and eager to be martyred in the glorious cause. 'A very Proteus is the philosopher,' says Pomponazzo: 'seeking to penetrate the secrets of God, he is consumed with ceaseless cares; he forgets to thirst, to hunger, to sleep, to eat; he is derided of all men; he is held for a fool and irreligious person; he is persecuted by inquisitors; he becomes a gazing-stock to the common folk. These are the gains of the philosopher; these are his guerdon. Pomponazzo's words were prophetic. Of the five philosophers whom I mentioned, Vanini was burned as an atheist, Bruno was burned, and Campanella was imprisoned for a quarter of a century. Both Bruno and Campanella were Dominican friars. Bruno was persecuted by the Church, and burned for heresy. Campanella was persecuted by both Church and State, and was imprisoned on the double charge of sedition and heresy. Dormitantium animarum excubitor was the self-given title of Bruno. Nunquam tacebo was the favourite motto of Campanella.

Giovanni Domenico Campanella was born in the year 1568 at Stilo in Calabria, one of the most southern townships of all Italy. In his boyhood he showed a remarkable faculty for acquiring and retaining knowledge, together with no small dialectical ability. His keen interest in philosophy and his admiration for the great Dominican doctors, Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, induced him at the age of fifteen to enter the order of S. Dominic, exchanging his secular name for Tommaso. But the old alliance between philosophy and orthodoxy, drawn up by scholasticism and approved by the mediaeval Church, had been succeeded by mutual hostility; and the youthful thinker found no favour in the cloister of Cosenza, where he now resided. The new philosophy taught by Telesio placed itself in direct antagonism to the pseudo-Aristotelian tenets of the theologians, and founded its own principles upon the Interrogation of Nature. Telesio, says Bacon, was the prince of the novi homines, or inaugurators of modern thought. It was natural that Campanella should be drawn towards this great man. But the superiors of his convent prevented his forming the acquaintance of Telesio; and though the two men dwelt in the same city of Cosenza, Campanella never knew the teacher he admired so passionately. Only when the old man died and his body was exposed in the church before burial, did the neophyte of his philosophy approach the bier, and pray beside it, and place poems upon the dead.

From this time forward Campanella became an object of suspicion to his brethren. They perceived that the fire of the new philosophy burned in his powerful nature with incalculable and explosive force. He moved restlessly from place to place, learning and discussing, drawing men towards him by the magnetism of a noble personality, and preaching his new gospel with perilous audacity. His papers were seized at Bologna; and at Rome the Holy Inquisition condemned him to perpetual incarceration on the ground that he derived his science from the devil, that he had written the book 'De tribus Impostoribus,' that he was a follower of Democritus, and that his opposition to Aristotle savoured of gross heresy. At the same time the Spanish Government of Naples accused him of having set on foot a dangerous conspiracy for overthrowing the vice-regal power and establishing a communistic commonwealth in southern Italy. Though nothing was proved satisfactorily against him, Campanella was held a prisoner under the sentence which the Inquisition had pronounced upon him. He was, in fact, a man too dangerous, too original in his opinions, and too bold in their enunciation, to be at large. For twenty-five years he remained in Neapolitan dungeons; three times during that period he was tortured to the verge of dying; and at last he was released, while quite an old man, at the urgent request of the French Court. Not many years after his liberation Campanella died. The numerous philosophical works on metaphysics, mathematics, politics, and aesthetics which Campanella gave to the press, were composed during his long imprisonment. How they came to be printed, I do not know; but it is obvious that he cannot have been strictly debarred from writing by his jailors. In prison, too, he made both friends and converts. We have seen that we owe the publication of a portion of his poems to the visit of a German knight.


The sonnets by Campanella translated in this volume might be rearranged under four headings—Philosophical; Political; Prophetic; Personal. The philosophical group throw light on Campanella's relation to his predecessors and his antagonism to the pseudo-Aristotelian scholasticism of the middle ages. They furthermore explain his conception of the universe as a complex animated organism, his conviction that true knowledge can only be gained by the interrogation of nature, his doctrine of human life and action, and his judgment of the age in which he lived. The political sonnets fall into two groups— those which discuss royalty, nobility, and the sovereignty of the people, and those which treat of the several European states. The prophetic sonnets seem to have been suggested by the misery and corruption of Italy, and express the poet's belief in the speedy triumph of right and reason. It is here too that his astrological opinions are most clearly manifested; for Campanella was far from having outgrown the belief in planetary influences. Indeed, his own metaphysical speculations, involving the principle of immanent vitality in the material universe, gave a new value to the dreams of the astrologers. Among the personal sonnets may be placed those which refer immediately to his own sufferings in prison, to his friendships, and to the ideal of the philosophic character.

I have thought it best, while indicating this fourfold division, to preserve the order adopted by Adami, since each of the reprints accessible to modern readers—both that of Orelli and that of D'Ancona— maintains the arrangement of the editio princeps. Two sonnets of the prophetic group I have omitted, partly because they have no bearing on the world as it exists for us at present, and partly because they are too studiously obscure for profitable reproduction.[13] As in the case of Michael Angelo, so also in that of Campanella, I have left the Canzoni untouched, except by way of illustration in the notes appended to my volume. They are important and voluminous enough to form a separate book; nor do they seem to me so well adapted as the sonnets for translation into English.

To give reasons for my choice of certain readings in the case of either Michael Angelo's or Campanella's text; to explain why I have sometimes preferred a strictly literal and sometimes a more paraphrastic rendering; or to set forth my views in detail regarding the compromises which are necessary in translation, and which must vary according to the exigencies of each successive problem offered by the original, would occupy too much space. Where I have thought it absolutely necessary, I have referred to such points in my notes. It is enough here to remark that the difficulties presented to the translator by Michael Angelo and by Campanella are of different kinds. Both, indeed, pack their thoughts so closely that it is not easy to reproduce them without either awkwardness or sacrifice of matter. But while Campanella is difficult from the abruptness of his transitions and the violence of his phrases, Michael Angelo has the obscurity of a writer whose thoughts exceed his power of expression, and who complicates the verbal form by his endeavour to project what cannot easily be said in verse.[14] A little patience will generally make it clear what Campanella meant, except in cases where the text itself is corrupt. But it may sometimes be doubted whether Michael Angelo could himself have done more than indicate the general drift of his thought, or have disengaged his own conception from the tangled skein of elliptical and ungrammatical sentences in which he has enveloped it. The form of Campanella's poetry, though often grotesque, is always clear. Michael Angelo has left too many of his compositions in the same state as his marbles—unfinished and colossal abbozzi, which lack the final touches to make their outlines distinct. Under these circumstances, it can hardly happen that the translator should succeed in reproducing all the sharpness and vivacity of Campanella's style, or should wholly refrain from softening, simplifying, and prettifying Michael Angelo in his attempt to produce an intelligible version. In both cases he is tempted to make his translation serve the purpose also of a commentary, and has to exercise caution and self-control lest he impose a sense too narrow or too definite upon the original.

So far as this was possible, I have adhered to the rhyming structure of my originals, feeling that this is a point of no small moment in translation. Yet when the choice lay between a sacrifice of metrical exactitude and a sacrifice of sense, I have not hesitated to prefer the former, especially in dealing with Campanella's quatrains.

Michael Angelo and Campanella follow different rules in their treatment of the triplets. Michael Angelo allows himself three rhymes, while Campanella usually confines himself to two. My practice has been to study in each sonnet the cadence both of thought and diction, so as to satisfy an English ear, accustomed to the various forms of termination exemplified by Spenser, Milton, Wordsworth, and Rossetti—the sweetest, the most sublime, the least artificial, and the most artful sonnet-writers in our language.

The short titles attached to each sonnet are intended to help the eye, rather than to guide the understanding of the reader. Michael Angelo and his editors supply no arguments or mottoes for his poems; while those printed by Adami in his edition of Campanella are, like mine, meant obviously to serve as signposts to the student. It may savour of impudence to ticket and to label little masterpieces, each one of which, like all good poems, is a microcosm of very varied meanings. Yet I have some authority in modern times for this impertinence; and, when it is acknowledged that the titles merely profess to guide the reader through a labyrinth of abstract and reflective compositions, without attempting to supply him with a comprehensive argument or to dogmatise concerning the main drift of each poem, I trust that enough will have been said by way of self-defence against the charge of arrogance.

The sonnet prefixed as a proem to the whole book is generally attributed to Giordano Bruno, in whose Dialogue on the Eroici Furori it occurs. There seems, however, good reason to suppose that it was really written by Tansillo, who recites it in that Dialogue. Whoever may have been its author, it expresses in noble and impassioned verse the sense of danger, the audacity, and the exultation of those pioneers of modern thought, for whom philosophy was a voyage of discovery into untravelled regions. Its spirit is rather that of Campanella than of Michael Angelo. Yet the elevation at which Michael Angelo habitually lived in thought and feeling was so far above the plains of common life, that from the summit of his solitary watch-tower he might have followed even such high-fliers as Bruno or as Campanella in their Icarian excursions with the eyes of speculative interest.

DAVOS PLATZ. Nov. 1877.


[1] 'Le Rime di Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pittore, Scultore e Architetto, cavate dagli Autografi e pubblicate da Cesare Guasti, Accademico della Crusca. In Firenze, per Felice le Monmer. MDCCCLXIII.'

[2] See, however, page xlvii of Signor Guasti's Discorso.

[3] I have so fully expressed my admiration for Signor Guasti's edition in the text that I may allow myself to point out in a note what seems to me its chief defect, and why I think there is still, perhaps, room for another and more critical edition. The materials are amply and conscientiously supplied by Signor Guasti, indeed, I suppose we are justified in believing that his single volume reproduces all the extant manuscript authorities, with the exception, perhaps, of the British Museum Codex. But, while it is so comprehensive, we are still left in some doubt as to the preference of one reading rather than another in the large type text presented to us as the final version of each composition. It is true that when this was possible, Signor Guasti invariably selected one of the autographs, that is, a copy in the poet's own handwriting. But when we consider that very frequently Michael Angelo's own autographs give twice as many various readings as there are lines in a sonnet, when we reflect that we do not always possess the copies which he finally addressed to his friends, and when, moreover, we find that their readings (e.g. those of the Riccio MS and those cited by Varchi) differ considerably from Michael Angelo's rough copies, we must conclude that even the autographs do not invariably represent these poems in the final form which he adopted. There is therefore much room left for critical comparison and selection. We are, in fact, still somewhat in the same position as Michelangelo the younger. Whether any application of the critical method will enable us to do again successfully what he so clumsily attempted—that is, to reproduce a correct text from the debris offered to our selective faculty—I do not feel sure. Meanwhile I am quite certain that his principle was a wrong one, and that he dealt most unjustifiably with his material. For this reason I cordially accept Signor Guasti's labours, with the reservation I have attempted to express in this note. They have indeed brought us far closer to Michael Angelo's real text, but we must be careful to remember that we have not even now arrived with certainty at what he would himself have printed if he had prepared his own edition for the press.

[4] As far as I am aware, no complete translation of Michael Angelo's sonnets has hitherto been made in English. The specimens produced by Southey, Wordsworth, Harford, Longfellow, and Mr. Taylor, moreover, render Michelangelo's rifacimento.

[5] 'Lezione di Benedetto Varchi sopra il sottoscritto Sonetto di Michelagnolo Buonarroti, fatta da lui pubblicamente nella Accademia Fiorentina la Seconda Domenica di Quaresima l'anno MDXLVI.' The sonnet commented by Varchi is Guasti's No xv.

[6] I have elsewhere recorded my disagreement with Signer Guasti and Signer Gotti, and my reasons for thinking that Vaichi and Michelangelo the younger were right in assuming that the sonnets addressed to Tommaso de' Cavalieri (especially xxx, xxxi, lii) expressed the poet's admiration for masculine beauty. See 'Renaissance in Italy, Fine Arts,' pp. 521, 522. At the same time, though I agree with Buonarroti's first editor in believing that a few of the sonnets 'risguardano, come si conosce chiaramente, amor platonico virile,' I quite admit—as what student of early Italian poetry will not admit?—that a woman is generally intended under the title of 'Signore' and 'amico.'

[7] Ridurle is his own phrase. He also speaks of trasmutare and risoluzione to explain the changes he effected.

[8] See Guasti's 'Discorso,' p. xliv.

[9] See in particular 'Orazioni Tie in Salmodia Metafisicale ... Canzone Prima ... Madrigale iii;' and 'A Berillo, Canzone di Pentimento, Madrigale ii.'

[10] 'De Libras Proprus,' I 3, quoted by Orelli and Alessandro d'Ancona. 'Opere di Tommaso Campanella,' vol. I. p 3.

[11] 'Opere di Tommaso Campanella,' vol. I p. ccci.

[12] Campanella's own poetry justified this curious nom de plume adopted for him by his editor. See in particular 'Salmodia Metafisicale,' canzone terza, madrigale ix.

'Tre canzon, nate a un parto Da questa mia settimontana testa, Al suon dolente di pensosa squilla.'

[13] These are the sonnets entitled by Adami 'La detta Congiunzione cade nella revoluzione della Nativita di Cristo,' and 'Sonetto cavato dall' Apocalisse e Santa Brigida,' D'Ancona, vol. 1. pp. 97, 98.

[14] In this respect rifacimento of 1623 has greater literary merits— the merits of mere smoothness, clearness, grammatical coherence, and intelligibility—than the autograph; and I can understand the preference of some students for the former, though I do not share it Michelangelo the younger added fluency and grace to his great-uncle's composition by the sacrifice of much that is most characteristic, and by the omission of much that is profound and vigorous and weighty.



Poi che spiegate.

Now that these wings to speed my wish ascend, The more I feel vast air beneath my feet, The more toward boundless air on pinions fleet, Spurning the earth, soaring to heaven, I tend: Nor makes them stoop their flight the direful end Of Daedal's son; but upward still they beat:— What life the while with my life can compete, Though dead to earth at last I shall descend? My own heart's voice in the void air I hear: Where wilt thou bear me, O rash man? Recall Thy daring will! This boldness waits on fear! Dread not, I answer, that tremendous fall: Strike through the clouds, and smile when death is near, If death so glorious be our doom at all!






Dal ciel discese.

From heaven his spirit came, and robed in clay The realms of justice and of mercy trod, Then rose a living man to gaze on God, That he might make the truth as clear as day. For that pure star that brightened with his ray The undeserving nest where I was born, The whole wide world would be a prize to scorn; None but his Maker can due guerdon pay. I speak of Dante, whose high work remains Unknown, unhonoured by that thankless brood, Who only to just men deny their wage. Were I but he! Born for like lingering pains, Against his exile coupled with his good I'd gladly change the world's best heritage!



Quante dirne si de'.

No tongue can tell of him what should be told, For on blind eyes his splendour shines too strong; 'Twere easier to blame those who wrought him wrong, Than sound his least praise with a mouth of gold. He to explore the place of pain was bold, Then soared to God, to teach our souls by song; The gates heaven oped to bear his feet along, Against his just desire his country rolled. Thankless I call her, and to her own pain The nurse of fell mischance; for sign take this, That ever to the best she deals more scorn: Among a thousand proofs let one remain; Though ne'er was fortune more unjust than his, His equal or his better ne'er was born.



Signor, se vero e.

My Lord! if ever ancient saw spake sooth, Hear this which saith: Who can, doth never will. Lo! thou hast lent thine ear to fables still, Rewarding those who hate the name of truth. I am thy drudge and have been from my youth— Thine, like the rays which the sun's circle fill; Yet of my dear time's waste thou think'st no ill: The more I toil, the less I move thy ruth. Once 'twas my hope to raise me by thy height; But 'tis the balance and the powerful sword Of Justice, not false Echo, that we need. Heaven, as it seems, plants virtue in despite Here on the earth, if this be our reward— To seek for fruit on trees too dry to breed.



Qua si fa elmi.

Here helms and swords are made of chalices: The blood of Christ is sold so much the quart: His cross and thorns are spears and shields; and short Must be the time ere even his patience cease. Nay let him come no more to raise the fees Of this foul sacrilege beyond report! For Rome still flays and sells him at the court, Where paths are closed to virtue's fair increase. Now were fit time for me to scrape a treasure! Seeing that work and gain are gone; while he Who wears the robe, is my Medusa still. God welcomes poverty perchance with pleasure: But of that better life what hope have we, When the blessed banner leads to nought but ill?




I' ho gia fatto un gozzo.

I've grown a goitre by dwelling in this den— As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy, Or in what other land they hap to be— Which drives the belly close beneath the chin: My beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in, Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery Bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin. My loins into my paunch like levers grind: My buttock like a crupper bears my weight; My feet unguided wander to and fro; In front my skin grows loose and long; behind, By bending it becomes more taut and strait; Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow: Whence false and quaint, I know, Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye; For ill can aim the gun that bends awry. Come then, Giovanni, try To succour my dead pictures and my fame; Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.



I' l' ho, vostra merce.

I've gotten it, thanks to your courtesy; And I have read it twenty times or so: Thus much may your sharp snarling profit you, As food our flesh filled to satiety. After I left you, I could plainly see How Cain was of your ancestors: I know You do not shame his lineage, for lo, Your brother's good still seems your injury. Envious you are, and proud, and foes to heaven; Love of your neighbour still you loathe and hate, And only seek what must your ruin be. If to Pistoja Dante's curse was given, Bear that in mind! Enough! But if you prate Praises of Florence, 'tis to wheedle me. A priceless jewel she: Doubtless: but this you cannot understand: For pigmy virtue grasps not aught so grand.



Nel dolce d' una.

It happens that the sweet unfathomed sea Of seeming courtesy sometimes doth hide Offence to life and honour. This descried, I hold less dear the health restored to me. He who lends wings of hope, while secretly He spreads a traitorous snare by the wayside, Hath dulled the flame of love, and mortified Friendship where friendship burns most fervently. Keep then, my dear Luigi, clear and pure That ancient love to which my life I owe, That neither wind nor storm its calm may mar. For wrath and pain our gratitude obscure; And if the truest truth of love I know, One pang outweighs a thousand pleasures far.




A pena prima.

Scarce had I seen for the first time his eyes Which to your living eyes were life and light, When closed at last in death's injurious night He opened them on God in Paradise. I know it and I weep, too late made wise: Yet was the fault not mine; for death's fell spite Robbed my desire of that supreme delight, Which in your better memory never dies. Therefore, Luigi, if the task be mine To make unique Cecchino smile in stone For ever, now that earth hath made him dim, If the beloved within the lover shine, Since art without him cannot work alone, You must I carve to tell the world of him.



Al zucchero, alla mula.

The sugar, candles, and the saddled mule, Together with your cask of malvoisie, So far exceed all my necessity That Michael and not I my debt must rule, In such a glassy calm the breezes fool My sinking sails, so that amid the sea My bark hath missed her way, and seems to be A wisp of straw whirled on a weltering pool. To yield thee gift for gift and grace for grace, For food and drink and carriage to and fro, For all my need in every time and place, O my dear lord, matched with the much I owe, All that I am were no real recompense: Paying a debt is not munificence.




La nuova alta belta.

That new transcendent fair who seems to be Peerless in heaven as in this world of woe, (The common folk, too blind her worth to know And worship, called her Left Arm wantonly), Was made, full well I know, for only thee: Nor could I carve or paint the glorious show Of that fair face: to life thou needs must go, To gain the favour thou dost crave of me. If like the sun each star of heaven outshining, She conquers and outsoars our soaring thought, This bids thee rate her worth at its real price. Therefore to satisfy thy ceaseless pining, Once more in heaven hath God her beauty wrought: God and not I can people Paradise.




Se con lo stile.

With pencil and with palette hitherto You made your art high Nature's paragon; Nay more, from Nature her own prize you won, Making what she made fair more fair to view. Now that your learned hand with labour new Of pen and ink a worthier work hath done, What erst you lacked, what still remained her own, The power of giving life, is gained for you. If men in any age with Nature vied In beauteous workmanship, they had to yield When to the fated end years brought their name. You, reilluming memories that died, In spite of Time and Nature have revealed For them and for yourself eternal fame.




Felice spirto.

Blest spirit, who with loving tenderness Quickenest my heart so old and near to die, Who mid thy joys on me dost bend an eye Though many nobler men around thee press! As thou wert erewhile wont my sight to bless, So to console my mind thou now dost fly; Hope therefore stills the pangs of memory, Which coupled with desire my soul distress. So finding in thee grace to plead for me— Thy thoughts for me sunk in so sad a case— He who now writes, returns thee thanks for these. Lo, it were foul and monstrous usury To send thee ugliest paintings in the place Of thy fair spirit's living phantasies.




Per esser manco almen.

Seeking at least to be not all unfit For thy sublime and boundless courtesy, My lowly thoughts at first were fain to try What they could yield for grace so infinite. But now I know my unassisted wit Is all too weak to make me soar so high; For pardon, lady, for this fault I cry, And wiser still I grow remembering it. Yea, well I see what folly 'twere to think That largess dropped from thee like dews from heaven Could e'er be paid by work so frail as mine! To nothingness my art and talent sink; He fails who from his mortal stores hath given A thousandfold to match one gift divine.





Da che concetto.

When divine Art conceives a form and face, She bids the craftsman for his first essay To shape a simple model in mere clay: This is the earliest birth of Art's embrace. From the live marble in the second place His mallet brings into the light of day A thing so beautiful that who can say When time shall conquer that immortal grace? Thus my own model I was born to be— The model of that nobler self, whereto Schooled by your pity, lady, I shall grow. Each overplus and each deficiency You will make good. What penance then is due For my fierce heat, chastened and taught by you?





Se ben concetto.

When that which is divine in us doth try To shape a face, both brain and hand unite To give, from a mere model frail and slight, Life to the stone by Art's free energy. Thus too before the painter dares to ply Paint-brush or canvas, he is wont to write Sketches on scraps of paper, and invite Wise minds to judge his figured history. So, born a model rude and mean to be Of my poor self, I gain a nobler birth, Lady, from you, you fountain of all worth! Each overplus and each deficiency You will make good. What penance then is due For my fierce heat, chastened and taught by you?



Non ha l' ottimo artista.

The best of artists hath no thought to show Which the rough stone in its superfluous shell Doth not include: to break the marble spell Is all the hand that serves the brain can do. The ill I shun, the good I seek, even so In thee, fair lady, proud, ineffable, Lies hidden: but the art I wield so well Works adverse to my wish, and lays me low. Therefore not love, nor thy transcendent face, Nor cruelty, nor fortune, nor disdain, Cause my mischance, nor fate, nor destiny; Since in thy heart thou carriest death and grace Enclosed together, and my worthless brain Can draw forth only death to feed on me.



Si come nella penna.

As pen and ink alike serve him who sings In high or low or intermediate style; As the same stone hath shapes both rich and vile To match the fancies that each master brings; So, my loved lord, within thy bosom springs Pride mixed with meekness and kind thoughts that smile: Whence I draw nought, my sad self to beguile, But what my face shows—dark imaginings. He who for seed sows sorrow, tears, and sighs, (The dews that fall from heaven, though pure and clear, From different germs take divers qualities) Must needs reap grief and garner weeping eyes; And he who looks on beauty with sad cheer, Gains doubtful hope and certain miseries.



Com' esser, donna, puo.

How can that be, lady, which all men learn By long experience? Shapes that seem alive, Wrought in hard mountain marble, will survive Their maker, whom the years to dust return! Thus to effect cause yields. Art hath her turn, And triumphs over Nature. I, who strive With Sculpture, know this well; her wonders live In spite of time and death, those tyrants stern. So I can give long life to both of us In either way, by colour or by stone, Making the semblance of thy face and mine. Centuries hence when both are buried, thus Thy beauty and my sadness shall be shown, And men shall say, 'For her 'twas wise to pine.'



Al cor di zolfo.

A heart of flaming sulphur, flesh of tow, Bones of dry wood, a soul without a guide To curb the fiery will, the ruffling pride Of fierce desires that from the passions flow; A sightless mind that weak and lame doth go Mid snares and pitfalls scattered far and wide;— What wonder if the first chance brand applied To fuel massed like this should make it glow? Add beauteous art, which, brought with us from heaven, Will conquer nature;—so divine a power Belongs to him who strives with every nerve. If I was made for art, from childhood given A prey for burning beauty to devour, I blame the mistress I was born to serve.



Io mi son caro assai piu.

Far more than I was wont myself I prize: With you within my heart I rise in rate, Just as a gem engraved with delicate Devices o'er the uncut stone doth rise; Or as a painted sheet exceeds in price Each leaf left pure and in its virgin state: Such then am I since I was consecrate To be the mark for arrows from your eyes. Stamped with your seal I'm safe where'er I go, Like one who carries charms or coat of mail Against all dangers that his life assail Nor fire nor water now may work me woe; Sight to the blind I can restore by you, Heal every wound, and every loss renew.



Quanta si gode, lieta.

What joy hath yon 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 arms do in that girdle's place?



D' altrui pietoso.

Kind to the world, but to itself unkind, A worm is born, that dying noiselessly Despoils itself to clothe fair limbs, and be In its true worth by death alone divined. Oh, would that I might die, for her to find Raiment in my outworn mortality! That, changing like the snake, I might be free To cast the slough wherein I dwell confined! Nay, were it mine, that shaggy fleece that stays, Woven and wrought into a vestment fair, Around her beauteous bosom in such bliss! All through the day she'd clasp me! Would I were The shoes that bear her burden! When the ways Were wet with rain, her feet I then should kiss!



Se nel volto per gli occhi

If through the eyes the heart speaks clear and true, I have no stronger sureties than these eyes For my pure love. Prithee let them suffice, Lord of my soul, pity to gain from you. More tenderly perchance than is my due, Your spirit sees into my heart, where rise The flames of holy worship, nor denies The grace reserved for those who humbly sue. Oh, blessed day when you at last are mine! Let time stand still, and let noon's chariot stay; Fixed be that moment on the dial of heaven! That I may clasp and keep, by grace divine, Clasp in these yearning arms and keep for aye My heart's loved lord to me desertless given!



Ben posson gli occhi.

Well may these eyes of mine both near and far Behold the beams that from thy beauty flow; But, lady, feet must halt where sight may go: We see, but cannot climb to clasp a star. The pure ethereal soul surmounts that bar Of flesh, and soars to where thy splendours glow, Free through the eyes; while prisoned here below, Though fired with fervent love, our bodies are. Clogged with mortality and wingless, we Cannot pursue an angel in her flight: Only to gaze exhausts our utmost might. Yet, if but heaven like earth incline to thee, Let my whole body be one eye to see, That not one part of me may miss thy sight!



Spirto ben nato.

Choice soul, in whom, as in a glass, we see, Mirrored in thy pure form and delicate, What beauties heaven and nature can create, The paragon of all their works to be! Fair soul, in whom love, pity, piety, Have found a home, as from thy outward state We clearly read, and are so rare and great That they adorn none other like to thee! Love takes me captive; beauty binds my soul; Pity and mercy with their gentle eyes Wake in my heart a hope that cannot cheat. What law, what destiny, what fell control, What cruelty, or late or soon, denies That death should spare perfection so complete?




Dimmi di grazia, amor.

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? 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, all is hers; But grows in radiance as it soars on high Through mortal eyes unto the soul above: 'Tis there transfigured; for the soul confers On what she holds, her own divinity: And this transfigured beauty wins thy love.



Non men gran grasia, donna.

Too much good luck no less than misery May kill a man condemned to mortal pain, If, lost to hope and chilled in every vein, A sudden pardon comes to set him free. Thus thy unwonted kindness shown to me Amid the gloom where only sad thoughts reign, With too much rapture bringing light again, Threatens my life more than that agony. Good news and bad may bear the self-same knife; And death may follow both upon their flight; For hearts that shrink or swell, alike will break. Let then thy beauty, to preserve my life, Temper the source of this supreme delight, Lest joy so poignant slay a soul so weak.



Non posso altra figura.

I cannot by the utmost flight of thought Conceive another form of air or clay, Wherewith against thy beauty to array My wounded heart in armour fancy-wrought: For, lacking thee, so low my state is brought, That Love hath stolen all my strength away; Whence, when I fain would halve my griefs, they weigh With double sorrow, and I sink to nought. Thus all in vain my soul to scape thee flies, For ever faster flies her beauteous foe: From the swift-footed feebly run the slow! Yet with his hands Love wipes my weeping eyes, Saying, this toil will end in happy cheer; What costs the heart so much, must needs be dear!



La vita del mie amor.

This heart of flesh feeds not with life my love: The love wherewith I love thee hath no heart; Nor harbours it in any mortal part, Where erring thought or ill desire may move. When first Love sent our souls from God above, He fashioned me to see thee as thou art— Pure light; and thus I find God's counterpart In thy fair face, and feel the sting thereof. As heat from fire, from loveliness divine The mind that worships what recalls the sun From whence she sprang, can be divided never: And since thine eyes all Paradise enshrine, Burning unto those orbs of light I run, There where I loved thee first to dwell for ever.



I' mi credetti.

I deemed upon that day when first I knew So many peerless beauties blent in one, That, like an eagle gazing on the sun, Mine eyes might fix on the least part of you. That dream hath vanished, and my hope is flown; For he who fain a seraph would pursue Wingless, hath cast words to the winds, and dew On stones, and gauged God's reason with his own. If then my heart cannot endure the blaze Of beauties infinite that blind these eyes, Nor yet can bear to be from you divided, What fate is mine? Who guides or guards my ways, Seeing my soul, so lost and ill-betided, Burns in your presence, in your absence dies?




Veggio co' bei vostri occhi.

With your fair eyes a charming light I see, For which my own blind eyes would peer in vain; Stayed by your feet the burden I sustain Which my lame feet find all too strong for me; Wingless upon your pinions forth I fly; Heavenward your spirit stirreth me to strain; E'en as you will, I blush and blanch again, Freeze in the sun, burn 'neath a frosty sky. Your will includes and is the lord of mine; Life to my thoughts within your heart is given; My words begin to breathe upon your breath: Like to the moon am I, that cannot shine Alone; for lo! our eyes see nought in heaven Save what the living sun illumineth.




A che piu debb' io.

Why should I seek to ease intense desire With still more tears and windy words of grief, When heaven, or late or soon, sends no relief To souls whom love hath robed around with fire? Why need my aching heart to death aspire, When all must die? Nay, death beyond belief Unto these eyes would be both sweet and brief, Since in my sum of woes all joys expire! Therefore because I cannot shun the blow I rather seek, say who must rule my breast, Gliding between her gladness and her woe? If only chains and bands can make me blest, No marvel if alone and bare I go An armed Knight's captive and slave confessed.



S' un casto amor.

If love be chaste, if virtue conquer ill, If fortune bind both lovers in one bond, If either at the other's grief despond, If both be governed by one life, one will; If in two bodies one soul triumph still, Raising the twain from earth to heaven beyond, If Love with one blow and one golden wand Have power both smitten breasts to pierce and thrill; If each the other love, himself forgoing, With such delight, such savour, and so well, That both to one sole end their wills combine; If thousands of these thoughts, all thought outgoing, Fail the least part of their firm love to tell: Say, can mere angry spite this knot untwine?





Perche tuo gran bellezze.

That thy great beauty on our earth may be Shrined in a lady softer and more kind, I call on nature to collect and bind All those delights the slow years steal from thee, And save them to restore the radiancy Of thy bright face in some fair form designed By heaven; and may Love ever bear in mind To mould her heart of grace and courtesy. I call on nature too to keep my sighs, My scattered tears to take and recombine, And give to him who loves that fair again: More happy he perchance shall move those eyes To mercy by the griefs wherewith I pine, Nor lose the kindness that from me is ta'en!





Sol perche tue bellezze.

If only that thy beauties here may be Deathless through Time that rends the wreaths he twined, I trust that Nature will collect and bind All those delights the slow years steal from thee, And keep them for a birth more happily Born under better auspices, refined Into a heavenly form of nobler mind, And dowered with all thine angel purity. Ah me! and may heaven also keep my sighs, My scattered tears preserve and reunite, And give to him who loves that fair again! More happy he perchance shall move those eyes To mercy by the griefs my manhood blight, Nor lose the kindness that from me is ta'en!



Si amico al freddo sasso.

So friendly is the fire to flinty stone, That, struck therefrom and kindled to a blaze, It burns the stone, and from the ash doth raise What lives thenceforward binding stones in one: Kiln-hardened this resists both frost and sun, Acquiring higher worth for endless days— As the purged soul from hell returns with praise, Amid the heavenly host to take her throne. E'en so the fire struck from my soul, that lay Close-hidden in my heart, may temper me, Till burned and slaked to better life I rise. If, made mere smoke and dust, I live to-day, Fire-hardened I shall live eternally; Such gold, not iron, my spirit strikes and tries.



Sento d' un foco.

Far off with fire I feel a cold face lit, That makes me burn, the while itself doth freeze: Two fragile arms enchain me, which with ease, Unmoved themselves, can move weights infinite. A soul none knows but I, most exquisite, That, deathless, deals me death, my spirit sees: I meet with one who, free, my heart doth seize: And who alone can cheer, hath tortured it. How can it be that from one face like thine My own should feel effects so contrary, Since ill comes not from things devoid of ill? That loveliness perchance doth make me pine, Even as the sun, whose fiery beams we see, Inflames the world, while he is temperate still.



Se l'immortal desio.

If the undying thirst that purifies Our mortal thoughts, could draw mine to the day, Perchance the lord who now holds cruel sway In Love's high house, would prove more kindly-wise. But since the laws of heaven immortalise Our souls, and doom our flesh to swift decay, Tongue cannot tell how fair, how pure as day, Is the soul's thirst that far beyond it lies. How then, ah woe is me! shall that chaste fire, Which burns the heart within me, be made known, If sense finds only sense in what it sees? All my fair hours are turned to miseries With my loved lord, who minds but lies alone; For, truth to tell, who trusts not is a liar.




S' alcun legato e pur.

He who is bound by some great benefit, As to be raised from death to life again, How shall he recompense that gift, or gain Freedom from servitude so infinite? Yet if 'twere possible to pay the debt, He'd lose that kindness which we entertain For those who serve us well; since it is plain That kindness needs some boon to quicken it. Wherefore, O lady, to maintain thy grace, So far above my fortune, what I bring Is rather thanklessness than courtesy: For if both met as equals face to face, She whom I love could not be called my king;— There is no lordship in equality.



Rendete a gli occhi miei.

Give back unto mine eyes, ye fount and rill, Those streams, not yours, that are so full and strong, That swell your springs, and roll your waves along With force unwonted in your native hill!

And thou, dense air, weighed with my sighs so chill, That hidest heaven's own light thick mists among, Give back those sighs to my sad heart, nor wrong My visual ray with thy dark face of ill!

Let earth give back the footprints that I wore, That the bare grass I spoiled may sprout again; And Echo, now grown deaf, my cries return!

Loved eyes, unto mine eyes those looks restore, And let me woo another not in vain, Since how to please thee I shall never learn!



La ragion meco si lamenta.

Reason laments and grieves full sore with me, The while I hope by loving to be blest; With precepts sound and true philosophy My shame she quickens thus within my breast: 'What else but death will that sun deal to thee— Nor like the phoenix in her flaming nest?' Yet nought avails this wise morality; No hand can save a suicide confessed. I know my doom; the truth I apprehend: But on the other side my traitorous heart Slays me whene'er to wisdom's words I bend. Between two deaths my lady stands apart: This death I dread; that none can comprehend. In this suspense body and soul must part.




No so s' e la desiata luce.

I know not if it be the longed-for light Of her first Maker which the spirit feels; Or if a time-old memory reveals Some other beauty for the heart's delight; Or fame or dreams beget that vision bright, Sweet to the eyes, which through the bosom steals, Leaving I know not what that wounds and heals, And now perchance hath made me weep outright. Be this what this may be, 'tis this I seek: Nor guide have I; nor know I where to find That burning fire; yet some one seems to lead. This, since I saw thee, lady, makes me weak; A bitter-sweet sways here and there my mind, And sure I am thine eyes this mischief breed.




Non so se s' e l' immaginata luce.

I know not if it be the fancied light Which every man or more or less doth feel; Or if the mind and memory reveal Some other beauty for the heart's delight;

Or if within the soul the vision bright Of her celestial home once more doth steal, Drawing our better thoughts with pure appeal To the true Good above all mortal sight:

This light I long for and unguided seek; This fire that burns my heart, I cannot find; Nor know the way, though some one seems to lead.

This, since I saw thee, lady, makes me weak: A bitter-sweet sways here and there my mind; And sure I am thine eyes this mischief breed.



Colui che fece.

He who ordained, when first the world began, Time, that was not before creation's hour, Divided it, and gave the sun's high power To rule the one, the moon the other span: Thence fate and changeful chance and fortune's ban Did in one moment down on mortals shower: To me they portioned darkness for a dower; Dark hath my lot been since I was a man. Myself am ever mine own counterfeit; And as deep night grows still more dim and dun, So still of more misdoing must I rue: Meanwhile this solace to my soul is sweet, That my black night doth make more clear the sun Which at your birth was given to wait on you.



Ogni van chiuso.

All hollow vaults and dungeons sealed from sight, All caverns circumscribed with roof and wall, Defend dark Night, though noon around her fall, From the fierce play of solar day-beams bright. But if she be assailed by fire or light, Her powers divine are nought; they tremble all Before things far more vile and trivial— Even a glow-worm can confound their might. The earth that lies bare to the sun, and breeds A thousand germs that burgeon and decay— This earth is wounded by the ploughman's share: But only darkness serves for human seeds; Night therefore is more sacred far than day, Since man excels all fruits however fair.



Perche Febo non torce.

What time bright Phoebus doth not stretch and bend His shining arms around this terrene sphere, The people call that season dark and drear Night, for the cause they do not comprehend. So weak is Night that if our hand extend A glimmering torch, her shadows disappear, Leaving her dead; like frailest gossamere, Tinder and steel her mantle rive and rend. Nay, if this Night be anything at all, Sure she is daughter of the sun and earth; This holds, the other spreads that shadowy pall. Howbeit they err who praise this gloomy birth, So frail and desolate and void of mirth That one poor firefly can her might appal.



O nott' o dolce tempo.

O night, O sweet though sombre span of time!— All things find rest upon their journey's end— Whoso hath praised thee, well doth apprehend; And whoso honours thee, hath wisdom's prime. Our cares thou canst to quietude sublime; For dews and darkness are of peace the friend: Often by thee in dreams upborne, I wend From earth to heaven, where yet I hope to climb. Thou shade of Death, through whom the soul at length Shuns pain and sadness hostile to the heart, Whom mourners find their last and sure relief! Thou dost restore our suffering flesh to strength, Driest our tears, assuagest every smart, Purging the spirits of the pure from grief.



Quand' il servo il signior.

When masters bind a slave with cruel chain, And keep him hope-forlorn in bondage pent, Use tames his temper to imprisonment, And hardly would he fain be free again. Use curbs the snake and tiger, and doth train Fierce woodland lions to bear chastisement; And the young artist, all with toil forspent, By constant use a giant's strength doth gain But with the force of flame it is not so: For while fire sucks the sap of the green wood, It warms a frore old man and makes him grow; With such fine heat of youth and lustihood Filling his heart and teaching it to glow, That love enfolds him with beatitude. If then in playful mood He sport and jest, old age need no man blame; For loving things divine implies no shame. The soul that knows her aim, Sins not by loving God's own counterfeit— Due measure kept, and bounds, and order meet.



Se da' prim' anni.

If some mild heat of love in youth confessed Burns a fresh heart with swift consuming fire, What will the force be of a flame more dire Shut up within an old man's cindery breast? If the mere lapse of lengthening years hath pressed So sorely that life, strength, and vigour tire, How shall he fare who must ere long expire, When to old age is added love's unrest? Weak as myself, he will be whirled away Like dust by winds kind in their cruelty, Robbing the loathly worm of its last prey. A little flame consumed and fed on me In my green age: now that the wood is dry, What hope against this fire more fierce have I?



Se 'l foco alla bellezza.

If but the fire that lightens in thine eyes Were equal with their beauty, all the snow And frost of all the world would melt and glow Like brands that blaze beneath fierce tropic skies. But heaven in mercy to our miseries Dulls and divides the fiery beams that flow From thy great loveliness, that we may go Through this stern mortal life in tranquil wise. Thus beauty burns not with consuming rage; For so much only of the heavenly light Inflames our love as finds a fervent heart. This is my case, lady, in sad old age: If seeing thee, I do not die outright, 'Tis that I feel thy beauty but in part.



Se 'l troppo indugio.

What though long waiting wins more happiness Than petulant desire is wont to gain, My luck in latest age hath brought me pain, Thinking how brief must be an old man's bliss. Heaven, if it heed our lives, can hardly bless This fire of love when frosts are wont to reign: For so I love thee, lady, and my strain Of tears through age exceeds in tenderness. Yet peradventure though my day is done,— Though nearly past the setting mid thick cloud And frozen exhalations sinks my sun,— If love to only mid-day be allowed, And I an old man in my evening burn, You, lady, still my night to noon may turn.



Dal dolcie pianto.

From happy tears to woeful smiles, from peace Eternal to a brief and hollow truce, How have I fallen!—when 'tis truth we lose, Sense triumphs o'er all adverse impulses. I know not if my heart bred this disease, That still more pleasing grows with growing use; Or else thy face, thine eyes, which stole the hues And fires of Paradise—less fair than these. Thy beauty is no mortal thing; 'twas sent From heaven on high to make our earth divine: Wherefore, though wasting, burning, I'm content; For in thy sight what could I do but pine? If God himself thus rules my destiny, Who, when I die, can lay the blame on thee?



S' i' avessi creduto.

Had I but earlier known that from the eyes Of that bright soul that fires me like the sun, I might have drawn new strength my race to run, Burning as burns the phoenix ere it dies; Even as the stag or lynx or leopard flies To seek his pleasure and his pain to shun, Each word, each smile of her would I have won, Flying where now sad age all flight denies. Yet why complain? For even now I find In that glad angel's face, so full of rest, Health and content, heart's ease and peace of mind Perchance I might have been less simply blest, Finding her sooner: if 'tis age alone That lets me soar with her to seek God's throne.




Tornami al tempo.

Bring back the time when blind desire ran free, With bit and rein too loose to curb his flight; Give back the buried face, once angel-bright, That hides in earth all comely things from me; Bring back those journeys ta'en so toilsomely, So toilsome-slow to one whose hairs are white; Those tears and flames that in one breast unite; If thou wilt once more take thy fill of me! Yet Love! Suppose it true that thou dost thrive Only on bitter honey-dews of tears. Small profit hast thou of a weak old man. My soul that toward the other shore doth strive, Wards off thy darts with shafts of holier fears; And fire feeds ill on brands no breath can fan.




Tornami al tempo.

Bring back the time when glad desire ran free With bit and rein too loose to curb his flight, The tears and flames that in one breast unite, If thou art fain once more to conquer me! Bring back those journeys ta'en so toilsomely, So toilsome-slow to him whose hairs are white! Give back the buried face once angel-bright, That taxed all Nature's art and industry. O Love! an old man finds it hard to chase Thy flying pinions! Thou hast left thy nest; Nor is my heart as light as heretofore. Put thy gold arrows to the string once more: Then if Death hear my prayer and grant me grace, My grief I shall forget, again made blest.



Non vider gli occhi miei.

I saw no mortal beauty with these eyes When perfect peace in thy fair eyes I found; But far within, where all is holy ground, My soul felt Love, her comrade of the skies: For she was born with God in Paradise; Else should we still to transient loves be bound; But, finding these so false, we pass beyond Unto the Love of Loves that never dies. Nay, things that die, cannot assuage the thirst Of souls undying; nor Eternity Serves Time, where all must fade that flourisheth. Sense is not love, but lawlessness accurst: This kills the soul; while our love lifts on high Our friends on earth—higher in heaven through death.



Non e sempre di colpa.

Love is not always harsh and deadly sin: If it be love of loveliness divine, It leaves the heart all soft and infantine For rays of God's own grace to enter in. Love fits the soul with wings, and bids her win Her flight aloft nor e'er to earth decline; 'Tis the first step that leads her to the shrine Of Him who slakes the thirst that burns within. The love of that whereof I speak, ascends: Woman is different far; the love of her But ill befits a heart all manly wise. The one love soars, the other downward tends; The soul lights this, while that the senses stir, And still his arrow at base quarry flies.



Veggio nel tuo bel viso.

From thy fair face I learn, O my loved lord, That which no mortal tongue can rightly say; The soul, imprisoned in her house of clay, Holpen by thee to God hath often soared: And though the vulgar, vain, malignant horde Attribute what their grosser wills obey, Yet shall this fervent homage that I pay, This love, this faith, pure joys for us afford. Lo, all the lovely things we find on earth, Resemble for the soul that rightly sees, That source of bliss divine which gave us birth: Nor have we first-fruits or remembrances Of heaven elsewhere. Thus, loving loyally, I rise to God and make death sweet by thee.



Tu sa' ch' i' so, Signor mie.

Thou knowest, love, I know that thou dost know That I am here more near to thee to be, And knowest that I know thou knowest me: What means it then that we are sundered so? If they are true, these hopes that from thee flow, If it is real, this sweet expectancy, Break down the wall that stands 'twixt me and thee; For pain in prison pent hath double woe. Because in thee I love, O my loved lord, What thou best lovest, be not therefore stern: Souls burn for souls, spirits to spirits cry! I seek the splendour in thy fair face stored; Yet living man that beauty scarce can learn, And he who fain would find it, first must die.




Per ritornar la.

As one who will reseek her home of light, Thy form immortal to this prison-house Descended, like an angel piteous, To heal all hearts and make the whole world bright. 'Tis this that thralls my soul in love's delight, Not thy clear face of beauty glorious; For he who harbours virtue, still will choose To love what neither years nor death can blight. So fares it ever with things high and rare Wrought in the sweat of nature; heaven above Showers on their birth the blessings of her prime: Nor hath God deigned to show Himself elsewhere More clearly than in human forms sublime; Which, since they image Him, alone I love.




Venne, non so ben donde.

It came, I know not whence, from far above, That clear immortal flame that still doth rise Within thy sacred breast, and fills the skies, And heals all hearts, and adds to heaven new love. This burns me, this, and the pure light thereof; Not thy fair face, thy sweet untroubled eyes: For love that is not love for aught that dies, Dwells in the soul where no base passions move. If then such loveliness upon its own Should graft new beauties in a mortal birth, The sheath bespeaks the shining blade within. To gain our love God hath not clearer shown Himself elsewhere: thus heaven doth vie with earth To make thee worthy worship without sin.




Passa per gli occhi.

Swift through the eyes unto the heart within All lovely forms that thrall our spirit stray; So smooth and broad and open is the way That thousands and not hundreds enter in. Burdened with scruples and weighed down with sin, These mortal beauties fill me with dismay; Nor find I one that doth not strive to stay My soul on transient joy, or lets me win The heaven I yearn for. Lo, when erring love— Who fills the world, howe'er his power we shun, Else were the world a grave and we undone— Assails the soul, if grace refuse to fan Our purged desires and make them soar above, What grief it were to have been born a man!




Passa per gli occhi.

Swift through the eyes unto the heart within All lovely forms that thrall our spirit stray; So smooth and broad and open is the way That thousands and not hundreds enter in Of every age and sex: whence I begin, Burdened with griefs, but more with dull dismay, To fear; nor find mid all their bright array One that with full content my heart may win. If mortal beauty be the food of love, It came not with the soul from heaven, and thus That love itself must be a mortal fire: But if love reach to nobler hopes above, Thy love shall scorn me not nor dread desire That seeks a carnal prey assailing us.

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