Michael Angelo: Part Second
A room in MICHAEL ANGELO’S house.
Where once an Emperor, humbled in his pride,
Held the Pope’s stirrup, as his Holiness
Alighted from his mule! A fugitive
From Cardinal Caraffa’s hate, who hurls
His thunders at the house of the Colonna,
With endless bitterness ! — Among the nuns
In Santa Catarina’s convent hidden,
Herself in soul a nun ! And now she chides me
For my too frequent letters, that disturb
Her meditations, and that hinder me
And keep me from my work; now graciously
She thanks me for the crucifix I sent her,
And says that she will keep it: with one hand
Inflicts a wound, and with the other heals it.
A supernatural faith to paint this Christ;
I wished for that which now I see fulfilled
So marvellously, exceeding all my wishes.
Nor more could be desired, or even so much.
And greatly I rejoice that you have made
The angel on the right so beautiful;
For the Archangel Michael will place you,
You, Michael Angelo, on that new day,
Upon the Lord’s right hand! And waiting that,
How can I better serve you than to pray To this sweet Christ for you, and to beseech you
To hold me altogether yours in all things.”
Copyright, 1883, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.
But wait her coming. No one born in Rome
Can live elsewhere ; but he must pine for Rome,
And must return to it. I, who am born
And bred a Tuscan and a Florentine,
Feel the attraction, and I linger here
As if I were a pebble in the pavement
Trodden by priestly feet. This I endure,
Because I breathe in Rome an atmosphere
Heavy with odors of the laurel leaves
That crowned great heroes of the sword and pen,
In ages past. I feel myself exalted
To walk the streets in which a Virgil walked,
Or Trajan rode in triumph ; but far more,
And most of all, because the great Colonna
Breathes the same air I breathe, and is to me
An inspiration. Now that she is gone,
Rome is no longer Rome till she return.
This feeling overmasters me. I know not
If it be love, this strong desire to be
Forever in her presence ; but I know
That I, who was the friend of solitude,
And ever was best pleased when most alone,
Now weary grow of my own company.
For the first time old age seems lonely to me.
[Opening the Divina Commedia.
Of the great master of our Tuscan tongue,
Whose words, like colored garnet-shirls in lava,
Betray the heat in which they were engendered.
A mendicant, he ate the bitter bread
Of others, but repaid their meagre gifts
With immortality. In courts of princes
He was a by-word, and in streets of towns
Was mocked by children, like the Hebrew prophet,
Himself a prophet. I too know the cry,
Go up, thou bald head ! from a generation
That, wanting reverence, wanteth the best food
The soul can feed on. There ’s not room enough
For age and youth upon this little planet.
Age must give way. There was not room enough
Even for this great poet. In his song
I hear reverberate the gates of Florence,
Closing upon him, never more to open ;
But mingled with the sound are melodies
Celestial from the gates of paradise.
He came, and he is gone. The people knew not What manner of man was passing by their doors,
Until he passed no more; but in his vision
He saw the torments and beatitudes
Of souls condemned or pardoned, and hath left
Behind him this sublime Apocalypse.
The face of Beatrice. It is not hers,
But the Colonna’s. Each hath his ideal,
The image of some woman excellent,
That is his guide. No Grecian art, nor Roman,
Hath yet revealed such loveliness as hers.
VITTORIA COLONNA at the convent window.
As all death is. We see no more their faces,
Nor hear their voices, save in memory ;
But messages of love give us assurance
That we are not forgotten. Who shall say
That from the world of spirits comes no greeting,
No message of remembrance? It may be
The thoughts that visit us, we know not whence,
Sudden as inspiration, are the whispers
Of disembodied spirits, speaking to us
As friends, who wait outside a prison wall,
Through the barred windows speak to those within.
As quiet as the tranquil sky above me,
As quiet as a heart that beats no more,
This convent seems. Above, below, all peace!
Silence and solitude, the soul’s best friends,
Are with me here, and the tumultuous world
Makes no more noise than the remotest planet.
O gentle spirit, unto the third circle
Of heaven among the blessed souls ascended,
Who, living in the faith and dying for it,
Have gone to their reward, I do not sigh
For thee as being dead, but for myself
That I am still alive. Turn those dear eyes,
Once so benignant to me, upon mine,
That open to their tears such uncontrolled And such continual issue. Still awhile
Have patience ; I will come to thee at last.
A few more goings in and out these doors,
A few more chimings of these convent bells,
A few more prayers, a few more sighs and tears,
And the long agony of this life will end,
And I shall be with thee. If I am wanting
To thy well-being, as thou art to mine,
Have patience; I will come to thee at last.
Ye minds that loiter in these cloister gardens,
Or wander far above the city walls,
Bear unto him this message, that I ever
Or speak or think of him, or weep for him.
Of sunset, yonder solitary cloud
Floats, with its white apparel blown abroad,
And wafted up to heaven. It fades away,
And melts into the air. Ah, would that I
Could thus be wafted unto thee, Francesco,
A cloud of white, an incorporeal spirit!
MICHAEL ANGELO AND BENVENUTO CELLINI.
MICHAEL ANGELO, BENVENUTO CELLINI in gay attire.
Maestro Michael Angelo, the sculptor !
My father said, the first time he beheld
This handsome face. But say farewell, not welcome.
I come to take my leave. I start for Florence
As fast as horse can carry me. I long
To set once more upon its level flags
These feet, made sore by your vile Roman pavements.
Come with me ; you are wanted there in Florence.
The Sacristy is not finished.
And my head reeled, when I was working there !
I am too old. I will stay here in Rome,
Where all is old and crumbling, like myself,
To hopeless ruin. All roads lead to Rome.
A certain something in the atmosphere,
That all men feel, and no man can describe.
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.
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.
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.
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 us. 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 !
And Julian in the Sacristy at Florence,
Prophets and Sibyls in the Sistine Chapel,
And the Last Judgment answer. Is it finished?
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 ?
When any one insults me, if I can
I kill him, kill him.
Who dress in silks and velvets, and wear swords, Are ready with your weapons, and have all
A taste for homicide.
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.
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.
Now let us speak of Art.
Since by a turn of fortune he became
Friar of the Signet?
To pass his days in stamping leaden seals
On Papal bulls !
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.
Than a great painter.
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.
Than I do. I am not a moment idle.
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.
A pretty jewel.
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 !
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.
Knows why he made me what I am, — a goldsmith,
A mere artificer.
Richly endowed by nature, but who wraps
His talent in a napkin, and consumes
His life in vanities.
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 yourself, who are your greatest foe.
He that respects himself is safe from others ;
He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
At least, forget not the celestial vision.
Man must have something higher than himself
To think of.
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.
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.
FRA SEBASTIANO DEL PIOMBO.
MICHAEL ANGELO ; FRA SEBASTIANO DEL PIOMBO.
MICHAEL ANGELO, not turning round.
In climbing your steep stairs.
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.
That would be better, in my apprehension,
Than falling from a scaffold.
It did not kill me; only lamed me slightly;
I am quite well again.
Why do you live so high up in your house,
When you could live below and have a garden,
As I do ?
On many gardens; o’er the city roofs
See the Campagna and the Alban hills:
And all are mine.
On summer afternoons, and play the lute,
Or sing, or sleep the time away ?
Sleep in the day-time; scarcely sleep at night.
I have not time. Did you meet Benvenuto
As you came up the stair ?
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.
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 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.
I know too well what artists’ suppers are.
You must excuse me.
You need repose from your incessant work;
Some recreation, some bright hours of 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.
A canto of the Orlando Inamorato.
If aught is tedious and intolerable,
It is a poet reading his own verses.
Than you of his. He says that you speak things,
And other poets words. So, pray you, come.
Luigi 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.
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.
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 only to be read in episodes.
His day is past. Petrarca is our poet.
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.
How sweetly of his absent love he sings,
When journeying in the forest of Ardennes!
I seem to hear her, hearing the boughs and breeze
s And leaves and birds lamenting, and the waters
Murmuring flee along the verdant herbage.”
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.
FRA SEBASTIANO, reading.
“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.
From Aretino’s pen.
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.
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.
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 !
When she becomes a saint !
A noble woman !
In marble, and can paint diviner pictures,
Since I have known her.
And yet it is in oils, which you detest.
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 sunsets, and the lovely forms of clouds
And flying vapors.
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.
The picture that approaches sculpture nearest
Is the best picture.
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.
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.
Not that you paint in oils, but that, grown fat
And indolent, you do not paint at all.
Who now am rich enough to live at ease,
And take my pleasure ?
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.
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 !
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 worth is scattered to the winds ; his children
Are long since dead ; but those celestial gates
Survive, and keep his name and memory green.
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.
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.
From the Sebastiano I once knew,
When poor, laborious, emulous to excel,
You strove in rivalry with Badassare
And Raphael Sanzio.
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.
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 thoughts,
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.
So come with me.
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.
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.
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.
MICHAEL ANGELO AND TITIAN: PALAZZO BELVEDERE.
TITIAN’S studio. A painting of Danaë with a curtain before it. TITIAN, MICHAEL ANGELO, and GIORGIO VASARI.
Your City of Silence floating in the sea,
And come to us in Rome.
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.
That one might walk bare-footed here from Venice
But to see once, and then to die content.
Oppress me with their gloom. I feel as one
Who in the twilight stumbles among tombs,
And cannot read the inscriptions carved upon them.
With desolation, and it has become
No more a pain to me, but a delight.
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.
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.
Sudden and splendid, as the lightning paints
The cloudy vault of heaven.
Above his door the arrogant inscription
That once was painted there, — “The color of Titian,
With the design of Michael Angelo ” ?
And does no harm to any but himself.
Perhaps he has grown wiser.
Are gone, who is there that remains behind
To seize the pencil falling from your fingers ?
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 ?
The generation that comes after us
Will have far other thoughts than ours. Our ruins
Will serve to build their palaces or tombs.
They wall possess the world that we think ours,
And fashion it far otherwise.
Your son Orazio and your nephew Marco
Mentioned with honor.
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.
That, when we die, with us all art will die.
’Tis 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.
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 mine,
That we should think all nature would stand still
If we were gone ? We must make room for others.
Of Danaë, of which I hear such praise.
TITIAN, drawing back the curtain.
To lock such beauty in a brazen tower,
And hide it from all eyes.
And saw the showery Jove from high Olympus
Descend in all his splendor.
Such words are full of sweetness.
These golden hues from your Venetian sunsets.
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.
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.
Fascinates me the more that in myself
The gift is wanting. I am not a painter.
Not one alone; and therefore I may venture
To put a question to you.
Have made me umpire in dispute between them
Which is the greater of the sister arts,
Painting or sculpture. Solve for me the doubt.
And whosoever would attain to it, Whichever path he take, will find that goal
Equally hard to reach.
But you evade the question.
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.
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!
Seem to me idle.
And now, Maestro, I will say once more
How admirable I esteem your work,
And leave you, without further interruption.
MICHAEL ANGELO to GIORGIO, going out.
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 arm-chair ; JULIA GONZAGA, standing near her.
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.
Paler you are, but not less beautiful.
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 remember, Julia, when we walked,
One afternoon, upon the castle terrace
At Ischia, on the day before you left me ?
Something unreal, that has never been, —
Something that I have read of in a book,
Or heard of some one else.
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 Valdesso,
The noble champion of free thought and speech ;
And Cardinal Ippolito, your friend.
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.
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.
Renée 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.
But speak no more, I pray ; it wearies you.
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.
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.” —
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.
Pescara ! my Pescara ! [Dies.
Her body sinks together, — she is dead!
[Kneels, and hides her face in Vittoria’s lap.
Enter MICHAEL ANGELO.
Even death itself in her fair face seems fair.
Shines from the windows of another world.
Saints only have such faces. Holy Angels!
Bear her like sainted Catherine to her rest! [Kisses Vittoria’s hand.