A Chapel in the Church of San Silvestro on Monte Cavallo.
VITTORIA COLONNA, CLAUDIO TOLOMMEI, and others.
let us rest awhile, until the crowd
|Has left the church. I have already sent|
|For Michael Angelo to join us here.|
MESSER CLAUDIO.After Fra Bernardinos wise discourse
|On the Pauline Epistles, certainly|| 5|
|Some words of Michael Angelo on Art|
|Were not amiss, to bring us back to earth.|
MICHAEL ANGELO, at the door.How like a Saint or Goddess she appears!
|Diana or Madonna, which I know not,|
|In attitude and aspect formed to be|| 10|
|At once the artists worship and despair!|
VITTORIA.Welcome, Maestro. We were waiting for you.
MICHAEL ANGELO.I met your messenger upon the way,
|And hastened hither.|
VITTORIA. It is kind of you
|To come to us, who linger here like gossips|| 15|
|Wasting the afternoon in idle talk.|
|These are all friends of mine and friends of yours.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.If friends of yours, then are they friends of mine.
|Pardon me, gentlemen. But when I entered|
|I saw but the Marchesa.|
VITTORIA. Take this seat
|Between me and Ser Claudio Tolommei,|
|Who still maintains that our Italian tongue|
|Should be called Tuscan. But for that offence|
|We will not quarrel with him.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. Eccellenza
VITTORIA.Ser Claudio has banished Eccellenza
|And all such titles from the Tuscan tongue.|
MESSER CLAUDIO.T is the abuse of them, and not the use,
MICHAEL ANGELO. The use or the abuse,
|It matters not. Let them all go together,|
|As empty phrases and frivolities,|| 30|
|And common as gold-lace upon the collar|
|Of an obsequious lackey.|
VITTORIA. That may be,
|But something of politeness would go with them;|
|We should lose something of the stately manners|
|Of the old school.|
MESSER CLAUDIO. Undoubtedly.
VITTORIA. But that
|Is not what occupies my thoughts at present,|
|Nor why I sent for you, Messer Michele.|
|It was to counsel me. His Holiness|
|Has granted me permission, long desired,|
|To build a convent in this neighborhood,|| 40|
|Where the old tower is standing, from whose top|
|Nero looked down upon the burning city.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.It is an inspiration!
VITTORIA. I am doubtful
|How I shall build; how large to make the convent,|
|And which way fronting.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. Ah, to build, to build!
|That is the noblest art of all the arts.|
|Painting and sculpture are but images,|
|Are merely shadows cast by outward things|
|On stone or canvas, having in themselves|
|No separate existence. Architecture,|| 50|
|Existing in itself, and not in seeming|
|A something it is not, surpasses them|
|As substance shadow. Long, long year ago,|
|Standing one morning near the Baths of Titus,|
|I saw the statue of Laocoön|| 55|
|Rise from its grave of centuries, like a ghost|
|Writhing in pain; and as it tore away|
|The knotted serpents from its limbs, I heard,|
|Or seemed to hear, the cry of agony|
|From its white, parted lips. And still I marvel|| 60|
|At the three Rhodian artists, by whose hands|
|This miracle was wrought. Yet he beholds|
|Far nobler works who looks upon the ruins|
|Of temples in the Forum here in Rome.|
|If God should give me power in my old age|| 65|
|To build for Him a temple half as grand|
|As those were in their glory, I should count|
|My age more excellent than youth itself,|
|And all that I have hitherto accomplished|
|As only vanity.|
VITTORIA. I understand you.
|Art is the gift of God, and must be used|
|Unto His glory. That in art is highest|
|Which aims at this. When St. Hilarion blessed|
|The horses of Italicus, they won|
|The race at Gaza, for his benediction|| 75|
|Oerpowered all magic; and the people shouted|
|That Christ had conquered Marnas. So that art|
|Which bears the consecration and the seal|
|Of holiness upon it will prevail|
|Over all others. Those few words of yours|| 80|
|Inspire me with new confidence to build.|
|What think you? The old walls might serve, perhaps,|
|Some purpose still. The tower can hold the bells.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.If strong enough.
VITTORIA. If not, it can be strengthened.
MICHAEL ANGELO.I see no bar nor drawback to this building,
|And on our homeward way, if it shall please you,|
|We may together view the site.|
VITTORIA. I thank you.
|I did not venture to request so much.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.Let us now go to the old walls you spake of,
VITTORIA. What, again, Maestro?
MICHAEL ANGELO.Pardon me, Messer Claudio, if once more
|I use the ancient courtesies of speech.|
|I am too old to change.|