MICHAEL ANGELO, alone in the woods.HOW still it is among these ancient oaks!
|Surges and undulations of the air|
|Uplift the leafy boughs, and let them fall|
|With scarce a sound. Such sylvan quietudes|
|Become old age. These huge centennial oaks,|| 5|
|That may have heard in infancy the trumpets|
|Of Barbarossas cavalry, deride|
|Mans brief existence, that with all his strength|
|He cannot stretch beyond the hundredth year.|
|This little acorn, turbaned like the Turk,|| 10|
|Which with my foot I spurn, may be an oak|
|Hereafter, feeding with its bitter mast|
|The fierce wild-boar, and tossing in its arms|
|The cradled nests of birds, when all the men|
|That now inhabit this vast universe,|| 15|
|They and their children, and their childrens children,|
|Shall be but dust and mould, and nothing more.|
|Through openings in the trees I see below me|
|The valley of Clitumnus, with its farms|
|And snow-white oxen grazing in the shade|| 20|
|Of the tall poplars on the rivers brink.|
|O Nature, gentle mother, tender nurse!|
|I, who have never loved thee as I ought,|
|But wasted all my years immured in cities,|
|And breathed the stifling atmosphere of streets,|| 25|
|Now come to thee for refuge. Here is peace.|
|Yonder I see the little hermitages|
|Dotting the mountain side with points of light,|
|And here St. Julians convent, like a nest|
|Of curlews, clinging to some windy cliff.|| 30|
|Beyond the broad, illimitable plain|
|Down sinks the sun, red as Apollos quoit,|
|That, by the envious Zephyr blown aside,|
|Struck Hyacinthus dead, and stained the earth|
|With his young blood, that blossomed into flowers.|| 35|
|And now, instead of these fair deities,|
|Dread demons haunt the earth; hermits inhabit|
|The leafy homes of sylvan Hamadryads;|
|And jovial friars, rotund and rubicund,|
|Replace the old Silenus with his ass.|| 40|
|Here underneath these venerable oaks,|
|Wrinkled and brown and gnarled like them with age,|
|A brother of the monastery sits,|
|Lost in his meditations. What may be|
|The questions that perplex, the hopes that cheer him?|| 45|
|Good-evening, holy father.|
MONK. God be with you.
MICHAEL ANGELO.Pardon a stranger if he interrupt
MONK. It was but a dream.
|The old, old dream, that never will come true;|
|The dream that all my life I have been dreaming,|| 50|
|And yet is still a dream.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. All men have dreams,
|I have had mine; but none of them came true;|
|They were but vanity. Sometimes I think|
|The happiness of man lies in pursuing,|
|Not in possessing; for the things possessed|| 55|
|Lose half their value. Tell me of your dream.|
MONK.The yearning of my heart, my sole desire,
|That like the sheaf of Joseph stands upright,|
|While all the others bend and bow to it;|
|The passion that torments me, and that breathes|| 60|
|New meaning into the dead forms of prayer,|
|Is that with mortal eyes I may behold|
|The Eternal City.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. Rome?
MONK. There is but one;
|The rest merely names. I think of it|
|As the Celestial City, paved with gold,|| 65|
|And sentinelled with angels.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. Would it were.
|I have just fled from it. It is beleaguered|
|By Spanish troops, led by the Duke of Alva.|
MONK.But still for me t is the Celestial City,
|And I would see it once before I die.|| 70|
MICHAEL ANGELO.Each one must bear his cross.
MONK. Were it a cross
|That had been laid upon me, I could bear it,|
|Or fall with it. It is a crucifix;|
|I am nailed hand and foot, and I am dying!|
MICHAEL ANGELO.What would you see in Rome?
MONK. His Holiness.
MICHAEL ANGELO.Him that was once the Cardinal Caraffa?
|You would but see a man of fourscore years,|
|With sunken eyes, burning like carbuncles,|
|Who sits at table with his friends for hours,|
|Cursing the Spaniards as a race of Jews|| 80|
|And miscreant Moors. And with what soldiery|
|Think you he now defends the Eternal City?|
MONK.With legions of bright angels.
MICHAEL ANGELO. So he calls them;
|And yet in fact these bright angelic legions|
|Are only German Lutherans.|
MONK, crossing himself. Heaven protect us!
MICHAEL ANGELO.What further would you see?
MONK. The Cardinals,
|Going in their gilt coaches to High Mass.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.Men do not go to Paradise in coaches.
MONK.The catacombs, the convents, and the churches;
|The ceremonies of the Holy Week|| 90|
|In all their pomp, or, at the Epiphany,|
|The feast of the Santissimo Bambino|
|At Ara Cli. But I shall not see them.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.These pompous ceremonies of the Church
|Are but an empty show to him who knows|| 95|
|The actors in them. Stay here in your convent,|
|For he who goes to Rome may see too much.|
|What would you further?|
MONK. I would see the painting
|Of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.The smoke of incense and of altar candles
|Has blackened it already.|
MONK. Woe is me!
|Then I would hear Allegris Miserere,|
|Sung by the Papal choir.|
MICHAEL ANGELO. A dismal dirge!
|I am an old, old man, and I have lived|
|In Rome for thirty years and more, and know|| 105|
|The jarring of the wheels of that great world,|
|Its jealousies, its discords, and its strife.|
|Therefore I say to you, remain content|
|Here in your convent, here among your woods,|
|Where only there is peace. Go not to Rome.|| 110|
|There was of old a monk of Wittenberg|
|Who went to Rome; you may have heard of him;|
|His name was Luther; and you know what followed.|
[The convent bell rings.
MONK, rising.It is the convent bell; it rings for vespers.
|Let us go in; we both will pray for peace.|| 115|