Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
March 6
Michael Angelo Buonarotti
By Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813–1892)
(Died March 6, 1475)

  THIS is the rugged face
  Of him who won a place
    Above all kings and lords;
  Whose various skill and power
  Left Italy a dower        5
No numbers can compute, no tongue translate in words.
  Patient to train and school
  His genius to the rule
    Art’s sternest laws required;
  Yet, by no custom chained,        10
  His daring hand disdained
The academic forms by tamer souls admired.
  In his interior light
  Awoke those shapes of might,
    Once known, that never die;        15
  Forms of Titanic birth,
  The elder brood of earth,
That fill the mind more grandly than they charm the eye.
  Yet when the master chose,
  Ideal graces rose        20
    Like flowers on gnarléd boughs;
  For he was nursed and fed
  At Beauty’s fountain-head,
And to the goddess pledged his earliest, warmest vows.
  Entranced in thoughts whose vast        25
  Imaginations passed
    Into his facile hand,
  By adverse fate unfoiled,
  Through long, long years he toiled;
Undimed the eyes that saw, unworn the brain that planned.        30
  A soul the Church’s bars,
  The State’s disastrous wars
    Kept closer to his youth.
  Though rough the winds and sharp,
  They could not bend or warp        35
His soul’s ideal forms of beauty and of truth.
  Like some cathedral spire
  That takes the earliest fire
    Of morn, he towered sublime
  O’er names and fames of mark        40
  Whose lights to his were dark;
Facing the east, he caught a glow beyond his time.
  Whether he drew, or sung,
  Or wrought in stone, or hung
    The Pantheon in the air;        45
  Whether he gave to Rome
  Her Sistine walls or dome,
Or laid the ponderous beams, or lightly wound the stair;
  Whether he planned defence
  On Tuscan battlements,        50
    Fired with the patriot’s zeal,
  Where San Miniato’s glow
  Smiled down upon the foe,
Till Treason won the gates that mocked the invader’s steel;
  Whether in lonely nights        55
  With Poesy’s delights
    He cheered his solitude;
  In sculptured sonnets wrought
  His firm and graceful thought,
Like marble altars in some dark and mystic wood,—        60
  Still, proudly poised, he stepped
  The way his vision swept,
    And scorned the narrower view.
  He touched with glory all
  That pope or cardinal,        65
With lower aims than his, allotted him to do.
  A heaven of larger zone—
  Not theirs, but his—was thrown
    O’er old and wonted themes.
  The fires within his soul        70
  Shone like an aureole
Around the prophets old and sibyls of his dreams.
  Thus self-contained and bold,
  His glowing thoughts he told
    On canvas or on stone,        75
  He needed not to seek
  His themes from Jew or Greek;
His soul enlarged their forms, his style was all his own.
  Ennobled by his hand,
  Florence and Rome shall stand        80
    Stamped with the signet-ring
  He wore, where kings obeyed
  The laws the artists made.
Art was his world, and he was Art’s anointed king.
  So stood this Angelo        85
  Four hundred years ago;
    So grandly still he stands,
  Mid lesser worlds of Art,
  Colossal and apart,
Like Memnon breathing songs across the desert sands.        90

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