Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Michael Angelo: A Fragment
Part Second.
I. Monologue
A room in MICHAEL ANGELO’S house.

FLED to Viterbo, the old Papal city
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        5
His thunders at the house of the Colonna,
With endless bitterness!—Among the nuns
In Santa Caterina’s convent hidden,
Herself in soul a nun! And now she chides me
For my too frequent letters, that disturb        10
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.    [Reading.        15
“Profoundly I believed that God would grant you
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.        20
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,        25
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.”
Well, I will write less often, or no more,
But wait her coming. No one born in Rome        30
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        35
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        40
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,        45
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,        50
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.
I turn for consolation to the leaves
Of the great master of our Tuscan tongue,        55
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        60
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        65
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,        70
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,        75
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.
I strive in vain to draw here on the margin        80
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.        85

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