Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Michael Angelo: A Fragment
Part Second.
VI. Palazzo Cesarini
SCENE I.—VITTORIA COLONNA, seated in an arm-chair; JULIA GONZAGA, standing near her.

IT grieves me that I find you still so weak
And suffering.

            No, not suffering; only dying.
Death is the chillness that precedes the dawn;
We shudder for a moment, then awake
In the broad sunshine of the other life.        5
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.

                        Ah, no, not that.
Paler you are, but not less beautiful.
VITTORIA, folding her hands.
O gentle spirit, unto the third circle
Of heaven among the blessed souls ascended,
Who living for the faith and dying for it,
Have gone to their reward, I do not mourn        15
For thee as being dead, but for myself
That I am still alive. A little longer
Have patience with me, and if I am wanting
To thy well-being as thou art to mine,
Have patience; I will come to thee ere long.        20
Do not give way to these foreboding thoughts.
Hand me the mirror. I would fain behold
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,        25
Above all other days, and at the hour
When most I need you.

                    Do you ever need me?
Always, and most of all to-day and now.
Do you remember, Julia, when we walked,
One afternoon, upon the castle terrace        30
At Ischia, on the day before you left me?
Well I remember; but it seems to me
Something unreal that has never been,
Something that I have read of in a book,
Or heard of some one else.

                    Ten years and more
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;        40
And Cardinal Ippolito, your friend.
Oh, do not speak of him! His sudden death
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,        45
And I remember things I would forget,
While I forget the things I would remember.
Forgive me; I will speak of him no more.
The good Fra Bernardino has departed,
Has fled from Italy, and crossed the Alps,        50
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        55
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.

                    I will be very prudent.
But speak no more, I pray; it wearies you.        60
Yes, I am very weary. Read to me.
Most willingly. What shall I read?

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.        65
JULIA reads.
“Not as a flame that by some force is spent,
  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,        70
  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,        75
  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.”
Is it of Laura that he here is speaking?—
She doth not answer, yet is not asleep;        80
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.
Call my confessor!—
Not disobedient to the heavenly vision!
Pescara! my Pescara!    [Dies.

                        Holy Virgin!
Her body sinks together,—she is dead!
[Kneels, and hides her face in Vittoria’s lap.

Hush! make no noise.

                    How is she?

                            Never better.
Then she is dead!

                    Alas! yes, she is dead!
Even death itself in her fair face seems fair.
How wonderful! The light upon her face
Shines from the windows of another world.
Saints only have such faces. Holy Angels!        95
Bear her like sainted Catherine to her rest!
[Kisses Vittoria’s hand.

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