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

MICHAEL ANGELO, standing before a model of St. Peter’s.

BETTER than thou I cannot, Brunelleschi,
And less than thou I will not! If the thought
Could, like a windlass, lift the ponderous stones
And swing them to their places; if a breath
Could blow this rounded dome into the air,        5
As if it were a bubble, and these statues
Spring at a signal to their sacred stations,
As sentinels mount guard upon a wall,
Then were my task completed. Now, alas!
Naught am I but a Saint Sebaldus, holding        10
Upon his hand the model of a church,
As German artists paint him; and what years,
What weary years, must drag themselves along,
Ere this be turned to stone! What hindrances
Must block the way; what idle interferences        15
Of Cardinals and Canons of St. Peter’s,
Who nothing know of art beyond the color
Of cloaks and stockings, nor of any building
Save that of their own fortunes! And what then?
I must then the short-coming of my means        20
Piece out by stepping forward, as the Spartan
Was told to add a step to his short sword.    [A pause.
And is Fra Bastian dead? Is all that light
Gone out? that sunshine darkened? all that music
And merriment, that used to make our lives        25
Less melancholy, swallowed up in silence
Like madrigals sung in the street at night
By passing revellers? It is strange indeed
That he should die before me. ’T is against
The laws of nature that the young should die,        30
And the old live; unless it be that some
Have long been dead who think themselves alive,
Because not buried. Well, what matters it,
Since now that greater light, that was my sun,
Is set, and all is darkness, all is darkness!        35
Death’s lightnings strike to right and left of me,
And, like a ruined wall, the world around me
Crumbles away, and I am left alone.
I have no friends, and want none. My own thoughts
Are now my sole companions,—thoughts of her,        40
That like a benediction from the skies
Come to me in my solitude and soothe me.
When men are old, the incessant thought of Death
Follows them like their shadow; sits with them
At every meal; sleeps with them when they sleep;        45
And when they wake already is awake,
And standing by their bedside. Then, what folly
It is in us to make an enemy
Of this importunate follower, not a friend!
To me a friend, and not an enemy,        50
Has he become since all my friends are dead.

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