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Michelangelo: The Poet
Artist of the Italian Renaissance
Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy he was one of the most famous artists of the Italian Renaissance. Painter and sculptor, Michelangelo was known for his famous work as a sculptor, of the "Pieta" and "David" statues. As a painter, he was recognized for his artistic virtuosity on his work of the ceiling paintings of Rome's Sistine Chapel, including the "Last Judgment." With all these masterpieces, not so many knew that Michelangelo was also an architect, engineer, and a poet. Michelangelo's poetic impulse, which had been expressed in his sculptures, paintings and architecture, began taking literary form in his later years.
Here are some great quotes he wrote:
''The marble not yet carved can hold the form Of every thought the greatest artist has.''
''Do thou, then breathe those thoughts into my mind
By which such virtue may in me be bred
That in thy holy footsteps I may tread:
The fetters of my tongue do thou unbind,
That I may have the power to sing of thee
And sound thy praises everlastingly.''
''The prayers I make will then be sweet indeed,
If thou the spirit give by which I pray;
My unassisted heart is barren clay,
Which of its native self can nothing feed.''
''His hope is treacherous only whose love dies
With beauty, which is varying every hour;
But, in chaste hearts uninfluenced by the power
Of outward change, there blooms a deathless flower,
That breathes on earth the air of paradise.''
Poems and Sonnets
Michelangelo wrote more than 300 poems and sonnets. Though he never married, his friendship with Vittoria Colonna, a pious and noble widow remained a great solace to him. His devotion to her was such that Vittoria became the subject and recipient of his literary works.
As I am an enthusiast for Poetry and for the love of arts, I wish to share just two of Michelangelo's popular poems on love and friendship. As I write poems myself, I wish to share such passion.
I saw no mortal beauty with these eyes
When perfect peace in thy fair eyes I found;
But far within, where all is holy ground,
My soul felt Love, her comrade of the skies:
For she was born with God in Paradise;
Else should we still to transient loves be bound;
But, finding these so false, we pass beyond
Unto the Love of Loves that never dies.
Nay, things that die, cannot assuage the thirst
Of souls undying; nor Eternity
Serves Time, where all must fade that flourisheth.
Sense is not love, but lawlessness accurst:
This kills the soul; while our love lifts on high
Our friends on earth-higher in heaven through death.
Great Beauty Spreads a Firestorm
Great beauty spreads a firestorm
across a thousand ardent wills
which, so dispersed, is lightly borne
but, gathered into one, may kill.
As weight on many points can rest
that can't be borne by one alone:
so heat that's bearable if spread,
when pent in kilns, will crumble stone.
(I know first-hand how mortar's made,
by slurrying the roasted dust.)
Her excellence has fired my mind
until it cannot bear more love;
my heart, once hard, has been calcined
to dust that weeping will dissolve.
Father and Master of All the Arts
Unlike many artists, Michelangelo achieved fame and wealth during his lifetime. He also had the peculiar distinction of living to see the publication of two biographies about his life (written by Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi). Appreciation of Michelangelo's artistic mastery has endured for centuries, and his name has become synonymous with the best of the Italian Renaissance.
Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564, following a brief illness just weeks before his 89th birthday, at his home in Macel de'Corvi, Rome. A nephew bore his body back to Florence, where he was revered by the public as the "Father and Master of All the Arts," and was laid to rest at the Basilica di Santa Croce—his chosen place of burial.