Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Michael Angelo: A Fragment
Part First.
I. Prologue at Ischia
 
The Castle Terrace. VITTORIA COLONNA and JULIA GONZAGA.

VITTORIA.
WILL you then leave me, Julia, and so soon,
To pace alone this terrace like a ghost?
 
JULIA.
To-morrow, dearest.

VITTORIA.
                    Do not say to-morrow.
A whole month of to-morrows were too soon.
You must not go. You are a part of me.        5
 
JULIA.
I must return to Fondi.

VITTORIA.
                        The old castle
Needs not your presence. No one waits for you.
Stay one day longer with me. They who go
Feel not the pain of parting; it is they
Who stay behind that suffer. I was thinking        10
But yesterday how like and how unlike
Have been, and are, our destinies. Your husband,
The good Vespasian, an old man, who seemed
A father to you rather than a husband,
Died in your arms; but mine, in all the flower        15
And promise of his youth, was taken from me
As by a rushing wind. The breath of battle
Breathed on him, and I saw his face no more,
Save as in dreams it haunts me. As our love
Was for these men, so is our sorrow for them.        20
Yours a child’s sorrow, smiling through its tears;
But mine the grief of an impassioned woman,
Who drank her life up in one draught of love.
 
JULIA.
Behold this locket. This is the white hair
Of my Vespasian. This the flower-of-love,        25
This amaranth, and beneath it the device,
Non moritura. Thus my heart remains
True to his memory; and the ancient castle,
Where we have lived together, where he died,
Is dear to me as Ischia is to you.        30
 
VITTORIA.
I did not mean to chide you.

JULIA.
                        Let your heart
Find, if it can, some poor apology
For one who is too young, and feels too keenly
The joy of life, to give up all her days
To sorrow for the dead. While I am true        35
To the remembrance of the man I loved
And mourn for still, I do not make a show
Of all the grief I feel, nor live secluded
And, like Veronica da Gámbara,
Drape my whole house in mourning, and drive forth        40
In coach of sable drawn by sable horses,
As if I were a corpse. Ah, one to-day
Is worth for me a thousand yesterdays.
 
VITTORIA.
Dear Julia! Friendship has its jealousies
As well as love. Who waits for you at Fondi?        45
 
JULIA.
A friend of mine and yours; a friend and friar.
You have at Naples your Fra Bernardino;
And I at Fondi have my Fra Bastiano,
The famous artist, who has come from Rome
To paint my portrait. That is not a sin.        50
 
VITTORIA.
Only a vanity.

JULIA.
                    He painted yours.
 
VITTORIA.
Do not call up to me those days departed,
When I was young, and all was bright about me,
And the vicissitudes of life were things
But to be read of in old histories,        55
Though as pertaining unto me or mine
Impossible. Ah, then I dreamed your dreams,
And now, grown older, I look back and see
They were illusions.

JULIA.
                    Yet without illusions
What would our lives become, what we ourselves?        60
Dreams or illusions, call them what you will,
They lift us from the commonplace of life
To better things.

VITTORIA.
            Are there no brighter dreams,
No higher aspirations, than the wish
To please and to be pleased?

JULIA.
                    For you there are:
        65
I am no saint; I feel the world we live in
Comes before that which is to be hereafter,
And must be dealt with first.

VITTORIA.
                    But in what way?
 
JULIA.
Let the soft wind that wafts to us the odor
Of orange blossoms, let the laughing sea        70
And the bright sunshine bathing all the world,
Answer the question.

VITTORIA.
                    And for whom is meant
This portrait that you speak of?

JULIA.
                            For my friend
The Cardinal Ippolito.

VITTORIA.
                        For him?
 
JULIA.
Yes, for Ippolito the Magnificent.
        75
’T is always flattering to a woman’s pride
To be admired by one whom all admire.
 
VITTORIA.
Ah, Julia, she that makes herself a dove
Is eaten by the hawk. Be on your guard.
He is a Cardinal; and his adoration        80
Should be elsewhere directed.

JULIA.
                            You forget
The horror of that night, when Barbarossa,
The Moorish corsair, landed on our coast
To seize me for the Sultan Soliman;
How in the dead of night, when all were sleeping,        85
He scaled the castle wall; how I escaped,
And in my night-dress, mounting a swift steed,
Fled to the mountains, and took refuge there
Among the brigands. Then of all my friends
The Cardinal Ippolito was first        90
To come with his retainers to my rescue.
Could I refuse the only boon he asked
At such a time, my portrait?

VITTORIA.
                            I have heard
Strange stories of the splendors of his palace,
And how, apparelled like a Spanish Prince,        95
He rides through Rome with a long retinue
Of Ethiopians and Numidians
And Turks and Tartars, in fantastic dresses,
Making a gallant show. Is this the way
A Cardinal should live?

JULIA.
                            He is so young;
        100
Hardly of age, or little more than that;
Beautiful, generous, fond of arts and letters,
A poet, a musician, and a scholar;
Master of many languages, and a player
On many instruments. In Rome, his palace        105
Is the asylum of all men distinguished
In art or science, and all Florentines
Escaping from the tyranny of his cousin,
Duke Alessandro.

VITTORIA.
                    I have seen his portrait,
Painted by Titian. You have painted it        110
In brighter colors.

JULIA.
                        And my Cardinal,
At Itri, in the courtyard of his palace,
Keeps a tame lion!

VITTORIA.
                    And so counterfeits
St. Mark, the Evangelist!

JULIA.
                        Ah, your tame lion
Is Michael Angelo.

VITTORIA.
                    You speak a name
        115
That always thrills me with a noble sound,
As of a trumpet! Michael Angelo!
A lion all men fear and none can tame;
A man that all men honor, and the model
That all should follow; one who works and prays,        120
For work is prayer, and consecrates his life
To the sublime ideal of his art,
Till art and life are one; a man who holds
Such place in all men’s thoughts, that when they speak
Of great things done, or to be done, his name        125
Is ever on their lips.

JULIA.
                            You too can paint
The portrait of your hero, and in colors
Brighter than Titian’s; I might warn you also
Against the dangers that beset your path;
But I forbear.

VITTORIA.
                If I were made of marble,
        130
Of Fior di Persico or Pavonazzo,
He might admire me: being but flesh and blood,
I am no more to him than other women;
That is am nothing.

JULIA.
                Does he ride through Rome
Upon his little mule, as he was wont,        135
With his slouched hat, and boots of Cordovan,
As when I saw him last?

VITTORIA.
                        Pray do not jest.
I cannot couple with his noble name
A trivial word! Look, how the setting sun
Lights up Castel-a-mare and Sorrento,        140
And changes Capri to a purple cloud!
And there Vesuvius with its plume of smoke,
And the great city stretched upon the shore
As in a dream!

JULIA.
                    Parthenope the Siren!
 
VITTORIA.
And yon long line of lights, those sunlit windows
        145
Blaze like the torches carried in procession
To do her honor! It is beautiful!
 
JULIA.
I have no heart to feel the beauty of it!
My feet are weary, pacing up and down
These level flags, and wearier still my thoughts        150
Treading the broken pavement of the Past.
It is too sad. I will go in and rest,
And make me ready for to-morrow’s journey.
 
VITTORIA.
I will go with you; for I would not lose
One hour of your dear presence. ’T is enough        155
Only to be in the same room with you.
I need not speak to you, nor hear you speak;
If I but see you, I am satisfied.    [They go in.
 
 
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