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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Michael Angelo: A Fragment
Part Second.
V. Palazzo Belvedere
 
TITIAN’S studio. A painting of Danaë with a curtain before it. TITIAN, MICHAEL ANGELO, and GIORGIO VASARI.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
SO you have left at last your still lagoons,
Your City of Silence floating in the sea,
And come to us in Rome.

TITIAN.
                        I come to learn,
But I have come too late. I should have seen
Rome in my youth, when all my mind was open        5
To new impressions. Our Vasari here
Leads me about, a blind man, groping darkly
Among the marvels of the past. I touch them,
But do not see them.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                There are things in Rome
That one might walk barefooted here from Venice        10
But to see once, and then to die content.
 
TITIAN.
I must confess that these majestic ruins
Oppress me with their gloom. I feel as one
Who in the twilight stumbles among tombs,
And cannot read the inscriptions carved upon them.        15
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
I felt so once; but I have grown familiar
With desolation, and it has become
No more a pain to me, but a delight.
 
TITIAN.
I could not live here. I must have the sea,
And the sea-mist, with sunshine interwoven        20
Like cloth of gold; must have beneath my windows
The laughter of the waves, and at my door
Their pattering footsteps, or I am not happy.
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Then tell me of your city in the sea,
Paved with red basalt of the Paduan hills.        25
Tell me of art in Venice. Three great names,
Giorgione, Titian, and the Tintoretto,
Illustrate your Venetian school, and send
A challenge to the world. The first is dead,
But Tintoretto lives.

TITIAN.
                    And paints with fire,
        30
Sudden and splendid, as the lightning paints
The cloudy vault of heaven.

GIORGIO.
                            Does he still keep
Above his door the arrogant inscription
That once was painted there,—“The color of Titian,
With the design of Michael Angelo”?        35
 
TITIAN.
Indeed, I know not. ’T was a foolish boast,
And does no harm to any but himself.
Perhaps he has grown wiser.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                            When you two
Are gone, who is there that remains behind
To seize the pencil falling from your fingers?        40
 
GIORGIO.
Oh, there are many hands upraised already
To clutch at such a prize, and hardly wait
For death to loose your grasp,—a hundred of them:
Schiavone, Bonifazio, Campagnola,
Moretto, and Moroni; who can count them,        45
Or measure their ambition?

TITIAN.
                    When we are gone,
The generation that comes after us
Will have far other thoughts than ours. Our ruins
Will serve to build their palaces or tombs.
They will possess the world that we think ours,        50
And fashion it far otherwise.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        I hear
Your son Orazio and your nephew Marco
Mentioned with honor.

TITIAN.
                Ay, brave lads, brave lads.
But time will show. There is a youth in Venice,
One Paul Cagliari, called the Veronese,        55
Still a mere stripling, but of such rare promise
That we must guard our laurels, or may lose them.
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
These are good tidings; for I sometimes fear
That, when we die, with us all art will die.
’T is but a fancy. Nature will provide        60
Others to take our places. I rejoice
To see the young spring forward in the race,
Eager as we were, and as full of hope
And the sublime audacity of youth.
 
TITIAN.
Men die and are forgotten. The great world
        65
Goes on the same. Among the myriads
Of men that live, or have lived, or shall live,
What is a single life, or thine or mine,
That we should think all nature would stand still
If we were gone? We must make room for others.        70
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
And now, Maestro, pray unveil your picture
Of Danaë, of which I hear such praise.
 
TITIAN, drawing back the curtain.
What think you?

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                    That Acrisius did well
To lock such beauty in a brazen tower,
And hide it from all eyes.

TITIAN.
                        The model truly
        75
Was beautiful.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
            And more, that you were present,
And saw the showery Jove from high Olympus
Descend in all his splendor.

TITIAN.
                        From your lips
Such words are full of sweetness.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        You have caught
These golden hues from your Venetian sunsets.        80
 
TITIAN.
Possibly.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
        Or from sunshine through a shower
On the lagoons, or the broad Adriatic.
Nature reveals herself in all our arts.
The pavements and the palaces of cities
Hint at the nature of the neighboring hills.        85
Red lavas from the Euganean quarries
Of Padua pave your streets; your palaces
Are the white stones of Istria, and gleam
Reflected in your waters and your pictures.
And thus the works of every artist show        90
Something of his surroundings and his habits.
The uttermost that can be reached by color
Is here accomplished. Warmth and light and softness
Mingle together. Never yet was flesh
Painted by hand of artist, dead or living,        95
With such divine perfection.

TITIAN.
                        I am grateful
For so much praise from you, who are a master;
While mostly those who praise and those who blame
Know nothing of the matter, so that mainly
Their censure sounds like praise, their praise like censure.        100
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Wonderful! wonderful! The charm of color
Fascinates me the more that in myself
The gift is wanting. I am not a painter.
 
GIORGIO.
Messer Michele, all the arts are yours,
Not one alone; and therefore I may venture        105
To put a question to you.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        Well, speak on.
 
GIORGIO.
Two nephews of the Cardinal Farnese
Have made me umpire in dispute between them
Which is the greater of the sister arts,
Painting or sculpture. Solve for me the doubt.        110
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Sculpture and painting have a common goal,
And whosoever would attain to it,
Whichever path he take, will find that goal
Equally hard to reach.

GIORGIO.
                    No doubt, no doubt;
But you evade the question.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                            When I stand
        115
In presence of this picture, I concede
That painting has attained its uttermost;
But in the presence of my sculptured figures
I feel that my conception soars beyond
All limit I have reached.

GIORGIO.
                    You still evade me.
        120
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Giorgio Vasari, I have often said
That I account that painting as the best
Which most resembles sculpture. Here before us
We have the proof. Behold these rounded limbs!
How from the canvas they detach themselves,        125
Till they deceive the eye, and one would say,
It is a statue with a screen behind it!
 
TITIAN.
Signori, pardon me; but all such questions
Seem to me idle.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                    Idle as the wind.
And now, Maestro, I will say once more        130
How admirable I esteem your work,
And leave you, without further interruption.
 
TITIAN.
Your friendly visit hath much honored me.
 
GIORGIO.
Farewell.

MICHAEL ANGELO to GIORGIO, going out.
            If the Venetian painters knew
But half as much of drawing as of color,        135
They would indeed work miracles in art,
And the world see what it hath never seen.
 
 
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