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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Michael Angelo: A Fragment
Part Third.
VI. Michael Angelo’s Studio
 
MICHAEL ANGELO and URBINO.

MICHAEL ANGELO, pausing in his work.
URBINO, thou and I are both old men.
My strength begins to fail me.

URBINO.
                            Eccellenza,
That is impossible. Do I not see you
Attack the marble blocks with the same fury
As twenty years ago?

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        ’T is an old habit.
        5
I must have learned it early from my nurse
At Setignano, the stone-mason’s wife;
For the first sounds I heard were of the chisel
Chipping away the stone.

URBINO.
                        At every stroke
You strike fire with your chisel.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        Aye, because
        10
The marble is too hard.

URBINO.
                    It is a block
That Topolino sent you from Carrara.
He is a judge of marble.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                    I remember.
With it he sent me something of his making,—
A Mercury, with long body and short legs,        15
As if by any possibility
A messenger of the gods could have short legs.
It was no more like Mercury than you are,
But rather like those little plaster figures
That peddlers hawk about the villages        20
As images of saints. But luckily
For Topolino, there are many people
Who see no difference between what is best
And what is only good, or not even good;
So that poor artists stand in their esteem        25
On the same level with the best, or higher.
 
URBINO.
How Eccellenza laughed!

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        Poor Topolino!
All men are not born artists, nor will labor
E’er make them artists.

URBINO.
                            No, no more
Than Emperors, or Popes, or Cardinals.        30
One must be chosen for it. I have been
Your color-grinder six and twenty years,
And am not yet an artist.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                        Some have eyes
That see not; but in every block of marble
I see a statue,—see it as distinctly        35
As if it stood before me shaped and perfect
In attitude and action. I have only
To hew away the stone walls that imprison
The lovely apparition, and reveal it
To other eyes as mine already see it.        40
But I grow old and weak. What wilt thou do
When I am dead, Urbino?

URBINO.
                            Eccellenza,
I must then serve another master.

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                                Never!
Bitter is servitude at best. Already
So many years hast thou been serving me;        45
But rather as a friend than as a servant.
We have grown old together. Dost thou think
So meanly of this Michael Angelo
As to imagine he would let thee serve,
When he is free from service? Take this purse,        50
Two thousand crowns in gold.

URBINO.
                    Two thousand crowns!
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Ay, it will make thee rich. Thou shalt not die
A beggar in a hospital.

URBINO.
                        Oh, Master!
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
I cannot have them with me on the journey
That I am undertaking. The last garment        55
That men will make for me will have no pockets.
 
URBINO, kissing the hand of MICHAEL ANGELO.
My generous master!

MICHAEL ANGELO.
                    Hush!

URBINO.
                        My Providence!
 
MICHAEL ANGELO.
Not a word more. Go now to bed, old man.
Thou hast served Michael Angelo. Remember,
Henceforward thou shalt serve no other master.        60
 
 
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