vol II date / index
St. Flavian, Archbishop of Constantinople, A. D. 449. Sts. Theodulus and Julian. St. Silvin of Auchy, A.D. 718. St. Loman, or Luman, Bishop. St. Fintan, Abbot.
Scotch Crocus. Crocus Susianus.
Dedicated to St. Flavian.
On the 17th of February, 1563, died Michael Angelo Buonarroti, as an artist and a man one of the most eminent ornaments of the times wherein he lived. A bare record of his decease is not sufficient. Thousands of readers have heard his name; some know his works; few know his character.
Michael Angelo was born in Tuscany, on the 6th of March, 1474. Fascinated by art at an early age, he executed a facsimile of a picture in his thirteenth year, which he presented to the owner instead of the original, who did not discover the deception till a confidant of Michael's began to laugh. He afterwards studied under Ghirlandail, and at fifteen drew an outline round a drawing by his master which showed its defects and his own superiority. Studying in a garden supplied by the celebrated Lorenzo de Medici with antique statues and other forms, he saw a student modelling figures in clay, and emulous of excelling in the same branch, begged a piece of marble, and the use of implements, from one of the workmen employed in making ornaments for Lorenzo's library. With these he imitated an old head, or mask, of a laughing faun, supplying the deficiencies effected by time, by his own invention, and making other additions. Lorenzo saw it, and good humouredly remarked, "You have restored to the old faun all his teeth, but don't you know that a man of such an age has generally lost some?" As soon as Lorenzo departed, Michael broke a tooth from the upper jaw, and drilled a hole in the gum to denote that it had decayed. Lorenzo at his next visit was delighted by this docility, and to encourage Michael assigned him an apartment in his palace for a workroom, seated him at his table, and introduced him to the men of rank and talent who daily resorted to Lorenzo, as the munificent patron of learning and the arts. He justified this distinction by labouring with intense ardour. At seventeen years of age he sculptured in brass the battle of Hercules with the Centaurs; a work of which he said at seventy, "When I see it now, I repent that I did not entirely devote myself to sculpture." His reputation increased with his application, for application brought him nearer to excellence. By the merit of a sleeping cupid from his chisel, which was stained and buried by a dealer to be dug up as an antique, and purchased by cardinal Giorgio under the persuasion that it was one, he was invited to Rome.
On the elevation of Julius II. to the pontificate he desired a mausoleum for his remains, and commissioned Michael Angelo to execute it. The design was magnificent and gratified Julius. He inquired the cost of completing it, "A hundred thousand crowns," answered Michael; the pope replied, "It may be twice that sum," and gave orders accordingly. The pontiff further determined on rebuilding the cathedral of St. Peter on a plan of corresponding grandeur wherein the mausoleum should be erected. It was for the prosecution of this vast structure for Romish worship, that Leo X. sold the indulgencies against which Luther inveighed, and by establishing the right of private judgment shook the papacy to its foundations. While Michael was engaged on the mausoleum, Julius caused a covered bridge to be erected by which he might pass from the Vatican to Michael's study unobserved. Envy was excited in the papal dependents by this distinction, and insinuated so much to Michael's disadvantage that his unrestrained visits to the Vatican were suddenly interrupted. "I have an order not to let you enter," said the groom of the chamber: a prelate inquired if he knew to whom he spoke; "Well enough," answered the officer, "and it is my duty to obey my orders." "Tell the pope," said Michael indignantly, "if he wants me, he shall have to seek me in another place." He returned home, ordered his servants to sell his furniture immediately, and follow him to Florence, and the same evening left Rome.
The pope sent couriers to force his return, but before he was overtaken he had reached a territory wherein the papal mandate was without authority. "Immediately return to Rome on pain of our disgrace," was the pope's letter. Michael's answer was, that having been expelled [from] his holiness's antichamber without having merited disgrace, he had left Rome to preserve his character, and that he would not return; for if he had been deemed worthless one day, he could be little valued the next, unless by a caprice that would neither be creditable to the pope nor to himself. Having despatched the pope's couriers with this letter, he proceeded to Florence. To the government of this city Julius wrote: "We know the humour of men of his stamp; if he will return, we promise he shall be neither meddled with nor offended, and he shall be reinstated in the apostolic grace." Michael was unmoved. A second and a third arrived, each more impressive, and Michael remained unchanged; but the Gonfaloniere of Florence, to whom these epistles were addressed, became alarmed and expostulated: "You have done by the pope what the king of France would not have presumed to do; he must be no longer trifled with; we cannot make war against his holiness to risk the safety of the state; and therefore you must obey his will." Thus remonstrated with, Michael entertained a proposal for entering into the service of the sultan Bajazet II., and building a bridge from Constantinople to Pera. The sultan had even sent him letters of credit on Florence and all the cities on his way; and appointed escorts of Janizaries to await his arrival on the Turkish frontiers, and conduct him, by whatever road he pleased, to the Mahometan capital. To divert Michael Angelo from this course, the Gonfaloniere urged that it was better to die under the pope's displeasure than to live in the Turkish service; and that if he were apprehensive for his security at Rome, the government of Florence would send him thither as its ambassador, in which character his person would be inviolable. Michael, urged by these and other reasons, relented, and met the pope at Bologna, a city which had been betrayed to the papal arms, and taken possession of by Julius in great pomp just before Michael's arrival. The cardinal Soderini, brother to the Gonfaloniere, was to have introduced Michael to the pope, but indisposition constrained him to depute that office to a prelate of his household. The pope askanced his eye at Michael with displeasure, and after a short pause saluted him, "Instead of your coming to us, you seem to have expected that we should attend upon you." Michael answered, that his error proceeded from too hastily feeling a disgrace he was unconscious of having merited, and hoped his holiness would pardon what had passed. The officious prelate who had introduced him, not thinking this apology sufficient, observed to the pope, that great allowance was to be made for such men, who were ignorant of every thing but their art. "Thou," answered the pontiff, "hast vilified him; I have not: thou art no man of genius but an ignorant fellow; get out of my sight." The prelate was pushed from the room. The pope gave Michael his benediction, restored him to full favour, and desired him not to quit Bologna till he had given him a commission for some work. In a few days, Michael received an order from Julius for a colossal statue of himself in bronze. While it was modelling, the pope's visits to Michael were as frequent as formerly. This statue was grand, austere, and majestic: the pope familiarly asked if the extended arm was bestowing a blessing or a curse upon the people. Michael answered that the action only implied hostility to disobedience, and inquired whether he would not have a book put into the other hand. "No," said the pope, "a sword would be more adapted to my character, I am no book-man." Julius quitted Bologna, and left Michael Angelo there to complete the statue; he effected it in sixteen months, and having placed it in the façade of the church of St. Petronio, returned to Rome. This product of Michael's genius was of short existence. The prosperity of Venice under united councils, and a prudent administration of its affairs, excited the hatred of the European powers. An infamous league was entered into at Cambray for the ruin of the Venetian government, and the partition of its territory; Julius became a party to this alliance, with the hope of adding Romagna to the dominions of the church, and retaining possession of Bologna. Effecting his object, he withdrew from the league; and by a change of policy, and a miscalculation of his strength, quarrelled with Louis XII. who had assisted him in subjecting Bologna. That monarch retook the city, restored the Bentivoglio family, which had been displaced by the papal arms, and the populace throwing down Michael's statue of the pope, dragged it through the streets, and broke it to pieces. With the mutilated fragments the duke of Ferrara cast a cannon, which he named Julio, but preserved the head entire, as an invaluable specimen of art, although it bore the countenance of his implacable enemy.
Micahel Angelo resumed Julius's mausoleum, but the pontiff had changed his mind, and sorely against Michael's inclination, engaged him to decorate the ceilings and walls of the Sixtine chapel, with paintings in fresco, to the memory of Sixtus VI., the pope's uncle. For the purpose of commencing these paintings, ropes were let through the ceiling to suspend the scaffolding. Michael asked Bramante the architect, who had arranged this machinery, how the ceiling was to be completed if the ropes were suffered to remain? The answer did not obviate the objection. Michael represented to the pope that the defect would have been avoided if Bramante had better understood the application of mechanical principles, and obtained the pope's permission to take down the inefficient contrivance and erect another. This he effected; and his machinery was so ample and complete, that Bramante himself adopted it in the building of St. Peter's. Michael gave this invention to the poor man who was his carpenter in constructing it, and who realized a fortune from the commissions he received for others on the same plan. To indulge his curiosity, and watch the progress of the work, the pope ascended the ladder to the top of Michael's platform almost daily. He was of an impetuous temper, and impatient to see the general effect from below before the ceiling was half completed: Michael, yielding to his impatience, struck the scaffold; and so eager were men of taste to obtain a view, that before the dust from displacing the machinery had settled, they rushed into the chapel to gratify their curiosity. Julius was satisfied: but Michael's rivals, and Bramante among the rest, secretly solicited the pope to intrust the completion of the cartoons to Raphael. Michael had intimation of these wiles, and in the presence of Bramante himself, claimed and obtained of the pope the entire execution of his own designs. He persevered with incessant assiduity. In twenty months from the commencement of "this stupendous monument of human genius" it was completed, and on All Saints' day, 1512, the pontiff himself opened the chapel in person with a splendid high mass, to crowds of devotees and artists. Whatever Julius conceived he hastened with the ardour of youth; he was old, and knowing that he had no time to spare, he had so harassed the progress of these cartoons by his eagerness, that the scaffolding was struck before they were thoroughly completed; yet, as there was not any thing of importance to be added, Michael determined not to undergo the labour of re-erecting the machinery. The pope loved splendour, and wished them ornamented with gold. Michael answered, "In those days gold was not worn, and the characters I have painted were niehter rich, nor desirous of riches; they were holy men with whom gold was an object of contempt."
Julius soon afterwards died; and the execution of his mausoleum was frustrated by Leo X., to whose patronage Michael was little indebted. He finished his celebrated cartoon of the Last Judgment, for the east end of the Sistine chapel, in 1541. On Christmas-day in that year the chapel was opened, and residents in the most distant parts of Italy thronged to see it. In the following year, he painted the Conversion of St. Paul, and the Crucifixion of St. Peter, on the walls of the chapel Paolina. In 1546, when he was 72 years old, the reigning pope nominated him architect of St. Peter's. Michael would only accept the appointment on the condition that he received no salary; that he should have uncontrolled power of the subordinate officers; and be allowed to alter the original design conformably to his own judgment. It was necessary to adapt and contract that design to the impoverished state of the papal exchequer. Though numerous impediments were purposely opposed to his progress with this splendid edifice, he advanced it rapidly; and before he was 74, he had completed the Farnese palace, built a palace on the hill of the Capitol for the senator of Rome, erected two galleries for sculpture and painting on the same site, and threw up a flight of steps to the church of the convent of Araceli—an edifice remarkable for its occupying the highest part of the hill whereon the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus formerly stood, and, more especially, for Gibbon having mused there, while listening to the vespers of the barefooted friars, and conceived the first thought of writing his "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
In 1550, Julius III. succeeded to the pontificate, and Michael to new vexations. His rivals endeavoured to displace him for unfitness in the conduct of St. Peter's. A committee of architects was appointed to investigate the charge, in the presence of the pope. The committee alleged that the church wanted light; and they furnished the cardinals Salviati and Marcello Cervino with plans, to show that Michael had walled up a recess for three chapels, and made only three insufficient windows. "Over those windows are to be placed three others," answered Michael. "You never said that before," answered one of the cardinals. To this Michael indignantly replied, "I am not, neither will I ever be, obliged to tell your eminence, or any one else, what I ought or am disposed to do; it is your office to see that money be provided, to keep off the thieves, and to leave the building of St. Peter's to me." The pope decided in Michael's favour. From that time Julius prosecuted no work in painting or sculpture without Michael's advice; and his estimation of him was so high, that he told him at a public audience, that if he died before himself, he should be embalmed, and kept in his own palace, that his body might be as permanent as his works. Soon after the death of Julius III. in 1555, Paul IV., the new pontiff, expressed his displeasure of the academical figures in the Last Judgment, and intimated an intention to "reform" the picture. Michael sent this message to him: "What the pope wishes, is very little, and may be easily effected: for if his holiness will only 'reform' the opinions of mankind, the picture will be reformed of itself." This holy father plunged Italy in blood by his vindictive passions; and while war ravaged its plains, Michael, at the age of 82, retreated for a while to a monastery. On coming from his seclusion, he wrote to Vasari, "I have had a great deal of pleasure in visiting the monks in the mountains of Spoleto: indeed, though I am now returned to Rome, I have left the better half of myself with them; for in these troublesome times, to say the truth, there is no happiness but in such retirement." The death of this pope filled Rome with "tumultuous joy," and the papal chair was ascended by Pius IV., in whose pontificate, wearied and reduced by the incessant attacks and artifices of his enemies, Michael, at the age of 87, resigned his office of architect to St. Peter's; but the pope, informed of the frauds which had occasioned it, reinstated him, and to induce him to retain the appointment, ensured strict adherence to his designs until the building should be completed.
At the age of eighty-nine a slow fever indicated Michael Angelo's approaching decease. His nephew, Leonardo Buonarrotti, was sent for; but not arriving, and the fever increasing, he ordered the persons who were in the house into his chamber, and in the presence of them and his physicians uttered this verbal will:— "My soul I resign to God, my body to the earth, and my worldly possessions to my nearest of kin:" then admonishing his attendants, he said, "In your passage through this life, remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ."
Thus died one of the greatest artists, and one of the noblest men of modern times. The ceremony of his funeral was conducted at Rome with great pomp, but his remains were removed within a month to Florence, and finally deposited in the church of Santa Croce at Florence. In 1720, the vault was opened; the body retained its original form, habited in the costume of the ancient citizens of Florence, in a gown of green velvet, and slippers of the same.
According to his English biographer, Mr. Duppa, Michael Angelo was of the middle stature, bony in make, rather spare, and broad shouldered; his complexion good, his forehead square and "somewhat" projecting; his eyes hazel and rather small; his brows with little hair; his nose flat from a blow given him in his youth by Torrigiano; his lips thin; his cranium large in proportion to his face. Within these pages a detail of his works will not be sought. The few particulars mentioned are from Mr. Duppa's quarto life, where many of them are enumerated, and outline sketches of some of them are engraved.
The portrait of Michael Angelo selected by Mr. Duppa, to precede his life, is engraved by Bartolozzi, from a profile in Gori's edition of "Condivi's Memoir." He says its original was a drawing supposed to have been made by Julio Bonasoni, from which Mr. Duppa presumes that artist to have etched a print bearing his name, and dated in the year 1546. There is an engraved portrait dated 1545, without any artist's name attached. Mr. Duppa says, "of these two prints Bonasoni's is much the best; and although the second has a prior date, it appears to have been engraved from the same original." That "original," whatever it was, is no longer in existence. Certainly Bonasoni's print is better as a print, for it has the grace of that master's point, yet as a likeness the print of 1545 seems to the editor of the Every-day Book to have a stronger claim to regard; not beause it is of prior date, but because it has more decisive marks of character. He conjectures, that the anonymous print of 1545 may have been executed from a bust or statue of Michael. There is a laboured precision in the contour, and a close mannered marking of the features, that denote the "original" to have been marble. The conjecture is strengthened by the fact, that the eye in the anonymous print is without an iris; a deficiency which exists in no engraved portraits unless they are executed from a marble "original." While correctness seems to have been the aim of the engraver in this anonymous print, elegance appears to have been the object of the painter Bonasoni in his etching. Bonasoni's portrait is comparatively common; the anonymous one is rare; a copy of it from the print in the editor's possession, is executed on wood, by Mr. T. Williams, and placed under the reader's eye.
Michael Angelo was remarkable for nothing but his genius. He slept little, and was abstemious; he was accustomed to say, "However rich I may have been, I have always lived as a poor man." He obtained the reputation of being proud and odd; for he found little pleasure in the society of men from whom he could not learn, or whom he could not teach. He was pleased by originality of character in whatever rank he met with it; and cultivated in mature life the society of persons respected for their talents and learning. When young he endeavoured to acquaint himself with every branck of knowledge that could contribute to his improvement. In common with all who have obtained a deserved eminence, he was never satisfied with his performances; if he perceived an imperfection that might have been avoided, he either threw aside the work in disgust, or commenced it anew.
He continued to study to the end of his life. In his old age the cardinal Farnese found him walking in solitude amidst the ruins of the Coliseum and expressed his surprise. Michael answered, "I go yet to school that I may continue to learn." He lived much alone. His great excess seems to have been indulgence in reflection, and the labours of his profession. The power of generalizing facts, and realizing what he conceived, he drew from this habit: without it some men have become popular for a time, but no man ever became great.
Grandeur was Michael Angelo's prevailing sentiment. In his architecture of St. Peter's, he seems to have been limited by the impossibility of arriving to excellence without adopting the ancient styles, and the necessity of attempting something great without them; and to speak with the severity of uncompromising truth he failed. Of what else he did in that science, and he did much, for which he obtained deserved renown, there is neither room nor occasion to speak. In painting and sculpture, if he did not always succeed in embodying his feelings, yet he succeeded more frequently than any other artist since the revival of arts; and, as his power was greater than theirs, so he accomplished greater works. His aim was elevated as that of the giants who warred against the fabled gods; in one respect he was unlike them—he conquered. Majestic and wild as nature in her undescribable sublimity, he achieved with corresponding greatness and beauty. His forms and their intellectual expression are of the highest order. He never did any thing little. All was in harmony with a mind which he created of himself by adding fact to fact, by severe reading, by close observation, by study, by seclusion. He was the quarrier, and architect, and builder-up of his own greatness.
Sir Joshua Reynolds speaks with becoming deference of Michael Angelo's powers.—"It will not be thought presumptuous in me to appear in the train, I cannot say of his imitators, but of his admirers. I have taken another course, one more suited to my abilities, and to the taste of the times in which I live. Yet however unequal I feel myself to that attempt, were I now to begin the world again, I would tread in the steps of that great master: to kiss the hem of his garment, to catch the slightest of his perfections, would be glory and distinction enough for an ambitious man. He was the bright luminary from whom painting has borrowed a new lustre, under whose hands it assumed a new appearance, and became another and superior art, and from whom all his contemporaries and successors have derived whatever they have possessed of the dignified and majestic."
There are excellent casts from three of Michael Angelo's statues exhibited by Mr. West at Mr. Bullock's museum, in Piccadilly; they are, Christ, from the church of Sta. Maria at Florence, Lorenzo de Medici from his monument, and the celebrated Moses, from the church of St. Pietro, in Vincoli, at Rome. The editor of the Every-day Book has conversed with persons who think themselves pupils and students in sculpture and painting without having seen these!
Michael Angelo had studied anatomy profoundly. Condivi, who was his pupil and one of his biographers, says that his knowledge of human anatomy and or [sic] other animals was so correct, that those who had studied it as a profession all their lives, scarcely understood it so well. When he began to dissect he conceived disgust from the offensiveness of the operation and desisted; but reflecting that it was disgraceful to abandon what others could achieve, he resumed and pursued it to the fullest extent. Perceiving the utility of Albert Durer's "Treatise on the Proportions of the Human Body," he deemed it capable of improvement. Its rules were in his opinion insufficient and too mechanical, and he contemplated a treatise to exhibit the muscles in their various action. A friend, whom he consulted on the subject, sent him the body of a fine young Moor, which he dissected and made remarks on, but they were never published. The result of his anatomical knowledge may be seen in the powerful muscular developement [sic] of his figures: he left no part undefined.
Several remarks occur in the course of Michael Angelo's letters concerning his art. Speaking of the rivalry between sculpture and painting, he says, "The sculptor arrives at his end by taking away what is superfluous; the painter produces his, by adding the materials which embody the representation to the mind: however, after all, they are both produced by the same intelligence, and the superiority is not worth disputing about, since more time may be lost in the discussion, than would produce the works themselves." At one time, however, Michael Angelo regarded painting with less favour than he expresses in this letter. It is addressed to Varchi, who wrote a dissertation on the subject, and sent it to him with an inquiry, which had divided the amateurs of Florence, as to whether painting or sculpture required the most talent. Varchi's treatise has the merit of having convinced Michael Angelo that he was in error, and with the truth and candour inseparable from such a character he confessed his mistake. "Of the relative importance of painting and sculpture," says Michael Angelo, "I think painting excellent in proportion as it approaches relievo, and relievo bad in proportion as it partakes of the character of a picture, and therefore I was used to be of opinion, that painting might be considered as borrowing light from sculpture, and the difference between them as the sun and moon. Now, however, since I have read your dissertation, which treats the subject philosophically, and shows, that those things which have the same end, are one, and the same, I have changed my opinion, and say, that, if greater judgment, labour, difficulty, and impediment, confer no dignity on the work on which it is bestowed, painting and sculpture may be considered without giving the preeminence to either: and since it has been so considered, no painter ought to undervalue sculpture, and in like manner, no sculptor ought to make light of painting."
Great as Michael Angelo was in art, his intellectual character was greater. "No one," says Mr. Duppa, "ever felt the dignity of human nature with its noblest attributes more forcibly than Michael Angelo, and his disgust at any violation of principle was acute in proportion to his sensibility and love of truth." He despised and shrunk from the shadow of a meanness: hating the heartlessness of unmeaning profession, he regarded the dazzling simulation which constitutes the polish of society as a soul-cloud. With these commanding views of self dignity he poured out his feelings to his friend Luigi del Ricco, in
Translated by Robert Southey Esq.
(From Mr. Duppa's Life of Michael Angelo.)
Ill hath he chosen his part who seeks to please
The worthless world,—ill hath he chosen his part,
For often must he wear the look of ease
When grief is at his heart;
And often in his hours of happier feeling
With sorrow must his countenance be hung,
And ever his own better thoughts concealing
Must in stupid grandeur's praise be loud,
And to the errors of the ignorant crowd
Assent with lying tongue.
Thus much would I conceal—that none should know
What secret cause I have for silent woe;
And taught by many a melancholy proof
That those whom fortune favours it pollutes
I from the blind and faithless world aloof,
Nor fear its envy nor desire its praise,
But choose my path through solitary ways.
It was one of Michael Angelo's high qualities to bear about him an atmosphere which the parasite dared not approach: no heart-eater could live in it.
He justly estimated whatever was influential in society; and hence though he seemed to look down upon rank as an accident of life, he was not regardless of its use. To those whom distinctions had raised, he paid the deference accorded to their dignities. Yet towards him who touched his integrity, he bore a lofty carriage, and when he condescended to resent the attack, hurled an impetuous defiance that kindled as it flew, and consumed the insulting defamer, though he were ensconced behind countless quarterings, or ermined and enthroned. To the constant calumny of jealous rivalry, and the daily lie of envy and enmity, he was utterly indifferent. When asked why he did not resent the aspersions incessantly poured upon him by one of his assailants, he answered—"He who contends with the worthless can gain nothing worth possessing."
Michael Angelo's temper was "sudden and quick;" but his nature was kind and benevolent. Inferior artists frequently experienced his friendly disposition. He sometimes made drawings and modelled for them. To Minigella, a very indifferent hand, he gave the model of a crucifix beautifully executed, from which the poor fellow formed a mould and made casts of papier mache to sell to the country people. Friendship and esteem for particular individuals oftener induced him to undertake works than proffers of large sums. Yet he was not indifferent or insensible to a just estimation of his talents when they were undervalued. For Angelo Doni, a Florentine of taste, he painted a holy family, and sent it home with a note requiring seventy ducats for it. Doni told the messenger he thought forty were enough; Michael replied by demanding the picture or a hundred; Doni said he was willing to pay the seventy; Michael demanded a hundred and forty, and Doni paid the sum.
He honoured worthy men in every station. His purse was open to their necessities; he condoled with them in their afflictions, and lightened their oppressions by his sympathies and influence. To artists and men of talent his liberality was munificent. He neigher loved money nor accumulated it. His gifts were the free-will offerings of his heart, and hence its dispensations were unaccompanied by a notoriety which sullies the purity of primary obligation, by exposing the nakedness of its object.
Conversing one day with his old and faithrul servant, he said, "What will become of you, Urbine, if I should die?" "I must then seek another master" was the reply. "Poor fellow," said Michael, "thou shalt not need another master," and he gave him two thousand crowns. This was a large sum in those days: Vasari says such a donation would only have been expected from popes and great emperors. Michael afterwards procured him an appointment in the Vatican to take care of the pictures, with a monthly salary of six ducats; and preserving his regard for the old man, Michael, though at that time eighty-two years of age, sat up with him by night in his last illness. "His death has been a heavy loss to me," he wrote to Vasari, "and the cause of excessive grief, but it has also been a most impressive lesson of the grace of God: for it has shown me, that he, who in his lifetime comforted me in the enjoyment of life, dying has taught me how to die; not with reluctance, but even with a desire of death. He lived with me twenty-six years, grew rich in my service, and I found him a most rare and faithful servant; and now that I calculated upon his being the staff and repose of my old age he is taken away, and has left me only the hope of seeing him again in paradise."
Michael Angelo was never married. To one who lamented that he had no children to inherit his property, Michael answered, "My works must supply their place; and if they are good for any thing they will live hereafter. It would have been unfortunate for Lorenzo Ghiberti, had he not left the doors of S. Giovanni, for his sons and his nephews have long since sold and dissipated his accumulated wealth; but his sculpture remains, and will continue to record his name to future ages." These "doors" were of bronze. When Michael was asked his opinion of them, he said they were fit to be the doors of paradise.
Throughout the poetry of Michael Angelo, of which there is much in existence, love is a pervading sentiment, though, without reference to any particular object. Condivi had often heard him discourse upon it as a passion platonically; and Mr. Duppa gives the following sonnet, translated from the Italian of Michael Angelo by Mr. Wordsworth, as exemplifying Michael's turn of thought:
BY MICHAEL ANGELO.
Yes! hope may with my strong desire keep pace,
And I be undeluded, unbetray'd;
For, if of our affections none find grace
In sight of Heaven, then wherefore hath God made
The world which we inhabit? Better plea
Love cannot have, than that in loving thee,
Glory to that eternal Peace is paid,
Who such divinity to thee imparts
As hallows and makes pure all gentle hearts.
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.
The personal beauty and intellectual endowments of Vittoria Colonna, marchioness of Pescara, impressed Michael Angelo with sentiments of affectionate esteem. She admired his genius, and frequently left her residence at Viterbo for the sole purpose of enjoying his society at Rome. He addressed three sonnets and a madrigal to her. In her last moments he paid her a visit, and told Condivi he grieved he had not kissed her cheek, as he had her hand, for there was little hope of his ever seeing her again. He penned an epitaph on her decease: the recollection of her death constantly dejected him.
To the purity of his thoughts, there is a high testimony by Condivi. "In a long intimacy, I have never heard from his mouth a single word that was not perfectly decorous, and had not for its object to extinguish in youth every improper and lawless desire: his nature is a stranger to depravity." He was religious, not by the show, but from feeling and conviction.
As an instance, a short poetical supplication, translated by Mr. Duppa into prose, is remarkable for its self-knowledge and simplicity; it is here subjoined:—
"To the Supreme Being.
"My prayers will be sweet if thou sendest me virtue to make them worthy to be heard; my unfruitful soil cannot produce virtue of itself. Thou knowest the seed, and how to sow it, that it may spring up in the mind to produce just and pious works: if thou showest not the hallowed path, no one by his own knowledge can follow thee. Pour thou into my mind the thoughts that may conduct me in thy holy stops; and endue me with a fervent tongue, that I may alway praise, exalt, and sing thy glory."
Finally, it may be added, that in an age of splendid vice, Michael Angelo was an illustrious example of virtue.
TO MICHAEL ANGELO—IMMORTAL
Michael! to what thou wert, if I could raise
An aspiration, or a holy light,
Within one reader, I'd essay to praise
Thy virtue; and would supplicate the muse
For flowers to deck thy greatness: so I might
But urge one youthful artist on to choose
A life like thine, I would attempt the hill
Where well inspiring floods, and thence would drink
Till—as the Pythoness of old, the will
No longer then controll'd by sense—I'd think
Alone of good and thee, and with loud cries,
Break the dead slumber of undeeming man,
Refresh him with a gush of truth, surprise
Him with thy deeds, and show him thine was Wisdom's plan.
This zodiacal sign is said to symbolize the fishery of the Nile, which usually commenced at this season of the year. According to an ancient fable, it represents Venus and Cupid, who, to avoid Typhon, a dreadful giant with a hundred heads, transformed themselves into fish. This fabulous monster, it seems, threw the whole host of heathen deities into confusion. His story shortly is, that as soon as he was born, he began to avenge the death of his brethren, the giants who had warred against Olympus, by resuming conflict alone. Flames of fire darted from his eyes and mouths; he uttered horrid yells, and so frightened the pagan celestials, that Jupiter himself became a ram, Juno a cow, Mercury an ibis, Apollo a crow, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Venus a fish, &c. till Jupiter hurled a rock and buried him under Ætna. The idol Dagon, with a human head and arms, and a fish's tail, is affirmed to be the symbol of the sun in Pisces, and to allegorize that the earth teems with corn and fruits.The sun generally enters Pisces about the period of February; for instance, in 1824 on the 16th, in 1825 on the 18th of the month. The Romans imagined that the entrance of the sun into Pisces was attended by bad weather, and gales of uncertainty to the mariner.*  Thomson sings, that in this month—
Muttering, the winds at eve, with blunted point,
Blow hollow-blustering from the south. Subdued,
The frost resolves into a trickling thaw.
Spotted, the mountains shine; loose sleet descends,
And floods the country round. The rivers swell,
Of bonds impatient. Sudden from the hills,
O'er rocks and woods, in broad, brown cataracts,
A thousand snow-fed torrents shoot at once;
And where they rush, the wide resounding plain
Is left one slimy waste.
Notes [All notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Dr. Forster's Perenn. Cal. [return]