Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part First. III. Cardinal Ippolito

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Michael Angelo: A Fragment

Part First. III. Cardinal Ippolito

SCENE I.—A richly furnished apartment in the Palace of CARDINAL IPPOLITO. Night.

JACOPO NARDI, an old man, alone.

I AM bewildered. These Numidian slaves,

In strange attire; these endless antechambers;

This lighted hall, with all its golden splendors,

Pictures, and statues! Can this be the dwelling

Of a disciple of that lowly Man

Who had not where to lay his head? These statues

Are not of Saints; nor is this a Madonna,

This lovely face, that with such tender eyes

Looks down upon me from the painted canvas.

My heart begins to fail me. What can he

Who lives in boundless luxury at Rome

Care for the imperilled liberties of Florence,

Her people, her Republic? Ah, the rich

Feel not the pangs of banishment. All doors

Are open to them, and all hands extended.

The poor alone are outcasts; they who risked

All they possessed for liberty, and lost;

And wander through the world without a friend,

Sick, comfortless, distressed, unknown, uncared for.

SCENE II.—JACOPO NARDI; CARDINAL IPPOLITO, in Spanish cloak and slouched hat.

I pray you pardon me if I have kept you

Waiting so long alone.

I wait to see

The Cardinal.

I am the Cardinal;

And you?

Jacopo Nardi.

You are welcome.

I was expecting you. Philippo Strozzi

Had told me of your coming.

’T was his son

That brought me to your door.

Pray you, be seated.

You seem astonished at the garb I wear,

But at my time of life, and with my habits,

The petticoats of a Cardinal would be—

Troublesome; I could neither ride nor walk,

Nor do a thousand things, if I were dressed

Like an old dowager. It were putting wine

Young as the young Astyanax into goblets

As old as Priam.

Oh, your Eminence

Knows best what you should wear.

Dear Messer Nardi,

You are no stranger to me. I have read

Your excellent translation of the books

Of Titus Livius, the historian

Of Rome, and model of all historians

That shall come after him. It does you honor;

But greater honor still the love you bear

To Florence, our dear country, and whose annals

I hope your hand will write, in happier days

Than we now see.

Your Eminence will pardon

The lateness of the hour.

The hours I count not

As a sun-dial; but am like a clock,

That tells the time as well by night as day.

So, no excuse. I know what brings you here.

You come to speak of Florence.

And her woes.

The duke, my cousin, the black Alessandro,

Whose mother was a Moorish slave, that fed

The sheep upon Lorenzo’s farm, still lives

And reigns.

Alas, that such a scourge

Should fall on such a city!

When he dies,

The Wild Boar in the gardens of Lorenzo,

The beast obscene, should be the monument

Of this bad man.

He walks the streets at night

With revellers, insulting honest men.

No house is sacred from his lusts. The convents

Are turned by him to brothels, and the honor

Of woman and all ancient pious customs

Are quite forgotten now. The offices

Of the Priori and Gonfalonieri

Have been abolished. All the magistrates

Are now his creatures. Liberty is dead.

The very memory of all honest living

Is wiped away, and even our Tuscan tongue

Corrupted to a Lombard dialect.

And, worst of all, his impious hand has broken

The Martinella,—our great battle bell,

That, sounding through three centuries, has led

The Florentines to victory,—lest its voice

Should waken in their soul some memory

Of far-off times of glory.

What a change

Ten little years have made! We all remember

Those better days, when Niccolà Capponi,

The Gonfaloniere, from the windows

Of the Old Palace, with the blast of trumpets,

Proclaimed to the inhabitants that Christ

Was chosen King of Florence; and already

Christ is dethroned, and slain; and in his stead

Reigns Lucifer! Alas, alas, for Florence!

Lilies with lilies, said Savonarola;

Florence and France! But I say Florence only,

Or only with the Emperor’s hand to help us

In sweeping out the rubbish.

Little hope

Of help is there from him. He has betrothed

His daughter Margaret to this shameless Duke.

What hope have we from such an Emperor?

Baccio Valori and Philippo Strozzi,

Once the Duke’s friends and intimates, are with us,

And Cardinals Salvati and Ridolfi.

We shall soon see, then, as Valori says,

Whether the Duke can best spare honest men,

Or honest men the Duke.

We have determined

To send ambassadors to Spain, and lay

Our griefs before the Emperor, though I fear

More than I hope.

The Emperor is busy

With this new war against the Algerines,

And has no time to listen to complaints

From our ambassadors; nor will I trust them,

But go myself. All is in readiness

For my departure, and to-morrow morning

I shall go down to Itri, where I meet

Dante da Castiglione and some others,

Republicans and fugitives from Florence,

And then take ship at Gaëta, and go

To join the Emperor in his new crusade

Against the Turk. I shall have time enough

And opportunity to plead our cause.

NARDI, rising.
It is an inspiration, and I hail it

As of good omen. May the power that sends it

Bless our beloved country, and restore

Its banished citizens. The soul of Florence

Is now outside its gates. What lies within

Is but a corpse, corrupted and corrupting.

Heaven help us all. I will not tarry longer,

For you have need of rest. Good-night.



Fra Bastiano, how your portly presence

Contrasts with that of the spare Florentine

Who has just left me!

As we passed each other,

I saw that he was weeping.

Poor old man!

Who is he?

Jacopo Nardi. A brave soul;

One of the Fuorusciti, and the best

And noblest of them all; but he has made me

Sad with his sadness. As I look on you

My heart grows lighter. I behold a man

Who lives in an ideal world, apart

From all the rude collisions of our life,

In a calm atmosphere.

Your Eminence

Is surely jesting. If you knew the life

Of artists as I know it, you might think

Far otherwise.

But wherefore should I jest?

The world of art is an ideal world,—

The world I love, and that I fain would live in;

So speak to me of artists and of art,

Of all the painters, sculptors, and musicians

That now illustrate Rome.

Of the musicians,

I know but Goudimel, the brave maestro

And chapel-master of his Holiness,

Who trains the Papal choir.

In church, this morning,

I listened to a mass of Goudimel,

Divinely chanted. In the Incarnatus,

In lieu of Latin words, the tenor sang

With infinite tenderness, in plain Italian,

A Neapolitan love-song.

You amaze me.

Was it a wanton song?

Not a divine one.

I am not over-scrupulous, as you know,

In word or deed, yet such a song as that,

Sung by the tenor of the Papal choir,

And in a Papal mass, seemed out of place;

There ’s something wrong in it.

There ’s something wrong

In everything. We cannot make the world

Go right. ’T is not my business to reform

The Papal choir.

Nor mine, thank Heaven!

Then tell me of the artists.

Naming one

I name them all; for there is only one:

His name is Messer Michael Angelo.

All art and artists of the present day

Centre in him.

You count yourself as nothing?

Or less than nothing, since I am at best

Only a portrait-painter; one who draws

With greater or less skill, as best he may,

The features of a face.

And you have had

The honor, nay, the glory, of portraying

Julia Gonzaga! Do you count as nothing

A privilege like that? See there the portrait

Rebuking you with its divine expression.

Are you not penitent? He whose skilful hand

Painted that lovely picture has not right

To vilipend the art of portrait-painting.

But what of Michael Angelo?

But lately

Strolling together down the crowded Corso,

We stopped, well pleased, to see your Eminence

Pass on an Arab steed, a noble creature,

Which Michael Angelo, who is a lover

Of all things beautiful, and especially

When they are Arab horses, much admired,

And could not praise enough.

IPPOLITO, to an attendant.
Hassan, to-morrow,

When I am gone, but not till I am gone,—

Be careful about that,—take Barbarossa

To Messer Michael Angelo the sculptor,

Who lives there at Macello dei Corvi,

Near to the Capitol; and take besides

Some ten mule-loads of provender, and say

Your master sends them to him as a present.

A princely gift. Though Michael Angelo

Refuses presents from his Holiness,

Yours he will not refuse.

You think him like

Thymœtes, who received the wooden horse

Into the walls of Troy. That book of Virgil

Have I translated in Italian verse,

And shall, some day, when we have leisure for it,

Be pleased to read you. When I speak of Troy

I am reminded of another town

And of a lovelier Helen, our dear Countess

Julia Gonzaga. You remember, surely,

The adventure with the corsair Barbarossa,

And all that followed?

A most strange adventure;

A tale as marvellous and full of wonder

As any in Boccaccio or Sacchetti;

Almost incredible!

Were I a painter

I should not want a better theme than that:

The lovely lady fleeing through the night

In wild disorder; and the brigands’ camp

With the red fire-light on their swarthy faces.

Could you not paint it for me?

No, not I.

It is not in my line.

Then you shall paint

The portrait of the corsair, when we bring him

A prisoner chained to Naples; for I feel

Something like admiration for a man

Who dared this strange adventure.

I will do it.

But catch the corsair first.

You may begin

To-morrow with the sword. Hassan, come hither;

Bring me the Turkish scimitar that hangs

Beneath the picture yonder. Now unsheathe it.

’T is a Damascus blade; you see the inscription

In Arabic: La Allah! illa Allah!

There is no God but God.

How beautiful

In fashion and in finish! It is perfect.

The Arsenal of Venice cannot boast

A finer sword.

You like it? It is yours.

You do not mean it.

I am not a Spaniard,

To say that it is yours and not to mean it.

I have at Itri a whole armory

Full of such weapons. When you paint the portrait

Of Barbarossa, it will be of use.

You have not been rewarded as you should be

For painting the Gonzaga. Throw this bauble

Into the scale, and make the balance equal.

Till then suspend it in your studio;

You artists like such trifles.

I will keep it

In memory of the donor. Many thanks.

Fra Bastian, I am growing tired of Rome,

The old dead city, with the old dead people;

Priests everywhere, like shadows on a wall,

And morning, noon, and night the ceaseless sound

Of convent bells. I must be gone from here;

Though Ovid somewhere says that Rome is worthy

To be the dwelling-place of all the Gods,

I must be gone from here. To-morrow morning

I start for Itri, and go thence by sea

To join the Emperor, who is making war

Upon the Algerines; perhaps to sink

Some Turkish galleys, and bring back in chains

The famous corsair. Thus would I avenge

The beautiful Gonzaga.

An achievement

Worthy of Charlemagne, or of Orlando.

Berni and Ariosto both shall add

A canto to their poems, and describe you

As Furioso and Innamorato.

Now I must say good-night.

You must not go;

First you shall sup with me. My seneschal,

Giovan Andrea dal Borgo a San Sepolcro,—

I like to give the whole sonorous name,

It sounds so like a verse of the Æneid,—

Has brought me eels fresh from the Lake of Fondi,

And Lucrine oysters cradled in their shells;

These, with red Fondi wine, the Cæcuban

That Horace speaks of, under a hundred keys

Kept safe, until the heir of Posthumus

Shall stain the pavement with it, make a feast

Fit for Lucullus, or Fra Bastian even;

So we will go to supper, and be merry.

Beware! Remember that Bolsena’s eels

And Vernage wine once killed a Pope of Rome!

’T was a French Pope; and then so long ago;

Who knows?—perhaps the story is not true.