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MICHAEL ANGELO. Ah, Messer Bindo, the calamities, The fallen fortunes, and the desolation Of Florence are to me a tragedy Deeper than words, and darker than despair. I, who have worshipped freedom from my
cradle, Have loved her with the passion of a lover, And clothed her with all lovely attributes That the imagination can conceive, Or the heart conjure up, now see her dead, And trodden in the dust beneath the feet Of an adventurer! It is a grief Too great for me to bear in my old age.
I have not time to stay, And yet I will. I see from here your house Is filled with works of art. That bust in
bronze Is of yourself. Tell me, who is the master That works in such an admirable way, And with such power and feeling ?
BINDO. I say no news from Florence: I am wrong, For Benvenuto writes that he is coming To be my guest in Rome.
Its vaulted passages are made the caverns
Because I marvel at the architects
noble arches? Oh, I am put to shame, when I consider How mean our work is, when compared with
theirs ! Look at these walls about us and above us ! They have been shaken by earthquakes,
have been made A fortress, and been battered by long sieges; The iron clamps, that held the stones to
gether, Have been wrenched from them; but they
stand erect And firm, as if they had been hewn and
hollowed Out of the solid rock, and were a part Of the foundations of the world itself.
A thousand wild flowers bloom From every chink, and the birds build their
nests Among the ruined arches, and suggest New thoughts of beauty to the architect. Now let us climb the broken stairs that lead Into the corridors above, and study The marvel and the mystery of that art In which I am a pupil, not a master. All things must have an end; the world it
self Must have an end, as in a dream I saw it. There came a great hand out of heaven, and
touched The earth, and stopped it in its course. The
seas Leaped, a vast cataract, into the abyss ; The forests and the fields slid off, and floated
Your work, I say again, is nobler work, In so far as its end and aim are nobler ; And this is but a ruin, like the rest.
Elsewhere than here. There may be other
cities That please us for a while, but Rome alone Completely satisfies. It becomes to all A second native land by predilection, And not by accident of birth alone.
Like wooded islands in the air. The dead Were hurled forth from their sepulchres;
the living Were mingled with them, and themselves
were dead, All being dead; and the fair, shining cities Dropped out like jewels from a broken crown. Naught but the core of the great globe re
mained, A skeleton of stone. And over it The wrack of matter drifted like a cloud, And then recoiled upon itself, and fell Back on the empty world, that with the
weight Reeled, staggered, righted, and then headlong
plunged Into the darkness, as a ship, when struck By a great sea, throws off the waves at
first On either side, then settles and goes down Into the dark abyss, with her dead crew.
I am but just arrived, and am now lodging
And to find him
Grown very old.
You know that precious stones Never grow old.
By believing it. I saw the bust at Messer Bindo's house, And thought it worthy of the ancient mas
ters, And said so. That is all.
It is too much ; And I should stand abashed here in your
presence, Had I done nothing worthier of your praise Than Bindo's bust.
But ah, what infinite trouble have I had
ence, Or thoughts of Perseus. What malignant
falsehoods They told the Grand Duke, to impede my
work, And make me desperate!
MICHAEL ANGELO. What have you done that's better?
BENVENUTO. When I left Rome for Paris, you remember I promised you that if I went a goldsmith I would return a sculptor. I have kept The promise I then made.
Dear Benvenuto, I recognized the latent genius in you, But feared your vices.
The nimble lie Is like the second-hand upon a clock; We see it fly; while the hour-hand of truth Seems to stand still, and yet it moves
seen, And wins at last, for the clock will not
strike Till it has reached the goal.
My obstinacy Stood me in stead, and helped me to o'er
I have turned them all To virtues. My impatient, wayward nature, That made me quick in quarrel, now has
served me Where meekness could not, and where pa
tience could not, As you
shall hear now. I have cast in bronze A statue of Perseus, holding thus aloft In his left hand the head of the Medusa, And in his right the sword that severed it; His right foot planted on the lifeless corse ; His face superb and pitiful, with eyes Down-looking on the victim of his vengeance.