Michelangelo Buonarroti

Tuesday 26 November 2013 13:15

This is a sonnet addressed to Michelangelo’s love Tommaso di Cavalieri, who was 23 when he and Michaelangelo met. Michelangelo was 57 and already regarded as the greatest artist of his day. In all, Michelangelo dedicated about 30 of his poems to him. These love poems predate Shakespeare’s great sonnet sequence by 50 years. Di Cavalieri and Michelangelo remained lifelong friends and he was present at the artist’s deathbed.

The Silkworm

for Kit Fryatt

Of others pitiful, ruthless only of itself

A worthless creature, that with pain and wretchedness

Clothes another’s hand and strips and peels his own

And only for death may one say he was well-born.

All for my Lord I wish myself the same fate

To dress his life with my bare death,

That, like a snake who sheds his skin at a stone,

Through death I might change my state.

    If only that bristly skin were mine

To play against his skin, to make such a gown

Lucky enough to squeeze so fair a breast

Even in the bright air of day; or even the slippers

to make of themselves his foundation and support,

So to carry him two winter’s snowfalls at the least.

D’altrui pietoso e sol di sé spietato

D’altrui pietoso e sol di sé spietato
nasce un vil bruto, che con pena e doglia
l’altrui man veste e la suo scorza spoglia
e sol per morte si può dir ben nato.
  Così volesse al mie signor mie fato
vestir suo viva di mie morta spoglia,
che, come serpe al sasso si discoglia,
pur per morte potria cangiar mie stato.
  O fussi sol la mie l’irsuta pelle
che, del suo pel contesta, fa tal gonna
che con ventura stringe sì bel seno,
  ch’i’ l’are’ pure il giorno; o le pianelle
che fanno a quel di lor basa e colonna,
ch’i’ pur ne porterei duo nevi almeno.

The original text is courtesy of Wikisource and is Creative Commons, as is my translation.