ΤΑ ΣΟΝΕΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΑΓΓΕΛΟΥ ΕΜΠΝΕΥΣΗ ΔΗΜΙΟΥΡΓΙΑΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΚΛΑΣΙΚΗ ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ
Δεν είναι ευρέως γνωστό ότι ο Μιχαήλ Αγγελος ασχολήθηκε με την ποίηση. Παρόλα αυτά, ήταν ο πρώτος ζωγράφος με σημαντική συνεισφορά στα “λογοτεχνικά δρώμενα” της εποχής του. Μετά τον θάνατο του αναγνωρίστηκε ως ένας κορυφαίος λυρικός ποιητής. Τουναντίον, τα περισσότερα ποιήματα του παραμένουν μέχρι σήμερα, ανέκδοτα. Στην βιογραφία του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου από τον Vasari το 1550 -προφανώς στην πρώτη βιογραφία δυτικού καλλιτέχνη που εκδίδεται ενώ ακόμα βρίσκεται εν ζωή- οι αναγνώστες ενθαρρύνονται να ασχοληθούν με την ποίηση του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου.
“…….read the lovely canzoni and the magnificentt sonnets, written with the greatest of care, made into songs by famous poets and musicians, read and commentated by learned men in the most celebrated academies throughout Italy.”
Ο Μιχαήλ Άγγελος έγραψε κυρίως επιγράμματα, σονέτα και μαδριγάλια. Ο Hugo Wolf είναι ο πρώτος συνθέτης που έγραψε μια σειρά από τραγούδια, βασισμένα στην ποίηση του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου. Η μουσική του εκφράζει την ευθραυστότητα της θνητότητας, το αναπόφευκτο………Το 1940, ο 27χρονος Britten συνθέτει το έργο του “7 Sonnets of Michelangelo” για τον Peter Pears, το οποίο κάνει πρεμιέρα στο Λονδίνο το 1942.
Peter Pears & Benjamin Britten perform «Michelangelo Sonnets» – RARE – pt. I
1 Sonetto XVI
Sì come nella penna e nell’ inchiostro
E I’alto e ’I basso e ’I mediocre stile,
E ne’ marmi l’imagin ricca e
vile, Secondo che ’I sa trar l’ingegno nostro; Così, signor mie car, nel petto vostro, Quante I’orgoglio, è
forse ogni atto umile: Ma io sol quel c’a me propio è e simile Ne traggo, come fuor nel viso mostro. Chi semina sospir, lacrime e doglie,s (L’umor dal ciel terreste, schietto e solo, A’ vari semi vario si converte),
Però pianto e dolor ne miete e coglie;
Chi mira alta beltà con sì gran duolo, Dubbie speranze, e pene acerbe e certe.
2 Sonetto XXXI
A che più debb’io mai l’intensa voglia
Sfogar con pianti o con parole meste,
Se di tal sorte ’I ciel, che I’alma veste,
Tard’ o per tempo, alcun mai non ne spoglia? A che ’I cor lass’ a più morir m’invoglia, S’altri pur dee morir? Dunque per queste Luci
I’ore del fin fian men moleste;
Ch’ogn’ altro ben val men ch’ogni mia doglia. Però se ’I colpo, ch’io ne rub’ e ’ nvolo, Schifar non poss’; almen, s’è destinato,
Chi entrerà ’nfra la dolcezza e ’I duolo?
Se vint’ e pres’ i’ debb’esser beato, Maraviglia non è se, nud’ e solo,
Resto prigion d’un Cavalier armato.
Just as there is a high, a low, and a middle style in pen and ink, and as within the marble are images rich and poor, according as our fancy knows how to draw them forth;
so within your heart, dear love, there are perhaps, as well as pride, some humble feelings; but I draw thence only what is my desert
and like to what I show outside on my face. Whoever sows sighs, tears and lamentations (Heavens moisture on earth, simple and pure,
adapts itself differently to different seeds)
reaps and gathers grief and sadness:
whoever looks on high beauty with so great a grief reaps doubtful hopes and sure and bitter pain.
Why must I go on venting my ardent desire in tears and melancholy words,
if Heaven that dresses the soul in grief, never, soon or late, allows relief?
Why should my weary heart long for death since all must die? So to these eyes
my last hours will be less painful,
all my grief being greater than any joy.
If, therefore, I cannot avoid these blows,
nay, even seek them, since it is my fate,
who is the one that stands always between
joy and grief? If to be happy I must be conquered
and held captive, no wonder then that I,
unarmed and alone, remain the prisoner of a Cavalier-in-arms.
3 Sonetto XXX
Veggio co’ bei vostri occhi un dolce lume, Che co’ miei ciechi già veder non posso; Porto co’ vostri piedi un pondo addosso, Che de’ mie zoppi non è
già costume.Volo con le vostr’ale senza piume;
Col vostr’ingegno al ciel sempre son mosso; Dal vostr’arbitrio son pallido e rosso, Freddo al sol, caldo alle più fredde brume. Nel voler vostro è sol la voglia mia,
I mie’ pensier nel vostro cor si fanno,
Nel vostro fiato son le mie parole.
Come luna da sè sol par ch’io sia;
Che gli occhi nostri in ciel veder non sanno Se non quel tanto che n’accende il sole.
4 Sonetto LV
Tu sa’ ch’io so, signor mie, che tu sai
Ch’i veni per goderti più da presso;
E sai ch’i’ so, che tu sa’ ch’i’ son dessi:
A che più indugio a salutarci o mai?
Se vera è la speranza che mi dai,
Se vero è ’I buon desio che m’è concesso. Rompasi il mur fra l’uno e I’altro messo;
Chè doppia forza hann’ i celati guai.
S’i amo sol di te, signor mie caro,
Quel che di te più ami, non ti sdegni;
Che I’un dell’altro spirto s’innamora.
Quel che nel tuo bel volto bramo e ‘mparo, E mal compres’ è degli umani ingegni,
Chi ’I vuol veder, convien che prima mora.
5 Sonetto XXXVIII
Rendete a gli occhi miei, o fonte o fiume, L’onde della non vostra e salda vena,
Che più v’innalza, e cresce, e con più lena Che non è ’I vostro natural costume.
E tu, folt’ air, che ’I celeste lume
Tempri a’ tristi occhi, de’ sospir miei piena, Rendigli al cor mio lasso e rasserena
Tua scura faccia al mio visivo acume.
With your lovely eyes I see a sweet light that yet with my blind ones I cannot see; with your feet I carry a weight on my back which
with my lame ones I cannot;
with your wings I, wingless, fly;
with your spirit I move forever heavenward;
at your wish I blush or turn pale,
cold in the sunshine, or hot in the coldest winter. My will is in your will alone,
my thoughts are born in your heart.
my words are on your breath.
Alone, I am like the moon in the sky
which our eyes cannot see
save that part which the sun illumines.
Thou know’st, beloved, that I know thou know’st that I am come nearer to enjoy thee more;
and thou know’st that I know thou know’st
that I am still the same.
Why, then, do I hesitate to greet thee?
If the hope thou gives me is true,
If true the strong desire that is granted me,
the wall between us crumbles, for secret griefs
have double force. If I love
in thee, beloved,only what thou lovest most, do not be angry;
for so one spirit is enamoured of another.
That which in thy lovely face I yearn for and seek to grasp, is but ill understood by human kind,
and he that would see it, first must die.
Give back to my eyes. you fountains and rivers,
the waves of those strong currents that are not yours which make you swell and grow with greater power than is your natural way.
And thou, heavy air,
that dims the heavenly light to my sad eyes
so full of my sighs art thou, give them back
to my weary heart and lighten thy dark face
to my eye’s keen sight.
Renda la terra i passi alle mie piante, Ch’ancor I’erba germogli che gli è tolta;
E ’I suono Ecco, già sorda a’ miei lamenti; Gli squardi a gli occhi mie, tue luci sante, Ch’io possa altra bellezza un’altra volta Amar, po’che di me non
6 Sonetto XXXII
S’un casto amor, s’una pietà superna, S’una fortuna infra dua amanti equale, S’un’aspra sorte all’un dell’altro cale,
S’un spirto, s’un voler duo cor governa; S’un’anima in duo corpi è fatta eterna, Ambo levando al cielo e con pari ale; S’amor d’un
colpo e d’un dorato strale
Le viscier di duo petti arda e discerna; S’amar l’un I’altro, e nessun se medesimo, D’un gusto e d’un diletto, a tal mercede, C’a un fin
voglia I’uno e I’altro porre;
Se mille e mille non sarien centesmo
A tal nodo d’amore, a tanta fede;
E sol l’isdegno il può rompere e sciorre?
7 Sonetto XXIV
Spirto ben nato, in cui si specchia e vede Nelle tuo belle membra oneste e care Quante natura e ’I ciel tra no’ può fare, Quand’ a
null’altra suo bell’opra cede; Spirto leggiadro, in cui si spera e crede Dentro, come di fuor nel viso appare, Amor, pietà, mercè; cose
Che mà furn’in beltà con tanta fede; L’amor mi prende, e la beltà mi lega;
La pietà, la mercè con dolci sguardi Ferma speranz’al cor par che ne doni. Qual uso o qual governo al mondo niega, Qual crudeltà
per tempo, o qual più tardi, C’a sì bel viso morte non perdoni?
MICHELANGELO BUONAROTTI (1475–1564)
Earth, give me back my footsteps
that the grass may sprout again where it was trod;
and Echo, yet deaf to my laments, give back thy sound; and you blest pupils give back to my eyes their glances; that I another time
may love another beauty,
since with me you are not satisfied.
If love be chaste, if pity heavenly,
if fortune equal between two lovers;
if a bitter fate is shared by both, and if one spirit,
one will rules two hearts;
if in two bodies one soul is made eternal,
raising both to heaven on the same wings;
if at one stroke and with a gilded arrow love burns
and pierces two hearts to the core;
if in loving one another, forgetting one’s self,
with one pleasure and one delight there
is such reward that both wills strive for the same end;
if thousands and thousands do not make one hundredth part to such a bond of love, to such constancy, can,
then, mere anger break and dissolve it?
Noble soul, in whose chaste and dear limbs
are reflected all that nature and heaven
can achieve with us, the paragon of their works: graceful soul, within whom one hopes and believes Love, Pity and Mercy are dwelling,
as they appear in your face;
things so rare and never found in beauty so truly: Love takes me captive, and Beauty binds me;
Pity and Mercy with sweet glances
fill my heart with a strong hope.
What law or earthly government,
what cruelty now or to come,
could forbid Death
to spare such a lovely face?
(Translations by ELIZABETH MAYER and PETER PEARS)
Peter Pears sings «Michelangelo Sonnets» – LIVE – RARE!
Τα αρχικά σονέτα που αποτέλεσαν την έμπνευση για τον Britten είναι:
_LOVE AND ART._ _Si come nella penna._
As pen and ink alike serve him who sings
In high or low or intermediate style;
As the same stone hath shapes both rich and vile To match the fancies that
each master brings;
So, my loved lord, within thy bosom springs
Pride mixed with meekness and kind thoughts that smile: Whence I draw
nought, my sad self to beguile,
But what my face shows–dark imaginings.
He who for seed sows sorrow, tears, and sighs,
(The dews that fall from heaven, though pure and clear,
From different germs take divers qualities) Must needs reap grief and
garner weeping eyes;
And he who looks on beauty with sad cheer, Gains doubtful hope and
To TOMMASO DE’ CAVALIERI. _LOVE’S LORDSHIP. _ __A che piu debb’ io._
Why should I seek to ease intense desire
With still more tears and windy words of grief, When heaven, or
late or soon, sends no relief
To souls whom love hath robed around with fire?
Why need my aching heart to death aspire,
When all must die? Nay, death beyond belief Unto these eyes would be
both sweet and brief, Since in my sum of woes all joys expire!
Therefore because I cannot shun the blow
I rather seek, say who must rule my breast, Gliding between her gladness
and her woe?
If only chains and bands can make me blest,
No marvel if alone and bare I go
An armed Knight’s captive and slave confessed.
TO TOMMASO DE’ CAVALIERI. _LOVE THE LIGHT-GIVER._ _Veggio co’ bei vostri occhi._
With your fair eyes a charming light I see,
For which my own blind eyes would peer in vain; Stayed by your feet the burden I sustain
Which my lame feet find all too strong for me;
Wingless upon your pinions forth I fly; Heavenward your spirit stirreth me
to strain; E’en as you will, I blush and blanch again, Freeze in the sun, burn
‘neath a frosty sky.
Your will includes and is the lord of mine;Life to my thoughts within your heart is given; My words begin to breathe
upon your breath:
Like to the moon am I, that cannot shine Alone; for lo! our eyes see nought
in heaven Save what the living sun illumineth.
_LOVE’S ENTREATY._ _Tu sa’ ch’ i’ so, Signor mie._
Thou knowest, love, I know that thou dost know That I am here more near
to thee to be,
And knowest that I know thou knowest me: What means it then that we are sundered so?
If they are true, these hopes that from thee flow,
If it is real, this sweet expectancy,
Break down the wall that stands ‘twixt me and thee;
For pain in prison pent hath double woe.
Because in thee I love, O my loved lord,
What thou best lovest, be not therefore stern: Souls burn for souls, spirits
to spirits cry!
I seek the splendour in thy fair face stored;
Yet living man that beauty scarce can learn, And he who fain would find it,
first must die.
_LOVE’S VAIN EXPENSE._ _Rendete a gli occhi miei._
Give back unto mine eyes, ye fount and rill,
Those streams, not yours,
that are so full and strong, That swell your springs, and roll your waves along With force unwonted in your native
And thou, dense air, weighed with my sighs so chill, That hidest heaven’s
own light thick mists among, Give back those sighs to my sad heart, nor
wrong My visual ray with thy dark face of ill!
Let earth give back the footprints that I wore, That the bare grass I spoiled
may sprout again; And Echo, now grown deaf, my cries return!
Loved eyes, unto mine eyes those looks restore, And let me woo another
not in vain,
Since how to please thee I shall never learn!
_LOVE’S EXPOSTULATION._ _S’ un casto amor._
If love be chaste, if virtue conquer ill,
If fortune bind both lovers in one bond, If either at the other’s grief
If both be governed by one life, one will;
If in two bodies one soul triumph still,
Raising the twain from earth to heaven beyond,
If Love with one blow and one golden wand
Have power both smitten breasts to pierce and thrill;
If each the other love, himself forgoing,
With such delight, such savour, and so well, That both to one sole end their
If thousands of these thoughts, all thought outgoing, Fail the least part of
their firm love to tell:
Say, can mere angry spite this knot untwine?
_THE DOOM OF BEAUTY._ _Spirto ben nato._
Choice soul, in whom, as in a glass, we see,
Mirrored in thy pure form and delicate, What beauties heaven and nature
can create, The paragon of all their works to be!
Fair soul, in whom love, pity, piety,
Have found a home, as from thy outward state We clearly read, and are so
rare and great That they adorn none other like to thee!
Love takes me captive; beauty binds my soul; Pity and mercy with their
gentle eyes Wake in my heart a hope that cannot cheat.
What law, what destiny, what fell control,
What cruelty, or late or soon, denies
That death should spare perfection so complete?
Ο Shostakovich όπως και ο Wolf εμπνέεται και συνθέτει το έργο “Suite on Verses of Michelangelo” το 1974 προς το τέλος της ζωής του. Η παρουσία του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου ως γλύπτη υπάρχει παντού, σε μια staccato και σφυρήλατη συνοδεία πιάνου στο έργο. Ο πρόλογος του έργου ονομάζεται “Truth” (Αλήθεια) και ο επίλογος “Immortality” (Aθανασία). Αποτελείται από τρία σύνολα τριών σονέτων. H σουίτα περιέχει έντεκα κινήσεις συναισθηματικά φορτισμένες που εκτείνονται από τον βαριά απαισιόδοξο και σκοτεινό λυρισμό, μέχρι την βίαιη διαμαρτυρία. Ο Shostakovich χρησιμοποίησε δικούς του τίτλους και είναι φανερό οτι αυτοί είχαν κάποια ιδιαίτερη σημασία για εκείνον. Η σουίτα ολοκληρώθηκε το 1974 όταν ειχε ήδη μάθει την θλιβερή κατάσταση της υγείας του. Έτσι τα τραγούδια αυτά γράφτηκαν σε μια εποχή που η απειλή του θανάτου ήταν ολοφάνερη και γι’αυτό φαίνεται ότι αντιπροσωπεύουν την προσωπική του προσπάθεια να συμβιβαστεί με το ασυμβίβαστο και να προσδιορίσει την μοναδική του θέση ως καλλιτέχνη μέσα στην Σοβιετική ένωση. Στο πρώτο μισό του κύκλου της σουίτας του Σοστακόβιτς, τρία “αντισυμβατικά” τραγούδια αγάπης, οριοθετούνται από δύο άλλα, με πιο πικρό περιεχόμενο. Ο καλλιτέχνης επιπλήτει το αφεντικό του (Pope Julius II) για την αχαριστία που έδειξε απέναντι του, όταν του προσέφερε τις υπηρεσίες του και μοιρολογεί που η ανταμοιβή του ήταν τα κουτσομπολιά και οι συκοφαντίες που μαζεύτηκαν στις πλάτες του. Τα τρία τραγούδια με αντικείμενο την αγάπη είναι απρόσωπα: o καλλιτέχνης εκθειάζει την ομορφιά μέσα από μεταφορές, ή την αντιλαμβάνεται με έναν ανεξάρτητο και αναλυτικό τρόπο. Το τραγούδι με τον τίτλο “Anger” (Θυμός) είναι το πιο θυελλώδες της σουίτας, με την εξαγριωμένη καταγγελία για τον υλισμό της Ρώμης και τις προσπάθειες που γίνονται από τους κυβερνωντες να την μετατρέψουν σε πολιτεία “εν πολέμω”. Τα μέρη “Dante” (Δάντης) & “To the Exile” (Στην εξορία) αποτελούν ένα υποσύνολο, καθώς συνδέονται μεταξύ τους με την ίδια κλιμακα (low C sharp). Oι αναφορές για την εξορία του Δάντη από την Φλωρεντία (και συγχρόνως του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου από την ίδια πόλη), μαζί με την αδιαφορία των Φλωρεντιανών για τον δημιουργό της “Θείας Κωμωδίας”, μπορεί να εκληφθούν ως μια πλάγια αναφορά στους εξόριστους από την Σοβιετική Ένωση καλλιτέχνες. Έτσι δεν είναι περίεργο ότι η απάντηση του Σοστακόβιτς στο μέρος “Creativity” (Δημιουργία) είναι να υψώσει την δουλειά του δημιουργικού καλλιτέχνη που σφυρηλατεί την δημιουργία του, ακόμη και όταν αυτή καθοδηγείται…..Ο διάλογος μεταξύ του Giovanni Strozzi ενός Φλωρεντιανού ακαδημαικού, ο οποίος ύψωσε το άγαλμα της “Νύχτας» του Μιχαήλ Άγγελου σε παρεκκλήσι και του ποιητή, αποτελεί την βάση για το ένατο μέρος της σουίτας. Το δέκατο μέρος, “Death”, (θάνατος) παρουσιάζει το ίδιο μουσικό μοτίβο που εμφανίζεται σε ολόκληρη την σουίτα, γεγονός που το κάνει να παρουσιάζεται, όπως ο πλήρης κύκλος. Όμως ο Σοστακόβιτς προσθέτει μια επιπλέον κίνηση, “Immortality” (Αθανασία), που αρχικά τουλάχιστον, ακούγεται σαν μια ανέμελη σημείωση, τόσο πρόδηλα απούσα στην υπόλοιπη σουίτα.
I seem to be dead, yet to console the world,
for thousands of souls, I live in the hearts of all loving people,
λέει ο ποιητής. Αποτελουν αυτοί οι στίχοι έναν αποχαιρετισμό και εκφράζουν την επιθυμία του συνθέτη να απαλύνει το πέρασμα του από τον κόσμο των θνητών, στην αθανασία ή είναι μια ακατάσχετη ειρωνεία, που ξαναέρχεται στην επιφάνεια μέσα από την μουσική του, για τελευταία φορά;
M = Michelangelo; S = Shostakovich; AM = Anthony Mortimer; CG = Creighton Gilbert; MP = Mario Petrucci. Song titles belong to S (M didn’t give titles to poems).
1. Τruth (Sonnet 3)
Song 1/ Prelude. Truth. [Sonnet 6: CG + AM] Written c. 1511.
Shostakovich’s austere and august opening brass in the orchestral version sets the tone for the entire Suite. The first song, Truth, is based on the sonnet M addressed to Pope Julius II (a somewhat military type), probably composed to reflect on the many difficulties with the Sistine Chapel, but certainly emphasising the severity of life and work:
“…to take fruit from so withered a tree.” [MP] Its message contrasts sharply with what comes next.
III. _TO POPE JULIUS II._ _Signor, se vero e._
My Lord! if ever ancient saw spake sooth,
Hear this which saith: Who can, doth never will. Lo! thou hast lent thine
ear to fables still, Rewarding those who hate the name of truth.
I am thy drudge and have been from my youth– Thine, like the rays which
the sun’s circle fill;
Yet of my dear time’s waste thou think’st no ill:
The more I toil, the less I move thy ruth. Once ’twas my hope to raise me
by thy height;
But ’tis the balance and the powerful sword
Of Justice, not false Echo, that we need. Heaven, as it seems, plants virtue
Here on the earth, if this be our reward– To seek for fruit on trees too dry
2. Morning (Sonnet 20)
Song 2. Morning. [Sonnet 4: CG + AM] Written c. 1507 (or 1508?)
This piece, directed at the idealised beloved, is really to do with Beauty. It captures M’s
early sense of sensuality, later to be transformed as the means to God: “Upon her breast, through all the hours, that dress…” [MP] S delivers, in response to the latter, a contemplative, operatic pastiche.
XX. _THE GARLAND AND THE GIRDLE._ _Quanta si gode, lieta._
What joy hath yon glad wreath of flowers that is Around her golden hair so
deftly twined, Each blossom pressing forward from behind, As though to
be the first her brows to kiss!
The livelong day her dress hath perfect bliss,
That now reveals her breast, now seems to bind: And that fair woven net of
Rests on her cheek and throat in happiness!
Yet still more blissful seems to me the band Gilt at the tips, so sweetly
doth it ring And clasp the bosom that it serves to lace:
Yea, and the belt to such as understand,
Bound round her waist, saith: here I’d ever cling.– What would my arms
do in that girdle’s place?
3. Love (Sonnet 25)
4. Separation (madrigal)
Songs 3 + 4. Love & Separation. [Sonnet: 40 CG, 42 AM] Written c. 1529-30. [Madrigal: CG only, 12] Written before 1518?
“Or is her beauty here, in me, to form forever my gaze as her face in stone?” [MP]
M’s ideas in these poems (a ‘dialogue-driven’ sonnet and a madrigal) present good examples of his Neo-Platonic slant. At that time, poetic protestations of love for men and women alike were part and parcel of sensibility, an expression of the transcendency of love as much as a way of discharging, in acceptable fashion, its ardour, both heteroerotic and homoerotic. It could be conceived that M was as abstract as he was (perhaps) defensive about his sexuality, but he was actually following convention. He addressed such poems to the poet and widow Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara; to Cecchino dei Bracci; and to Tommaso dei Cavalieri (aged 23 when M first met him in his 57th year). Throughout, the Platonic tone stresses how love is essentially a spiritual matter, with beauty taking form in the lover’s soul, reflecting an ultimate Beauty.
In general terms, M’s love for Cavalieri led to raptures of transcendence; with Colonna, to a
deep and more measured moral reform. But he was also much influenced by the austere
preacher Girolamo Savonarola – something of a Florentine ‘John the Baptist’ – and never
really resolved, in the poems, his conflict concerning whether to revere or reject physical
beauty. Separation enjoyed a much earlier musical incarnation, being set by Bartolomeo
Tromboncino and published (in Naples) in 1518, probably the first of M’s poems to be
printed. It’s interesting how S nudges these two songs together: Love wooing us sombrely eerily, with its haunting strings, its little shocks and spasms; and Separation renewing, in extremis, its final, hopeless assertion of devotion.
XXV . _THE TRANSFIGURATION OF BEAUTY:_ A DIALOGUE WITH LOVE. _Dimmi di grazia, amor._
Nay, prithee tell me, Love, when I behold
My lady, do mine eyes her beauty see
In truth, or dwells that loveliness in me Which multiplies her grace a
Thou needs must know; for thou with her of old Comest to stir my soul’s
Yet would I not seek one sigh less, or be
By loss of that loved flame more simply cold.–
The beauty thou discernest, all is hers;
But grows in radiance as it soars on high Through mortal eyes unto the
‘Tis there transfigured; for the soul confers On what she holds, her own
And this transfigured beauty wins thy love.
5. Anger (Sonnet 4)
Song 5. Anger. [Sonnet 10: CG + AM] (date uncertain: 1512?)
M was not averse to the sharper emotions, with regard to injustices he suffered personally as well as those he felt pervaded the corrupt and base society he was ill-fated to live in. Leaning on the precedent of Petrarch, he rebuked Rome, setting his sights on the militarised papacy and the trafficking in sacred objects:
“From chalices they’re forging helm and sword, Christ’s blood is sold in buckets…” [AM]
Not surprising, in that case, that a punching, twisting tempestuousness should irrupt into the music at this juncture; though the manner in which it storms us is impressive, even by S’s standards.
IV. _ON ROME IN THE PONTIFICATE OF JULIUS II._ _Qua si fa elmi._
Here helms and swords are made of chalices:
The blood of Christ is sold so much the quart:
His cross and thorns are spears and shields; and short Must be the time ere
even his patience cease.
Nay let him come no more to raise the fees
Of this foul sacrilege beyond report!
For Rome still flays and sells him at the court, Where paths are closed to
virtue’s fair increase.
Now were fit time for me to scrape a treasure! Seeing that work and gain
are gone; while he Who wears the robe, is my Medusa still.
God welcomes poverty perchance with pleasure: But of that better life
what hope have we,
When the blessed banner leads to nought but ill?
6. Dante (Sonnet 1)
Songs 6 + 7. Dante & To The Exile. [Sonnet 246 (CG), 248 (AM)] Written c. 1545-6 [Sonnet 248 (CG), 250 (AM)] Written c. 1545-6
These pay heavy homage to Dante, whose life and work found enormous resonance with M, in his style and philosophical demeanour generally, and in artefacts in particular (as in The Last Judgement). M was something of an authority on Dante, and it is one of the great evils of entropy that his volume of drawings in illustration of The Divine Comedy were lost at sea. M was compared favourably with Dante in his own day, and here wallows gloriously in the association: Dante, the exiled and mistreated genius, troubled and fuelled by unattainable love. The autobiographical parallels are fired by imaginative suggestion as well as lived experience. S enters the equation, too, choosing these poems in the context of Solzhenitsyn’s recent exile from the Soviet Union. He captures the poem’s qualities – and its topical political overtones for him – with a brilliant pulsing edginess, sounding the orchestra for its most darkly reverential, troubled depths.
I. _ON DANTE ALIGHIERI._ _Dal ciel discese._
From heaven his spirit came, and robed in clay The realms of justice and
of mercy trod, Then rose a living man to gaze on God,
That he might make the truth as clear as day.
For that pure star that brightened with his ray
The undeserving nest where I was born,
The whole wide world would be a prize to scorn; None but his Maker can
due guerdon pay.
I speak of Dante, whose high work remains Unknown, unhonoured by that
thankless brood, Who only to just men deny their wage.
Were I but he! Born for like lingering pains, Against his exile coupled with
I’d gladly change the world’s best heritage!
7. To the Exile (Sonnet 2)
II. _ON DANTE ALIGHIERI._ _Quante dirne si de’._
No tongue can tell of him what should be told,
For on blind eyes his splendour shines too strong; ‘Twere easier to blame
those who wrought him wrong, Than sound his least praise with a mouth
He to explore the place of pain was bold,
Then soared to God, to teach our souls by song; The gates heaven oped to
bear his feet along, Against his just desire his country rolled.
Thankless I call her, and to her own pain
The nurse of fell mischance; for sign
take this, That ever to the best she deals more scorn:
Among a thousand proofs let one remain; Though ne’er was fortune more
unjust than his, His equal or his better ne’er was born.
8. Creativity (Sonnet 61)
Song 8. Creativity. [Sonnet 44 (CG), 46 (AM)] Written c. 1528.
Perhaps not as active across as many fields as his great rival Leonardo, M’s creative gifts were nevertheless extraordinarily varied, though he claims (in Sonnet 5) “I’m no painter”. His architectural skills were self-taught, and he may even be the inventor of might be called ‘the artistic placebo’. In one story, the Florentine republican Soderini tells M that the nose of his David seems too thick. M surreptitiously scoops up some marble dust, then pretends to chip away at the offending appendage, letting the dust filter out of his hand. “I like it better,” comments Soderini. “You have given it life.”
The source poem for this segment of the Suite, its thinking again cast in a Neo-Platonic mould, has often been thought to mark the death of Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara, M’s late Platonic love who corresponds in many ways to the early love of Dante, Beatrice. This intense devotional energy was picked up, perhaps, by S who dedicated the Suite to his wife Irina. It turns out that M’s sonnet more probably relates the passing of his virtuous brother, Buonarroto, whose son Lionardo is addressed in a footnote to the poem.
In his musical rendition of Creativity, S absorbs the physicality of the sculptor’s craft into his own composition, forcing upon us – insistently and provocatively – the percussive energy of chisel and hammer. With its aggressive flurries of inspiration, S seems to hack the very air into submission. M may not be particularly visual in his poetic imagery, but there are a number of metaphorical references to sculpting and casting:
“I do believe, if you were made of stone,
loved with a faith like mine, you would awake”
“I shall be made eternal in the flame,
being struck not out of iron, but of gold.”
“The best of artists can no concept find that is not in a single block of stone,
confined by the excess; to that alone attains the hand obedient to the mind.”
“It is not just the mould,
empty of art, that waits to be full filled from the fire with molten silver or
In a letter, M wrote: “By sculpture I mean what is made by taking something away: what is done by adding something is like painting”. Likewise, his poetry both extends and adds to the tradition whilst paring it back to what is essential. Because M sometimes wrote lines responding to the physicality of creating artefacts, there’s a temptation to trawl the poems for clues to his artistic philosophy; but few have given equivalent attention, it seems, to how his practice in visual art might cast light on the poetry. For instance, the restorations of the Sistine ceiling show (albeit controversially) that M favoured the technique of cangiantismo, deploying bold colour contrasts to invoke modelling, an approach not at all at odds, I feel, with his poetic drive and instinct. The poems, for this reader, don’t come across as chiaroscuro (in its gentler sense). But, even if it turns out that the interactions between pen, hammer and brush are not really overt in the poetry, they certainly existed in the man, not least in physiological terms. According to Vasari, his work on the Sistine Chapel so damaged his eyesight that for some time he could only read on his back. Clearly, in physical terms, M was as put upon as he was famously robust:
“Beard skyward, nape of neck pressed back upon
my hump, I’m hollow-chested like a harpy;
the brush keeps dripping till my face looks gaudy,
more like mosaic than anything you’d tread on.” [AM 5]
Both M and S remind us that creativity is no easy path. Each, in his manner, in his own political era, was acutely aware of the many aspects of submission and of risk – the possible ‘takings away’ – a creative life could entail, even at the most basic somatic level…
“Lumbagoed, ruptured, knackered – that’s the way my toil has left me…
… My skin’s a sack for gristle and old bones,
I’ve got a hornet buzzing in my head,
and in my bladder there are three black stones.” [AM 267]
LXI. AFTER THE DEATH OF VITTORIA COLONNA. _IRREPARABLE LOSS._ _Se ‘l mie rozzo martello._
When my rude hammer to the stubborn stone
Gives human shape, now that, now this, at will, Following his hand who
wields and guides it still, It moves upon another’s feet alone:
But that which dwells in heaven, the world doth fill With beauty by pure
motions of its own;
And since tools fashion tools which else were none, Its life makes all that
lives with living skill.
Now, for that every stroke excels the more
The higher at the forge it doth ascend,
Her soul that fashioned mine hath sought the skies:
Wherefore unfinished I must meet my end,
If God, the great artificer, denies
That aid which was unique on earth before.
9. Night (Dialogue)
Song 9. Night. [G. Strozzi + Epigram 245 (CG), 247 (AM)] ~ 1545-46?
To compliment M’s sleep-filled (yet vital) figure, Night, Giovanni Strozzi wrote the first quatrain of this piece, claiming that the statue in the Medici Chapel was so life-like she would, if woken, speak. Even for M, the sculpture is remarkable. Her facial serenity contrasts sharply with the energised, awkwardly-posed torso, a visual paradox heightened by its musculature, arising from the practice of working female figures from male models. S creates contrast, too, by returning to quieter tones, quoting from his Fifth String Quartet and from ‘The Poet’s Death’, the 10th movement of his 14th symphony. This internal re- appropriation by the composer is apt, given that the poetic text itself enacts a voice within a voice. The second quatrain is M’s reply to the first, a tart epigram that ventriloquizes his sculpture to make (it’s been said) a wry observation on Strozzi’s political associations. Or are those words M put in the stony mouth of the poem again providing some aspect of psychological/ spiritual autobiography?
“… As long as hurt and shamefulness endure. I call it lucky not to see or hear…”
10. Death (Sonnet 69)
Song 10. Death. [Sonnet 293 (CG), 295 (AM)] Written after 1555.
By returning to the opening trump of ‘Truth’, S links death and injustice with archetypal intensity. He lived much of his life under Stalin. Diagnosed with an uncommon form of polio in 1965, and suffering the first of his heart attacks in 1966, of his limbs only his left arm was unaffected by breakage or debility. As for M, he was caught up in one of Italy’s most damaging political periods, with its rival factions and the switching allegiances of Popes that culminated in the sack of Rome, and plague, under Pope Clement VII in 1527, a calamity that sounded, for some historians, the death knell of the High Renaissance. M was even called upon to fortify the resulting Florentine republic against papal siege in 1529. As for physical turmoil, few can be ignorant of what M put up with for his art. His acute sense of bodily vulnerability is stressed in a rare (and unusual) self portrait, a detail in The Last Judgement, where the martyred Saint Bartholomew holds up his flayed skin to reveal M’s distorted face. Perhaps this sense of ennobled insecurity helps to explain why he’s such a resonant poet of old age. The later poems carry a remorsefulness, a rag-and-bone yearning, a hard-won enrichment through simplification of delivery and an opening up of style, worthy (at its best) of the ageing Yeats. His demeanour in the poems becomes stripped, concerned that a long life may mean greater danger of damnation, that his attempts to sublimate desire as Platonic love – and even his art itself – were themselves forms of distraction or ensnarement:
“Painting and sculpture will no longer serve
to calm my soul, turned to that love divine
whose arms were opened for us on the cross.” [AM 285]
For Symonds, M moved in his thinking from Dante, through Plato, to Christ, to whom the artist turns, in profound disappointment, for a modicum of hope and comfort that often seems almost as cold as the stone he worked. Both M and S were deeply marked by the trials not only of physical hardship but of adverse politics. The poems, and the music, leave us in no doubt that these men were lifelong savants of struggle and mortality.
LXIX. WAITING FOR DEATH. _Di morte certo._
My death must come; but when, I do not know: Life’s short, and little life
remains for me:
Fain would my flesh abide; my soul would flee Heavenward, for still she
calls on me to go.
Blind is the world; and evil here below O’erwhelms and triumphs over
The light is quenched; quenched too is bravery: Lies reign, and truth hath
ceased her face to show.
When will that day dawn, Lord, for which he waits Who trusts in Thee?
Lo, this prolonged delay Destroys all hope and robs the soul of life.
Why streams the light from those celestial gates, If death prevent the day
of grace, and stay
Our souls for ever in the toils of strife?
Song 11/ Postlude. Immortality. [Epitaph 192 (CG), 194 (AM) fused with 188 (CG)]
“… to comfort this world I lived,
so these thousand true souls in my breast
cannot be dust…” [MP]
S’s Suite was written in anticipation of the demi-millennial celebration of M’s birth. For most artists in our 15-minute culture, a reputation spanning 500 years must indeed seem like brushing fingers with immortality. Both men are eloquent on mortality; each had time aplenty to contemplate and square up to it. S often wrote music that flapped back in the grim face of the Reaper. But here, in this strange ‘epilogue’ to his great song cycle, he combined two of the 48 epitaphs on the death of the teenage Cecchino dei Bracci in 1544 (written by M as a favour to the boy’s uncle, Luigi del Riccio), yoking them together to provide a commentary on his own imminent death (and what might lie beyond it) that’s as hopeful as it is ironic. He recycles a melody he wrote at 9 years of age, making of it an uncanny toy march, a funeral song forged in the nursery. For M, the epitaphs catch him, for the most part, in an unusually dry and impersonal mood; nevertheless, these two particular portions of his sequence whispered close in S’s ear, who voiced in music his seismically subdued response, as if a last leaf were about to fall from its tree.
Throughout the Suite, S worked with stark anticipation and acceptance,
perhaps even transcendence. He generated rhythmic asymmetries, and chromatic and
tonal variation, but all in service to a single, darkly luminous quality irradiating every note. In M’s poems, too, one is struck (through all their evolution and variety) by a profound sense of unity, by a plural and spirited expression of the same temperament and craft radiating from his material artefacts: that imposing grandeur, that terribilità, he manages to meld so passionately with a highly personalised style. It may be pat to say ‘there’s poetry in all his works’; but (as is usually the case) the soft and oversweet flesh of the cliché hides a stone of truth. Elizabeth Jennings observed of M that “the dominating feature is vehement energy, an energy which is mastered by a longing for order”. That observation is equally valid for S. The purity and ceaseless striving that runs through M’s poetry makes the same chord that S, ultimately, is concerned with sounding. Neither wilted in their art, not even close to death. As M puts it in one of the fragments:
“Nobody has the whole of it
before he reaches the limit
of his art and his life.” [AM, fragment 35]
Among M’s final works is a sketch of an old man, captioned with the words ancora impara – “I’m still learning”. How poignantly those words relate to S’s unexpected use, now, in the endgame of his Suite – indeed, of his writing career – of that disarming, childlike melody. S and M: each an inextinguishable spark in the cultural firmament. In memory of both, let the last say be Dante’s, in the closing lines of Paradiso:
Here, that force for lofty phantasy failed – Now, all my volition, all my desire,
Moved easily, evenly, as that wheel
Love turns through our sun and through every star.
The Divine Comedy: Paradiso, Canto 33 [MP]