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MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (1474-1564): Three Sonnets

Translated by John Addington Symonds


These sonnets of Michaelangelo's were once subjected to a deliberate effort, by his relatives, to present them as heterosexual. Since the work of JA Symonds in the nineteenth century, their homoerotic nature has been clear.

To Tommaso de Cavalieri

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 expirel
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 cantive and slave confessed."

VEGGIO NEL TUO BEL VISO

"From thy fair face I learn, O my loved lord,
That which no mortal tongue can rightly say;
The soul imprisoned in her house of clay,
Holpen by thee to God hath often soared:
And tho' the vulgar, vain, malignant horde
Attribute what their grosser wills obey,
Yet shall this fervent homage that I pay,
This love, this faith, pure joys for us afford.
Lo, all the lovely things we find on earth,
Resemble for the soul that rightly sees,
That source of bliss divine which gave us birth:
Nor have we first fruits or remembrances
Of heaven elsewhere. Thus, loving loyally,
I rise to God and make death sweet by thee."

NON VIDER GLI OCCHI MIEI

"No mortal thing enthralled these longing eyes
When perfect peace in thy fair face I found:
But far within, where all is holy ground,
My soul felt Love, her comrade of the skies:
For she was born with God in Paradise;
Nor all the shows of beauty shed around
This fair false world her wings to earth have bound;
Unto the Love of Loves aloft she flies.
Nay, things that suffer death quench not the fire
Of deathless spirits; nor eternity
Serves sordid Time, that withers all things rare.
Not love but lawless impulse is desire:
That slays the soul; our love makes still more fair
Our friends on earth, fairer in death on high."



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