|Portrait of Michelangelo (after 1535) by Jacopino del Conte|
My post this morning about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel reminded me that I have a collected works of Michelangelo in my book case. I dug it out and found this:
A goiter it seems I got from this backward craning
like the cats get there in Lombardy, or wherever
—bad water, they say, from lapping their fetid river.
My belly, tugged under my chin, 's all out of whack.
Beard points like a finger at heaven. Near the back
of my neck, skull scrapes where a hunchback's lump would be.
I'm pigeon-breasted, a harpy! Face dribbled—see?—
like a Byzantine floor, mosaic. From all this straining
my guts and my hambones tangle, pretty near.
Thank God I can swivel my butt about for ballast.
Feet are out of sight; they just scuffle around, erratic.
Up front my hide's tight elastic; in the rear
it's slack and droopy, except where crimps have callused.
I'm bent like a bow, half-round, type Asiatic.
Not odd that what's on my mind,
when expressed, comes out weird, jumbled. Don't berate;
no gun with its barrel screwy can shoot straight.
Giovanni, come agitate
for my pride, my poor dead art! I don't belong!
Who's a painter? Me? No way! They've got me wrong.
The Complete Poems of Michelangelo
©1998, 198 pages, Translated by John Frederick Nims
He wrote that while he was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Clearly, spending four years on a scaffold looking up took a toll on his body.
It's difficult to see his humanity when you look at his work. He achieved a state of artistic perfection that's otherworldly to say the least. Reading that abbreviated sonnet puts a human face on him.