National Poetry Month: Day 7

Pieta by Michelangelo


My first major at BYU was Art History, and for that I had to take classes in either French, German, or Italian. I decided to take Italian and got through four semesters of it. We read this poem in my fourth semester class, and even years later I can still hear the way my instructor read it and her reverence for the words. The English translation does not quite caputure the feeling of the last line in Italian, because the phrase "a prender noi 'n croce le braccia", which can mean 'spreading his arms on the cross' or 'carrying us in his arms'. I thought this was a beautiful poem for today.

Rime 285 por Michelangelo Buonarroti

Giunto è già ’l corso della vita mia,
con tempestoso mar, per fragil barca,
al comun porto, ov’a render si varca
conto e ragion d’ogni opra trista e pia.
 

Onde l’affettüosa fantasia
che l’arte mi fece idol e monarca
conosco or ben com’era d’error carca
e quel c’a mal suo grado ogn’uom desia.


Gli amorosi pensier, già vani e lieti,
che fien or, s’a duo morte m’avvicino?
D’una so ’l certo, e l’altra mi minaccia.


Né pinger né scolpir fie più che quieti
l’anima, volta a quell’amor divino
c’aperse, a prender noi, ’n croce le braccia.



Translation:

Now hath my life across a stormy sea
Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all
Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall
Of good and evil for eternity.

Now know I well how that fond phantasy
Which made my soul the worshiper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.

Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread.

Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

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