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The Poetry of Michelangelo

The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation

James M. Saslow
Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 571
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  • Book Info
    The Poetry of Michelangelo
    Book Description:

    During his long career, Michelangelo produced not only the important works of painting, sculpture, and architecture for which he is justly famous but also well over three hundred sonnets, madrigals, and other poems. The poems, unlike Michelangelo's better-known works of art, are not the product of a highly accomplished hand, but they are invaluable for what they reveal of the artist's innermost feelings about such universal themes as love, death, and redemption and also about more mundane matters, such as the tribulations of paintings the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

    This book, the only available bilingual edition of Michelangelo's complete poetic output, is based on the definitive Girardi dating of the poems. James M. Saslow has translated the poems with an eye to providing a clear and faithful rendering of the artist's words and thoughts. Extensive annotations and detailed textual commentary give background data essential for understanding Michelangelo's references. A lengthy introduction, which incorporates the latest Michelangelo scholarship, includes a biographical sketch of the artist, a critical examination of the themes, content, style, and sources of his poetry, and a review of the criticism devoted to his poems. The Italian original of each poem appears with the translation, and several paintings and drawings that are relevant to the poems are reproduced. This comprehensive edition of Michelangelo's poetry offers a fresh perspective on the life, work, and times of the great artist.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16067-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Although he was far better known as one of the most productive and influential visual artists of the Italian Renaissance, the Florentine painter, sculptor, and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) also composed more than three hundred sonnets, madrigals, and other poems over the course of his long and eventful career. These verses, which treat of both grand, universal themes—love and longing, time and death, art and salvation—and very personal and particular motives (the discomfort of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the physical tribulations of old age, gratitude for various gifts) were taken seriously by Michelangelo. He revised some...

  6. 2 Biographical Outline
    (pp. 8-22)

    Michelangeloʹs long and eventful life began on 6 March 1475 in Caprese, a small Tuscan town near Arezzo, where his father was serving a temporary term aspodestà, or visiting magistrate. This seems to have been one of the few responsible jobs held by Lodovico di Buonarrota Simone, descendant of an old Florentine family whose economic and social fortunes had declined. His successful son later begrudgingly assisted him until the fatherʹs death, near age ninety, in 1531. Of Michelangeloʹs mother, Francesca, we know little except that she bore four other sons; put her second infant, Michelangelo, out to wet nurse...

  7. 3 Themes and Content
    (pp. 23-38)

    Since Michelangeloʹs poetic oeuvre is, in terms of subject matter, restricted to several principal and interrelated themes, it may be helpful to begin with a discussion of what he does not write about. He is only intermittently concerned with humor (for example, nos. 20, 54; see Cambon, chap. 1.) or with historical or topical events (nos. 10, 247–50). He is not a lyric poet: as in his painting, there is very little celebration of nature, landscape, or physical objects and not much description of his belovedsʹ appearances beyond stock Petrarchan praise of their eyes or brows. Nor does he...

  8. 4 Form, Style, and Literary Sources
    (pp. 39-52)

    Numerous critics have traced in detail Michelangeloʹs formal qualities, stylistic predilections, and sources and influences. This essay can do no more than introduce some of the broad issues studied by Robert Clements, Enzo Girardi, Walter Binni, Glauco Cambon, and others, and raise the question of stylistic parallels between Michelangeloʹs visual and verbal art. Oneʹs attitude toward these stylistic tendencies is affected by how willing one is to grant that the poetʹs choices were fully deliberate products of sufficient skill to merit analysis (see section 1). His irregularities and deviations from the polished standards of more orthodox poets like Pietro Bembo...

  9. 5 Editions and Translations
    (pp. 53-62)

    Since changes in the presentation and explanation of Michelangeloʹs texts have influenced the historiography of larger issues in Michelangelo scholarship and in Renaissance art and literary history, it is necessary for a complete understanding of the present book to outline the long history of publishing, translation, and scholarship on Michelangeloʹs poetry, and to clarify the editorial ideals and policies underlying this translation.

    The projected first edition of the poetry, on which Michelangelo worked with Giannotti and del Riccio between 1542 and 1546, remains a ʺphantomʺ edition, since it was never actually published. However, before del Riccioʹs death put a stop...

  10. Bibliographical Abbreviations Used in Notes to Poems
    (pp. 63-64)
  11. POEMS 1–302
    (pp. 65-501)
  12. Appendix: Poems A1–41
    (pp. 502-520)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 521-526)
  14. Concordance to Editions and Translations of Michelangeloʹs Poetry
    (pp. 527-536)
  15. Concordance to Michelangeloʹs Drawings Catalogued by Charles de Tolnay (1975–80)
    (pp. 537-538)
  16. Index of First Lines
    (pp. 539-556)
  17. General Index
    (pp. 557-559)