Ah? Benvenuto? ’T is a masterpiece!
It pleases me as much, and even more,
Than the antiques about it; and yet they
Are of the best one sees. But you have placed it
By far too high. The light comes from below,
And injures the expression. Were these windows
Above and not beneath it, then indeed
It would maintain its own among these works
Of the old masters, noble as they are.
I will go in and study it more closely.
I always prophesied that Benvenuto,
With all his follies and fantastic ways,
Would show his genius in some work of art
That would amaze the world, and be a challenge
Unto all other artists of his time.
[They go in.
IN THE COLISEUM
MICHAEL ANGELO and TOMASO DE CAVALIERI
What have you here alone, Messer Michele?
I come to learn.
You are already master,
And teach all other men.
Nay, I know nothing;
Not even my own ignorance, as some
Philosopher hath said. I am a schoolboy
Who hath not learned his lesson, and who stands
Ashamed and silent in the awful presence
Of the great master of antiquity
Who built these walls cyclopean.
His name was, I remember. His reward
Was to be thrown alive to the wild beasts
Here where we now are standing.
But you are greater than Gaudentius was,
And your work nobler.
Silence, I beseech you.
Tradition says that fifteen thousand men
Were toiling for ten years incessantly
Upon this amphitheatre.
How wonderful it is! The queen of flowers,
The marble rose of Rome! Its petals torn
By wind and rain of thrice five hundred years;
Its mossy sheath half rent away, and sold
To ornament our palaces and churches,
Or to be trodden under feet of man
Upon the Tiber’s bank; yet what remains
Still opening its fair bosom to the sun,
And to the constellations that at night
Hang poised above it like a swarm of bees.
The rose of Rome, but not of Paradise;
Not the white rose our Tuscan poet saw,
With saints for petals. When this rose was perfect
Its hundred thousand petals were not Saints,
But senators in their Thessalian caps,
And all the roaring populace of Rome;
And even an Empress and the Vestal Virgins,
Who came to see the gladiators die,
Could not give sweetness to a rose like this.
I spake not of its uses, but its beauty.