XVI. LOVE AND ART.
SI come nella penna.
As pen and ink alike serve him who sings
In high or low or intermediate style ;
As the same stone hath shapes both rich and vile
To match the fancies that each master brings ;
So, my loved lord, within thy bosom springs
Pride mixed with meekness and kind thoughts that
Whence I draw nought, my sad self to beguile,
But what my face shows dark imaginings.
He who for seed sows sorrow, tears, and sighs,
(The dews that fall from heaven, though pure and
From different germs take divers qualities)
Must needs reap grief and garner weeping eyes ;
And he who looks on beauty with sad cheer,
Gains doubtful hope and certain miseries.
Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo is a song cycle composed by Benjamin Britten (1913–76) for tenor voice and piano in 1940, and published as his Op. 22. It was written for himself and his life-partner, the tenor Peter Pears (1910–86). The manuscripts of the songs are dated between April and October 1940; but there is some evidence that the cycle had been contemplated, and even begun, as early as 1937. It consists of settings of seven sonnets, all love songs, by the Italian painter and poet Michelangelo (1475–1564), in the original language:
XVI: "Si come nella penna e nell'inchiostro" ("Just as in pen and ink")
XXI: "A che più debb'io mai l'intensa voglia" ("To what purpose do I express my intense desire")
XXX: "Veggio co' bei vostri occhi un dolce lume" ("I see through your lovely eyes a sweet light")
LV: "Tu sa, ch'io so, signor mie, che tu sai" ("You know that I know, my lord, that you know")
XXXVIII: "Rendete agli occhi miei, o fonte o fiume" ("Give back to my eyes, o fountains and rivers")
XXXII: "S'un casto amor, s'una pietà superna" ("If there is a chaste love, a heavenly pity")
XXIV: "Spirto ben nato, in cui si specchia e vede" ("Noble spirit, in whom is reflected")
XXIV. THE DOOM OF BEAUTY.
Spirto ben nato.
Choice soul, in whom, as in a glass, we see,
Mirrored in thy pure form and delicate,
What beauties heaven and nature can create,
The paragon of all their works to be !
Fair soul, in whom love, pity, piety,
Have found a home, as from thy outward state
We clearly read, and are so rare and great
That they adorn none other like to thee !
Love takes me captive ; beauty binds my soul ;
Pity and mercy with their gentle eyes
Wake in my heart a hope that cannot cheat.
What law, what destiny, what fell control,
What cruelty, or late or soon, denies
That death should spare perfection so complete ?
Sonnets 16 and 24 as translated by John Addington Symonds.