Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sonnets by Michelangelo


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 
smile : 
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")

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.


Brian Joseph said...

I do not think that I ever read or head these before. I find The Doom of Beauty particularly good.I just googled some live performances. Very impressive works!

James said...

Thanks for your comment. These sonnets are spectacular - Michelangelo was truly a "Renaissance" man. Britten also set some of Donne's sonnets to music.