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MICHELANGELO: Modern English Translations

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is considered by many experts to be the greatest artist and sculptor of all time. These are modern English translations of his poems and epigrams by Michael R. Burch.



SONNET: RAVISHED
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ravished, by all our eyes find fine and fair,
yet starved for virtues pure hearts might confess,
my soul can find no Jacobean stair
that leads to heaven, save earth's loveliness.
The stars above emit such rapturous light
our longing hearts ascend on beams of Love
and seek, indeed, Love at its utmost height.
But where on earth does Love suffice to move
a gentle heart, or ever leave it wise,
save for beauty itself and the starlight in her eyes?



SONNET: TO LUIGI DEL RICCIO, AFTER THE DEATH OF CECCHINO BRACCI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A pena prima.

I had barely seen the beauty of his eyes
Which unto yours were life itself, and light,
When he closed them fast in death's eternal night
To reopen them on God, in Paradise.

In my tardiness, I wept, too late made wise,
Yet the fault not mine: for death's disgusting ploy
Had robbed me of that deep, unfathomable joy
Which in your loving memory never dies.

Therefore, Luigi, since the task is mine
To make our unique friend smile on in stone
Forever, brightening what dark earth would dim,
And because the beloved causes love to shine,

And since the artist cannot work alone,
I must carve you, to tell the world of him!


SONNET: BEAUTY AND THE ARTIST
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Al cor di zolfo.

A heart aflame; alas, the flesh not so;
Bones brittle wood; the soul without a guide
To curb the will’s inferno; the crude pride
Of restless passions’ pulsing surge and flow;
A witless mind that ? halt, lame, weak ? must go
Blind through entrapments scattered far and wide; ...
Why wonder then, when one small spark applied
To such an assemblage renders it aglow?

Add beauteous Art, which, Heaven-Promethean,
Must exceed nature ? so divine a power
Belongs to the one who strives with every nerve.
Created for such Art, from childhood given
As prey for her wild Inferno to devour,
I blame the Mistress I was born to serve.



SONNET XVI: LOVE AND ART
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sì come nella penna.

Just as with pen and ink,
there is a high, a low, and an in-between style;
and, as marble yields its images pure and vile
to excite the fancies artificers might think;
even so, my lord, lodged deep within your heart
are mingled pride and mild humility;
but I draw only what I truly see
when I trust my eyes and otherwise stand apart.

Whoever sows the seeds of tears and sighs
(bright dews that fall from heaven, crystal-clear)
in various pools collects antiquities
and so must reap old griefs through misty eyes;
while the one who dwells on beauty, so painful here,
finds ephemeral hopes and certain miseries.



SONNET XXXI: LOVE'S LORDSHIP, TO TOMMASO DE' CAVALIERI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A che più debb' io.

Why should I confess my desire
with copious tears and windy words of grief,
when a merciless heaven offers no relief
to souls consumed by fire?
Why should my aching heart aspire
to death, when all must die? Beyond belief
would be a death both delectable and brief,
since in my compound woes all joys expire!

Therefore, because I cannot dodge the blow,
I rather seek whoever rules my breast,
to glide between her gladness and my woe.
If only chains and bonds can make me blessed,
no marvel if alone and bare I go
to face the foe: her captive slave oppressed.



Michelangelo Epigram Translations
loose translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch

I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.
I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.
Each stone contains a statue; it is the sculptor’s task to release it.
The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.
Our greatness is only bounded by our horizons.
Be at peace, for God did not create us to abandon us.
God grant that I always desire more than my capabilities.
My soul’s staircase to heaven is earth’s loveliness.
I live and love by God’s peculiar light.
Trifles create perfection, yet perfection is no trifle.
Genius is infinitely patient, and infinitely painstaking.
I have never found salvation in nature; rather I love cities.
He who follows will never surpass.
Beauty is what lies beneath superfluities.
I criticize via creation, not by fault-finding.
If you knew how hard I worked, you wouldn’t call it “genius.”

Keywords/Tags: Michelangelo, Italian sonnet, sonnet, sonnets, epigram, epigrams, epitaph, translation, translations, English, love, affinity and love, love and art, beauty, art, artistic work, light
Michael R Burch Dec 2020
MICHELANGELO TRANSLATIONS

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He and his fellow Florentine, Leonardo da Vinci, were rivals for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man. Michelangelo is considered by many to be the greatest artist of all time.

I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Each stone contains a statue; it is the sculptor's task to release it.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.―Michelangelo, tr. Michael R. Burch

Our greatness is bounded only by our horizons.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Trifles create perfection, yet perfection is no trifle.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Genius is infinitely patient, and infinitely painstaking.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

If you knew how hard I worked, you wouldn't call it "genius."―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Be at peace, for God did not create us to abandon us.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I live and love by God's peculiar light.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

My soul's staircase to heaven is earth's loveliness.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

God grant that I always desire more than my capabilities.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I have never found salvation in nature; rather I love cities.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

He who follows will never surpass.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Beauty is what lies beneath superfluities.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I criticize via creation, not by fault-finding.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Michelangelo, translation, translations, English, Italian, epigram, epigrams, art, artist, sculptor, angel, marble, stone, statute, genius, beauty, creation, mrbtran, mrbtrans
blue mercury Aug 2017
i never knew that a body could be so intriguing. i never understood the appeal of michelangelo's david statue.

why, i wondered, would a huge naked man draw not only the eyes of millions but be awe insiring and cause people to look at themselves as a part of a larger scheme?

but, oh my god. i look at you and david? he has no chance. he is made of marble, of stone, but i have a real boy, a living boy.

i will swallow my pride for a moment and admit that you are freaking  beautiful, more than i, and that is when you are clothed.

i could stare at your smile for hours if it didn't make me feel like i'm dying. if i could do so whilst breathing. i look at you, and i feel like i am a part of a greater scheme.

because, there's a chance that i could some day see the most honest way we compliment each other. more than just touch, more than lust, we could be love.

the fact that i will one day know the map of your body like a home town, like my childhood house- david never got the kind of love i want to give you, i'm sure of it.

i imagine that david tasted like cinnamon and guilt with a little bit of victory, or at least, i imagine that's how he would taste to me.

but you, you taste like freedom and fire / shyness and desire, and i'm telling you i would gaze upon you like you are art.

you **** all of the giants and monsters and evils in my head with your words like flying stones.

david has nothing on you babe.

because while he is crafted form marble, i stole you from the stars.
love/lust is in the air, my darlings
a colossal marble
was just a huge rock
until you layed eyes
on it and bought
it life in form of David,
the biblical hero,

walls of the heaven
in god's own earthly residence
were figment of imaginations
till you painted the entire bible
on the walls of Sistine chapel
that stands as beacon of hope and faith
for those who want to
follow passions extraordinarily

you were Apollo reborn,
only to return back after guiding humans
about the irrepressible capacity we possess
of which we have gone unaware of somehow,
even today, in shadows of doubts
and the storms of failures.
karleigh May 2017
for i witnessed this death myself-and it brought my soul to life
“My painting is dead” he spoke
in all but falling to his very death
in hopes that the hour ends
painting beauty from such pain
where i see a man there up above  
as i do walk these floors beneath the ceiling
footprints soon shall walk the earth-the first time
she comes from rock-his expertise-forte
there in the sculptor's work
see what’s hidden
so study closer
only to the very genius of the painter
seemingly complete
and the story comes to life
like words on a page
whose creations escape surface
by a sculptor
a miracle complete
when the very eyes of Julius did witness
and i marvel at the moment there it time
? i wonder
what do they think of this
yet filled with existence-abundant
the room so silent-so still
holy, holy, holy, lord
the heart that fills with spirit
and so grasps the divine of depth within
the hands feel more than simply flesh
i see in clarity
the first time
of man
whose hand does touch the hand
so loudly to proclaim the word of God
with more than vibrant hues and tones
the craftsman there at work he spoke

spoke he
“I am not a painter”
Sistine Chapel Inspo
Mollie Grant Feb 2016
We all want to be someone
carved into stone—
assured in our identity
by the admirer taken enough to
etch our jawlines into eternity
from the heart
of a marble slab.

If you work on me as Michelangelo,
I will proudly stand as your David.
whispering wind Jan 2016
Admire the proportions, the features, the confidence.
These are supposed to define the ideal male.
These things have nothing to with my perception of ideal.

When I put myself in that position
I call myself Michelangelo, David in front of me.
I admire his proportions, his features, his confidence.

I throw myself so far into the fantasy, reality becomes a fog.
Enamored by him, his features, our closeness.
I am entranced by him, we transcend into the unknown.

I return to reality, and realize that I've gone too far.
I can't take back the words I've said,
or the time I've spent staring into his eyes.

But I'm no Michelangelo and he is not David.
My inspiration is much closer to my heart.

The love in my heart.
The passion beneath the gaze.
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