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To The Supreme Being -- Michelangelo Buonarroti

Guest poem sent in by Matthew Stillman
(Poem #1622) To The Supreme Being
 The prayers I make will then be sweet indeed,
 If Thou the spirit give by which I pray:
 My unassisted heart is barren clay,
 Which of its native self can nothing feed:
 Of good and pious works Thou art the seed,
 Which quickens only where Thou say'st it may;
 Unless Thou show to us Thine own true way,
 No man can find it: Father! Thou must lead.
 Do Thou, then, breathe those thoughts into my mind
 By which such virtue may in me be bred
 That in Thy holy footsteps I may tread;
 The fetters of my tongue do Thou unbind,
 That I may have the power to sing of Thee,
 And sound Thy praises everlastingly.
-- Michelangelo Buonarroti

Note: Translated into English by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

When you think "Michelangelo" you think Florence and sculpture and frescoes
you usually don't  think "poetry". Well he was fairly prodigious considering
how much art he generated. I think this poem is so clean and honest despite
the fact that poems in dedication to God's greatness are a dime a dozen. The
line that strikes me in particular is

"my unassisted heart is barren clay"

the line might be skipped over if it was from anyone except someone of the
stature of Michelangelo. It is wonderful because he sees himself / his heart
as the material he works with to make his art (clay, stone, earth, etc).
That little associative line of Michelangelo works on clay and makes
sculpture and God works on Michelangelos' heart just connects the art,
artist and the inspiration in one little line.

Also Wordsworth does a pretty sharp job too, I think adding another layer to
the "who is the artist here?" theme that is illustrated above.

Matthew Stillman



A few more of Michelangelo's poems:

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