A Poem by Michelangelo

We know him mostly as a painter and sculptor, but Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475–1564) was also a poet. Here is a sample from the book The Complete Poems of Michelangelo (1998) translated by John Frederick Nims –

On the abuse of religion, wealth, poverty and heaven:

Chalices hammered into sword and helmet!

Christ’s blood sold, slopped in palmfuls. With the yields

from commerce of cross and thorns, more lances, shields.

Still His long-suffering mercy falls like dew?


The Complete Poems of Michelangelo translated by John Frederick Nims (1998, University of Chicago Press)

These lands are lands He’d better not come through.

If He did, His blood would boil, seething sky-high,

what with His flesh on sale, in good supply.

Virtue? Cast out. NO ENTRY signs repel it.


If losing money were the way I’m driven

–  true, I’ve no work here – well, the triple hat

could freeze me out, no doubt, in Medusa’s manner.


But now, if poverty’s all the vogue in heaven,

how work the reversal of our grim estate,

as bloody flags take the wind out of heaven’s banner?



Image Credit:

Featured: ‘Young Slave’ by Michelangelo for the Julius Tomb (1520-23), Florence, Galleria dell’ Accademia by User “Jörg Bittner Unna”, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons