Threescore and ten!
I wish it were all to live again.
Doesn't the Scripture somewhere say,
By reason of strength men oft-times
Even reach fourscore? Alack! who
Ten sweet, long years of life! I would
Our Lady and many and many a saint,
And thereby win my soul's repose.
Yet, Fra Bernardo, you shake your
Has the leech once said
I must die? But he
Is only a fallible man, you see:
Now, if it had been our father the
I should know there was then no
Were only I sure of a few kind years
More to be merry in, then my fears
I'd slip for a while, and turn and
At their hated reckonings: whence the
Of squaring accounts for word and
Till the lease is up?... How? hear I
No, no! You could not have said,
Ah, well! ah, well!
"Confess"—you tell me—"and be
Is there no easier path to heaven?
Santa Maria! how can I tell
What, now for a score of years and
I've buried away in my heart so deep
That, howso tired I've been, I've
Eyes waking when near me another
Lest I might mutter it in my sleep?
And now at the last to blab it clear!
How the women will shrink from my
pictures! And worse
Will the men do—spit on my name,
But then up in heaven I shall not
I faint! I faint!
Quick, Fra Bernardo! The figure
There in the niche—my patron
Put it within my trembling hands
Till they are steadier. So!
Whirled and grew dizzy with sudden
Trying to p that gulf of years,
Fronting again those long laid fears.
Confess? Why, yes, if I must, I
Now good Sant' Andrea be my trust!
But fill me first, from that crystal
Strong wine to strengthen me for my
(That thing is a gem of
Just mark how its curvings fit the
Ah, you, in your dreamy, tranquil
How can you fathom the rage and
The blinding envy, the burning smart,
That, worm-like, gnaws the Maestro's
When he sees another snatch the prize
Out from under his very eyes,
For which he would barter his soul? You
I taught him his art from first to
Whatever he was he owed to me.
And then to be browbeat, overpassed,
Stealthily jeered behind the hand!
Why that was more than a saint could
And I was no saint. And if my soul,
With a pride like Lucifer's, mocked
And goaded me on to madness, till
I lost all measure of good or ill,
Whose gift was it, pray? Oh, many a
I've cursed it, yet whose is the blame, I
His name? How strange that you
When I'm sure I have told it o'er and
And why should you care to hear it
Well, as I was saying, Domenico
Was wont of my skill to make such
That, seeing him go on a certain
Out with his lute, I followed. Hot
From a war of words, I heeded not
Whither I went, till I heard him
A madrigal under the lattice where
Only the night before I sang.
—A double robbery! and I swear
'Twas overmuch for the flesh to bear.
Don't ask me. I knew not what I
But I hastened home with my rapier
Under my cloak, and the blade was
Just open that cabinet there and see
The strange red rustiness on it yet.
A calm that was dead as dead could be
Numbed me: I seized my chalks to
What think you?—Judas Iscariot's
I just had finished the scowl, no
When the shuffle of feet drew near my
(We lived together, you know I said):
Then wide they flung it, and on the
Laid down Domenico—dead!
Back swam my senses: a sickening pain
Tingled like lightning through my
And ere the spasm of fear was broke,
The men who had borne him homeward
Soothingly: "Some assassin's knife
Had taken the innocent artist's
Wherefore, 'twere hard to say: all
Were prone to have troubles now and
The world knew naught of. Toward his
Florence stood waiting to extend
Tenderest dole." Then came my tears,
And I've been sorry these twenty
Now, Fra Bernardo, you have my sin:
Do you think Saint Peter will let me