Page:The Life of Michael Angelo.djvu/223

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155
SOLITUDE

to celebrate such a fête in honour of one who has just been born. You should reserve your gladness for the day on which a man who has lived well dies."[1]

And in the following year he congratulated him on having lost his second son shortly after birth.

Nature, which, through his passionate existence and the peculiar character of his intellectual genius, he had up to then neglected,[2] was a source of consolation to him in his declining years. In September 1556, when fleeing from Rome, which was threatened by the Spanish troops of the Duke of Alba, he passed by Spoleto and there remained five weeks, in the midst of the oak and olive woods, penetrated through and through by the serene splendour of the autumn. It was with regret that he returned to Rome, to which he was recalled at the end of October. "I have left more than half of myself over there," he wrote to Vasari, "for verily peace is to be found only in the woods."

Pace non si trova senon ne boschi.[3]

And on returning to Rome the old man of eighty-two composed a beautiful poem to the glory of the fields and

  1. Letter to Vasari, dated "I know not what day of April 1554" ("A di non so quanti d'aprile 1554").
  2. In spite of the years which he spent away from towns, at Carrara or at Seravezza, he had always paid little attention to nature. Landscape has a very small place in his work; it is reduced to a few summary indications in his frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. In this respect, Michael Angelo differs from his contemporaries Raphael, Titian, Perugino, Francia, and Leonardo da Vinci. He despised the landscapes of the Flemish masters, then much in favour. "Rags," he said, "ruins, green fields shaded with trees, rivers, and bridges—what are called landscapes—and with many figures here and there" ("Dialogues" of Francis of Holland).
  3. "Letters," December 28, 1556.