Pope received the letter he despatched five couriers after him, but they did not overtake the fugitive until eleven o'clock at night, by which time he had reached Poggibonsi, in Tuscany. There they handed him the following order: "Immediately after the receipt of this, return to Rome, on pain of our disgrace." Michael Angelo replied that he would return when the Pope kept his engagements; otherwise, Julius II. might give up all hope of ever seeing him again.
He addressed a sonnet to the Pope, as follows:
"Lord, if ever a proverb was true, it is that which says that he who can, never will. You have believed in tales and idle talk; you have recompensed the enemy of truth. As regards myself, I am and have ever been your good old servant. I am as attached to you as the rays are to the sun. And yet the time which I lose afflicts you not! The more I fatigue myself the less you love me. I had hoped to grow greater through your grandeur, and that your just balance and your powerful sword would have been my only judges, and not a lying echo. But heaven makes a mockery of all virtue, in placing it in this world, if it counts on fruit from a dead tree."
It is probable that the affront which he received from Julius II. was not the sole reason for Michael Angelo's flight. In a letter to Giuliano da San Gallo he leads one to suppose that Bramante intended to have him assassinated.
- The whole of this narrative is taken, textually, from a letter by Michael Angelo, dated October 1542.
- I place it at this date, which appears to me to be the most likely one, although Frey, without, in my opinion, sufficient reason, claims that it was written about 1511.
- Poems," iii. (See Appendix, i.)
The dead tree "is an allusion to the evergreen oak which figures on the arms of the De la Rovere family—that of Julius II.
- That was not the only cause of my departure; there was