On the Painting of the Sistine Chapel

To Giovanni da Posta

I’ho già fatto un gozzo

I’ve grown a goiter dwelling in this den—

As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy,

Or in what other land they hap to be—

Which drives the belly close beneath the chin:

My beard turns toward heaven: my nape falls in,

Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly

Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery

Bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin.

My loins into my paunch like levers grind:

My buttock like a crupper bears my weight;

My feet unguided wander to and fro;

In front my skin grows loose and long; behind,

By bending it becomes more taut and straight;

Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:

Whence false and quaint, I know,

Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;

For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.

Come then, my Giovanni, and do try

To succour my dead pictures and my fame,

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

(Translated by John Addington Symons, edited by Michael Martin)

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