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The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation.

James Saslow's annotated bilingual edition of Michelangelo's poetry is a major contribution to Renaissance scholarship. Saslow makes all of Michelangelo's poems available in English for the first time and relates them to the life and work of the artist. The book opens with an introduction covering a survey of critical approaches to the poetry, a brief biography, discussions of the content, form, and literary sources of his poetry, and a note on previous translations. Saslow describes the cultural context' which Michelangelo wrote and also suggests new ways in which his poetry can be illuminated in relation to the representation of gender. I was struck by Saslow's discussion of how Michelangelo's poetic creation of the beloved - both the male beloved as erotic object and the female beloved as mentor and friend - innovates within inherited Petrarchan forms.

The text of the poetry is based on the edition by Enzo Girardi in the Scrittori d'Italia series and follows his numbering for the 302 poems, and 41 fragments (in Saslow's edition printed as an appendix). Saslow includes poems not printed in earlier translations and provides concordances concordances, 1. items that are in harmony.
2. homeopathic medicines with affinity to one another and therefore can be used serially during the sequence of treating an illness. This interaction was initially noted by Boenninghausen.
 to previous editions and translations of the poetry and to Michelangelo's drawings. The text is illustrated by his drawings, paintings, sculpture, and manuscript hand, and Saslow's commentary draws the reader's attention to the connections between textual and visual art. For instance, no. 74 contains the image of the crudele arcier (cruel archer), which Saslow points out calls to mind the drawing "Archers shooting at a herm." This drawing is reproduced alongside no. 65, where the shield of the drawing adumbrates the poetic image of the scudo scu·do  
n. pl. scu·di
A monetary unit and coin formerly used in Italy and Sicily.

[Italian, shield, scudo, from Latin sc
 (shield), which, as Saslow notes, protects the lover from "the violence of passion." The commentaries, printed in smaller type at the end of each poem, also provide a guide to literary allusions, biographical contexts, and connections among poems.

The translations themselves are not only accurate and clear, but direct and contemporary in their language in a way that is close to the feeling of Michelangelo's Italian. Often Saslow manages to achieve a vivid and memorable language, as in his rendering of the final line of poem no. 267: "so that I'm done for, if I don't die soon" (ch'i' son disfatto, s'i' non muoio presto). In this late poem (1546-50), Michelangelo self-mockingly complains about constipation, loose teeth, and difficult urination urination

Process of excreting urine from the bladder (see urinary system). Nerve centres in the spinal cord, brain stem, and cerebral cortex control it through involuntary and voluntary muscles. The need to void is felt when the bladder holds 3.
 in a bitterly comic vein that is perfectly captured by Saslow's pithy pith·y  
adj. pith·i·er, pith·i·est
1. Precisely meaningful; forceful and brief: a pithy comment.

2. Consisting of or resembling pith.
 rendering of the final line. Most of the poems are not so directly physical but portray a complex and tormented intellectual and spiritual autobiography Spiritual autobiography is a genre of non-fiction prose that dominated Protestant writing during the seventeenth century, particularly in England, particularly that of dissenters. . The poems written to Vittoria Colonna Vittoria Colonna (April, 1490 - February 25, 1547), marchioness of Pescara, was an Italian noblewoman and poet. Biography
The daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, grand constable of the kingdom of Naples, and of Agnese da Montefeltro, Vittoria Colonna was born at Marino, a fief
 give great insight into Michelangelo's Neoplatonic understanding of nature and artistic creation. These philosophical concepts are carefully rendered in translation and meaningfully explained in Saslow's commentary. In translating the love poems to Tomasso de' Cavalieri, Saslow manages to convey their gutsy guts·y  
adj. guts·i·er, guts·i·est Slang
1. Marked by courage or daring; plucky.

2. Robust and uninhibited; lusty: "the gutsy . . .
 urgency, especially in his evocation EVOCATION, French law. The act by which a judge is deprived of the cognizance of a suit over which he had jurisdiction, for the purpose of conferring on other judges the power of deciding it. This is done with us by writ of certiorari.  of mutual passion in no. 59 "If one chaste chaste  
adj. chast·er, chast·est
1. Morally pure in thought or conduct; decent and modest.

a. Not having experienced sexual intercourse; virginal.

 love, if one sublime compassion" ("S'un casto amor, s'una pieta superna") and flourishing desire in no. 90, "I'm much dearer to myself than I used to be" ("I'mi son caro assai as·sai 1  
n. pl. as·sais
1. Any of several feather-leaved South American palms, especially Euterpe edulis and E. oleracea, that are important sources of heart of palm.

 piu ch'i' non soglio"). One senses a translator and scholar in deep sympathy with his subject despite the acknowledged gulf between them. Scholars and lovers of poetry will find these translations and notes an invaluable guide through the poems and their relation to the life and work, and a sheer pleasure to read in their own right.
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Author:Carroll, Clare
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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