Short Poem Saturday – Grateful is Sleep – Buonarroti

The painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) wrote this quatrain on his own sculpture Night, which is one of several masterpieces of his decorating the Medici Tomb in Florence. With most of the popular emphasis on Michelangelo’s sculpture and painting, I often forget that he was also a prolific poet, writing hundreds of sonnets and epigrams. But this short poem particularly struck me because of its self-reflective ekphrastic theme. For a photograph of Night, a different translation of this poem, and an interesting discussion about an attribute of the statue that has, shall we say, attracted attention through the centuries, click here.

I’m continuing my no-erase policy and experimenting with some textured cardboard and paint. This time it meant I wound up with two illustrations! To see the other one scroll down or click the “Read More” button. Poem by Michelangelo Buonarroti, translated by William Wordsworth, painting and composition by me. Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. I just finished reading a long picture book about M written by Diane Stanley. It’s excellent. She made no mention of the poetry, but a picture book can rarely sustain dual themes. Love this excerpt you’ve chosen. He lived through rough times, and he was often not treated fairly by the Popes or the larger circle of Medici family members. He lived for his work and nothing else. Perhaps that’s why he lived so long. The exquisite beauty that he created kept him alive through all the turmoil.


    1. I think it would be daunting to illustrate a picture book about Michelangelo! As you said, he lived such a long and intensely creative life. As I mentioned to Ms. Peach below, his poems were suppressed or ignored for a long time due to the homoerotic nature of many of them. It is still a source of controversy for some from what I have read. This short gem was in a little book of ekphrastic poetry that I have and I remember I read the title first – it was subtitled “On Michelangelo’s sculpture Night” – and then the poem and only belatedly realized it was by Michelangelo himself! I even double checked online that it was the same Michelangelo! 🙂


      1. I had forgotten that the author does dedicate a page to two people who appear to be the loves of M’s life, a woman named Vittoria Colonna and a man named Tommaso Cavalieri. She says that M wrote ardent poems to Tommaso and gave him beautiful gifts of drawings. But then she says that their “devoted friendship lasted for more than thirty years, and when death came for M, Tommaso was at his side.” The woman died when M was 70, and he wrote that he’d lost “the great fire which burned and nourished me.” So it appears that M did have two great loves. Not bad for a man who sounds like somewhat of a workaholic and recluse. And I’m thinking that the PB author most likely delicately addressed the issue of M possibly being bisexual.


    1. Thank you! It is my pleasure – it is a forgotten aspect of such a public figure. His poems were actively suppressed for a long time because many of them are overtly homoerotic, but he was quite a prolific writer on a variety of topics!

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  2. Mind you:

    Rumour has it that in the next elections, Michelangelo will try to become the first large reptile to become president of the US since Abraham Lincoln. He will therefore have to challenge his main rival in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Leonardo, who is now trying to become the first man of the Republican Party. Michelangelo’s main promises will be free pizza for everyone, the defeat of Shredder and roof decorating for competitive prices. Frequently known for shouting “shazam” and looking at nearby cameras. One should exercise caution when approaching him, for his bark is worse than his bite.


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