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Lorenzo’s Song by Coningsby Dawson 19/07/2011

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A Coningsby Dawson (obit 1959) poem from A Certain Night in Florence and Other Poems (1914), excerpted from the title poem.

So tis Lorenzo’s song they sing to-night,
That haunting song which long years since he sang
When, with his gallants through the torch-smirched dusk,

He laughing rode toward the Carnival,
And young girls loosened all abroad their hair
And flung up petals through the cool moonlight,
Some of which falling rested on his face,
Some of which falling covered up his eyes;
And girls there were who kissed his drooping hands
And clasped his stirrups, begging him to stay,
To halt one little moment, stay with them:
Life is so short. Delay with us a while.
But he rode on, and sang of joy and love.
Lorenzo il Magnifico is dead;
His lips are silent, and he now could halt
Oh, endlessly, if one of those fair maids
Should come to him imploring him to stay.
For twelve slow years within the sacristy
Of San Lorenzo he has never waked,
But has the rest he could not find in life
Ungrateful now, because postponed too long.
If one should steal to him from out the past
And bending down should whisper low his name,
He would not hearken. True, she would be old,
As are all maids of that spent gala-night;
So, if he heard her, he would only smile,
For he loved only beauty in his day.


Day-trip to Monte Morello 23/02/2011

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c. 1845

Whoever looks on the valley of the Arno from San Miniato, and observes the Appenine range, of which Fiesole is one, bounding it on the north, will immediately notice to the northwest a double peak rising high above all the others. The bare, brown forehead of this, known by the name of Monte Morello, seemed so provokingly to challenge an ascent, that we determined to try it. So we started early, a few days ago, from the Porta San Gallo, with nothing but the frosty grass and fresh air to remind us of the middle of December. Leaving the Prato road, at the base of the mountain, we passed Careggi, a favorite farm of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and entered a narrow glen where a little brook was brawling down its rocky channel. Here and there stood a rustic mill, near which women were busy spreading their washed clothes on the grass. Following the footpath, we ascended a long eminence to a chapel where some boys were amusing themselves with a common country game. They have a small wheel, around which they wind a rope, and, running a little distance to increase the velocity, let it off with a sudden jerk. On a level road it can be thrown upwards of a quarter of a mile.

From the chapel, a gradual ascent along the ridge of a hill brought us to the foot of the peak, which rose high be fore us, covered with bare rocks and stunted oaks. The wind blew coldly from a snowy range to the north, as we commenced ascending with a good will. A few shepherds were leading their flocks along the sides, to browse on the grass and withered bushes, and we started up a large hare occasionally from his leafy covert. The ascent was very toilsome; I was obliged to stop frequently on account of the painful throbbing of my heart, which made it difficult to breathe. When the summit was gained, we lay down awhile on the leeward side to cover ourselves.

We looked on the great valley of the Arno, perhaps twenty-five miles long, and five or six broad, lying like a long elliptical basin sunk among the hills. I can liken it to nothing but a vast sea ; for a dense, blue mist covered the level surface, through which the domes of Florence rose up like a craggy island, while the thousands of scattered villas resembled ships, with spread sails, afloat on its surface. The sharp, cutting wind soon drove us down, with a few hundred bounds, to the path again. Three more hungry mortals did not dine at the Cacciatore that day. The chapel of the Medici, which we visited, is of wonderful beauty. The walls are entirely encrusted with pietra dura and the most precious kinds of marble. .The ceiling is covered with gorgeous frescoes by Benevenuto, a modern painter. Around the sides, in magnificent sarcophagi of marble and jasper, repose the ashes of a few Cosmos and Ferdinands. I asked the sacristan for the tomb of Lorenzo the Magnificent. ‘Oh!’ said he, ‘he lived during the Republic he has no tomb; these are only for Dukes!’ I could not repress a sigh at the lavish waste of labor and treasure on this one princely chapel. They might have slumbered unnoted, like Lorenzo, if they had done as much for their country and Italy.

The death of Lorenzo de’ Medici 17/01/2011

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. . . Then he devoted himself to consoling his son Piero, for the others were not there, and exhorted him to bear this law of necessity with courage, feeling sure that the aid of Heaven would be vouchsafed to him as it had been to himself in many and divers occasions, if he only acted wisely. Meanwhile your Lazarus, the doctor from Pavia, arrived, most learned as it seemed to me, but summoned too late to be of any use. Yet to do something he ordered various precious stones to be pounded together in a mortar for I know not what kind of medicine. Lorenzo thereupon asked the servants what the doctor was doing in his room and what he was preparing, and when I answered that he was composing a remedy to comfort his intestines he recognized my voice, and looking kindly as is his wont: ‘Oh, Angiolo!’ he said, ‘art thou here?’ and raising his languid arms took both my hands and pressed them tightly. I could not stifle my sobs or stay my tears though I tried to hide them by turning my face away. But he showed no emotion and continued to press my hands between his. When he saw that I could not speak for crying, quite naturally he loosened my hands, and I ran into the adjoining room where I could give free vent to my grief and to my tears. Then drying my eyes I returned, and as soon as he saw me he called me to him and asked what Pico della Mirandola was doing. I replied that Pico had remained in town fearing to molest him with his presence.

‘And I,’ said Lorenzo, ‘but for the fear that the journey here might be irksome to him would be most glad to see him and speak to him for the last time before I leave you all.’ I asked if I should send for him. ‘Certainly, and with all speed,’ answered he. This I did, and Pico came and sat by the bed, whilst I leaned against his knees in order to hear the languid voice of my lord for the last time. With what goodness, with what courtesy, I may say with what caresses, Lorenzo received him. First he asked his pardon for thus disturbing him, begging him to regard it as a sign of the friendship – the love – he bore him, assuring him that he died more willingly after seeing so dear a friend. Then introducing, as was his wont, pleasant and familiar sayings, he joked also with us. ‘I wish,’ he said to Pico, ‘that death had spared me until your library had been complete’.

Pico had hardly left the room when Fra Girolamo [Savonarola] of Ferrara, a man celebrated for his doctrine and his sanctity and an excellent preacher, came in. To his exhortations to remain firm in his faith and to live in future, if God granted him life, free from crime, or if God so willed it to receive death willingly, Lorenzo answered that he was firm in his religion, that his life would always be guided by it, and that nothing could be sweeter to him than death, if such was the divine will. Fra Girolamo then turned to go, when Lorenzo said : ‘Oh, Father, before going deign to give me thy benediction.’ Bowing his head, immersed in piety and religion, he repeated the words and the prayers of the friar, without paying any attention to the grief now openly shown of his attendants. It seemed that all, save Lorenzo, were going to die, so calm was he. He gave no signs of anxiety or of sorrow; even in that supreme moment he showed his usual strength of mind and his fortitude. The doctors who stood round, not to seem idle, worried him with their remedies and assistance. He submitted to everything they suggested, not because he thought it would save him, but in order not to offend anyone, even in death. To the last he had such mastery over himself that he joked about his own death. Thus when given something to eat and asked how he liked it, he replied, ‘As well as a dying man can like anything’. He embraced us all tenderly and humbly asked pardon if during his illness he had caused annoyance to anyone. Then, disposing himself to receive extreme unction, he commended his soul to God. . . ,

Eugene Lee-Hamilton: Lorenzo de’ Medici to his Last Autumn 14/12/2010

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1888 in Imaginary Sonnets

Now falls the autumn in a rain of gold,

And makes a very Danae of earth,

Whose breast, beneath the yellow leaves, gives birth

To scented sighs, as hers ‘neath Jove of old.

And golden vapour fills each mountain fold,

And warmth and ripeness fill the broad land’s girth,

Ere old November cowers by the hearth

To warm his hands that tremble with the cold.

But I, whose autumn cometh premature,

From these Careggi windows mutely gaze

On yonder towered Florence, through the pure

October air, just tinged with golden haze,

And see alone the tomb, where, cold and sure,

Eternal winter waits me some few days.