“To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel, 1509”

I have already grown a goiter in this drudgery—
As water does to cats in Lombardy,
Or in whatever other region it may be—
Which forces my belly to hang under my chin.
I feel my beard skyward, and memory
On top of my coffer,and my chest like a harpy’s;
And on my face all the while the brush
With its dripping makes a rich pavement.

My loins have entered my paunch,
And I turn my arse into a croup for a counterweight,
And I take steps vainly without my eyes.
My bark stretches out in front,
And from wrinkling in back, is all knotted,
And I strain like a Syrian bow.

Thus fallacious and strange
Rises the judgment which my mind carries;
For one shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My dead painting
Defend now, Giovanni, and my honor,
For I am not in a good place, nor am I a painter.

— Michelangelo Buonarroti (1509)
Translation by Luciano Rebay