"Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow"

Apr 30, 2018, 09:11 PM

Interior of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, reimagined by Cities and Memory. We've constructed an imagined version of the actual soundscape inside the Sistine Chapel, in which a cry of "silence" is followed by a slowly-growing crescendo of noise. Here, the sounds of reverb, synths and guitars replace the sounds of chatter, and as the noise builds and builds, we can almost hear the sounds of angels' choruses up above us. 

The title comes from Michelangelo's poem about the arduous conditions under which he painted the ceiling: 

"I've grown a goitre by 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 up to 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 strait;

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, Giovanni, try

To succour my dead pictures and my fame;

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame."