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    Venice

    Venice
    Lord Byron (1788–1824)
     
    (From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

      I STOOD in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
      A palace and a prison on each hand:
      I saw from out the wave her structures rise
      As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;
      A thousand years their cloudy wings expand        5
      Around me, and a dying glory smiles
      O’er the far times when many a subject land
      Looked to the wingéd’s Lion’s marble piles,
    Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!
     
      She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,        10
      Rising with her tiara of proud towers
      At airy distance, with majestic motion,
      A ruler of the waters and their powers.
      And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
      From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East        15
      Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
      In purple was she robed, and of her feast
    Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.
     
      In Venice Tasso’s echoes are no more,
      And silent rows the songless gondolier;        20
      Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
      And music meets not always now the ear:
      Those days are gone, but beauty still is here.
      States fall, arts fade, but Nature doth not die,
      Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,        25
      The pleasant place of all festivity,
    The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
     
      But unto us she hath a spell beyond
      Her name in story, and her long array
      Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond        30
      Above the Dogeless city’s vanished sway:
      Ours is a trophy which will not decay
      With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
      And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away,—
      The keystones of the arch! though all were o’er,        35
    For us repeopled were the solitary shore.
     
      The beings of the mind are not of clay;
      Essentially immortal, they create
      And multiply in us a brighter ray
      And more beloved existence: that which Fate        40
      Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
      Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
      First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
      Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
    And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
    *        *        *        *        *
            45
      The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
      And, annual marriage now no more renewed,
      The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
      Neglected garment of her widowhood!
      St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood        50
      Stand, but in mockery of his withered power,
      Over the proud place where an emperor sued,
      And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour
    When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower.
     
      The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns,—        55
      An emperor tramples where an emperor knelt;
      Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
      Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt
      From power’s high pinnacle, when they have felt
      The sunshine for a while, and downward go        60
      Like lauwine loosened from the mountain’s belt:
      O for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
    The octogenarian chief, Byzantium’s conquering foe.
     
      Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
      Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;        65
      But is not Doria’s menace come to pass?
      Are they not bridled? Venice, lost and won,
      Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
      Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose!
      Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun,        70
      Even in destruction’s depth, her foreign foes,
    From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
     
      In youth she was all glory,—a new Tyre,—
      Her very byword sprung from victory,
      The “Planter of the Lion,” which through fire        75
      And blood she bore o’er subject earth and sea;
      Though making many slaves, herself still free,
      And Europe’s bulwark ’gainst the Ottomite:
      Witness Troy’s rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye
      Immortal waves that saw Lepanto’s fight!        80
    For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
    *        *        *        *        *
      I loved her from my boyhood,—she to me
      Was as a fairy city of the heart,
      Rising like water-columns from the sea,
      Of joy the sojourn and of wealth the mart;        85
      And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare’s art,
      Had stamped her image in me, and even so,
      Although I found her thus, we did not part,
      Perchance even dearer in her day of woe
    Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.        90
     
      I can repeople with the past,—and of
      The present there is still for eye and thought,
      And meditation chastened down, enough;
      And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought;
      And of the happiest moments which were wrought        95
      Within the web of my existence, some
      From thee, fair Venice! have their colors caught;
      There are some feelings time cannot benumb,
    Nor torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.