« PreviousContinue »
Who met not the Venetian ?
now among The ÆGEAN Isles, steering from port to port, Landing and bartering ; now, no stranger there, In CAIRO, or without the eastern gate, Ere yet the Cafila 62 came, listening to hear Its bells approaching from the Red-Sea coast; Then on the Euxine, and that smaller Sea Of Azoph, in close converse with the Russ, And Tartar; on his lowly deck receiving Pearls from the Persian Gulf, gems from Golconde; Eyes brighter yet, that shed the light of love, From Georgia, from Circassia. Wandering round, When in the rich bazaar he saw, displayed, Treasures from climes unknown, he asked and learnt, And, travelling slowly upward, drew ere long From the well-head, supplying all below; Making the imperial city of the East, Herself, his tributary. - If we turn To those black forests, where, through many an age, Night without day, no axe the silence broke, Or seldom, save where Rhine or Danube rolled; Where o’er the narrow glen a castle hangs, And, like the wolf that hungered at his door, The baron lived by rapine — there we meet, In warlike guise, the caravan from VENICE; When on its march, now lost and now beheld, A glittering file (the trumpet heard, the scout Sent and recalled), but at a city-gate All gayety, and looked for ere it comes ; Winning regard with all that can attract, Cages, whence every wild cry of the desert, Jugglers, stage-dancers. Well might CHARLEMAIN,
And his brave peers, each with his visor up,
On their long lances lean and gaze a while,
When the Venetian to their eyes disclosed
The wonders of the East! Well might they then
Sigh for new conquests!
Thus did VENICE rise,
Thus flourish, till the unwelcome tidings came,
That in the Tagus had arrived a fleet
From INDIA, from the region of the sun,
Fragrant with spices ---- that a way was found,
A channel opened, and the golden stream
Turned to enrich another. Then she felt
Her strength departing, yet a while maintained
Her state, her splendor; till a tempest shook
All things most held in honor among men,
All that the giant with the scythe had spared,
To their foundations, and at once she fell; 6
She who had stood yet longer than the last
Of the four kingdoms — who, as in an ark,
Had floated down, amid a thousand wrecks,
Uninjured, from the Old World to the New,
From the last glimpse of civilized life — to where
Light shone again, and with the blaze of noon.
Through many an age in the mid-sea she dwelt,
From her retreat calmly contemplating
The changes of the earth, herself unchanged.
Before her passed, as in an awful dream,
The mightiest of the mighty. What are these,
Clothed in their purple ? O’er the globe they fling
Their monstrous shadows; and, while yet we speak,
Phantom-like, vanish with a dreadful scream !
What— but the last that styled themselves the Cæsars ?
And who in long array (look where they come;
Their gestures menacing so far and wide)
Wear the green turban and the heron's plume ?
Who — but the Caliphs ? followed fast by shapes
As new and strange — Emperor, and King, and Czar,
And Soldan, each, with a gigantic stride,
Trampling on all the flourishing works of peace
To make his greatness greater, and inscribe
His name in blood — some, men of steel, steel-clad;
Others, nor long, alas! the interval,
In light and gay attire, with brow serene
Wielding Jove's thunder, scattering sulphurous fire
Mingled with darkness; and, among the rest,
Lo! one by one, passing continually,
Those who assume a sway beyond them all;
Men gray with age, each in a triple crown,
And in his tremulous hands grasping the keys
That can alone, as he would signify,
Unlock Heaven's gate.
HAPPY is he who loves companionship,
And lights on thee, LUIGI. Thee I'found,
Playing at MORA" on the cabin-roof
With Punchinello. — 'T is a game to strike 65
Fire from the coldest heart. What then from thine ?
And, ere the twentieth throw, I had resolved,
Won by thy looks. Thou wert an honest lad;
Wert generous, grateful, not without ambition.
Had it depended on thy will alone,
Thou wouldst have numbered in thy family
At least six Doges and the first in fame.
But that was not to be. In thee I saw
The last, if not the least, of a long line,
Who in their forest, for three hundred years,
Had lived and labored, cutting, charring wood;
Discovering where they were, to those astray,
By the reëchoing stroke, the crash, the fall,
Or the blue wreath that travelled slowly up
Into the sky. Thy nobler destinies
Led thee away to justle in the crowd;
And there I found thee — trying once again,
What for thyself thou hadst prescribed so oft,
A change of air and diet - once again
Crossing the sea, and springing to the shore
As though thou knewest where to dine and sleep.
First in BOLOGNA didst thou plant thyself,
Serving behind a cardinal's gouty chair,
Listening and oft replying, jest for jest ;
Then in FERRARA, everything by turns,
So great thy genius and so Proteus-like!
Now serenading in a lover's train,
And measuring swords with his antagonist ;
Now carving, cup-bearing in halls of state;
And now a guide to the lorn traveller,
A very Cicerone — yet, alas !
How unlike him who fulmined in old ROME!
Dealing out largely in exchange for pence
Thy scraps of knowledge - through the grassy street
Leading, explaining — pointing to the bars
Of Tasso's dungeon, and the Latin verse,
Graven in the stone, that yet denotes the door
Many a year is gone Since on the RHINE we parted; yet, methinks, I can recall thee to the life, LUIGI, In our long journey ever by my side ; Thy locks jet-black, and clustering round a face Open as day and full of manly daring. Thou hadst a hand, a heart for all that came, Herdsman or pedler, monk or muletecr; And few there were that met thee not with smiles. Mishap passed o'er thee like a summer-cloud. Cares thou hadst none; and they that stood to hear thee Caught the infection and forgot their own. Nature conceived thee in her merriest mood, Her happiest - not a speck was in the sky; And at thy birth the cricket chirped, LUIGI, Thine a perpetual voice — at every turn A larum to the echo. In a clime Where all were gay, none were so gay as thou ; Thou, like a babe, hushed only by thy slumbers; Up hill and down hill, morning, noon and night, Singing or talking ; singing to thyself When none gave ear, but to the listener talking.
OVER how many tracts, vast, measureless,
Ages on ages roll, and none appear
Save the wild hunter ranging for his prey;
While on this spot of earth, the work of man,
How much has been transacted! Emperors, Popes,
Warriors, from far and wide, laden with spoil,