Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thither I come, and in a wondrous ark (That, long before we slipt our cable, rang As with the voices of all living things), From PADUA, where the stars are, night by night, Watched from the top of an old dungeon-tower, Whence blood ran once, the tower of Ezzelin Not as he watched them, when he read his fate And shuddered. But of him I thought not then, Him or his horoscope; far, far from me The forms of Guilt and Fear; though some were there, Sitting among us round the cabin-board,

54

Some who, like him, had cried, "Spill blood enough!"
And could shake long at shadows. They had played
Their parts at PADUA, and were floating home,
Careless and full of mirth; to-morrow a day
Not in their calendar. Who, in a strain
To make the hearer fold his arms and sigh,
Sings, "Caro, Caro"?-T is the Prima Donna,
And to her monkey, smiling in his face.
Who, as transported, cries, "Brava! Ancora"?

-T is a grave personage, an old macaw,
Perched on her shoulder. But who leaps ashore,
And with a shout urges the lagging mules; 56
Then climbs a tree that overhangs the stream,
And, like an acorn, drops on deck again?
'Tis he who speaks not, stirs not, but we laugh;
That child of fun and frolic, Arlecchino.
And mark their poet with what emphasis
He prompts the young soubrette, conning her part
Her tongue plays truant, and he raps his box,
And prompts again; forever looking round
As if in search of subjects for his wit,

57

53

-

His satire; and as often whispering
Things, though unheard, not unimaginable.
Had I thy pencil, CRABBE (when thou hast done,
Late may it be. . it will, like PROSPERO'S staff,
Be buried fifty fathoms in the earth),

I would portray the Italian. Now I cannot.
Subtle, discerning, eloquent, the slave

Of Love, of Hate, forever in extremes;

Gentle when unprovoked, easily won,

But quick in quarrel — through a thousand shades
His spirit flits, chameleon-like; and mocks
eye of the observer.

The

Gliding on,
At length we leave the river for the sea.
At length a voice aloft proclaims "Venezia!"
And, as called forth, she comes.

58

A few in fear, Flying away from him whose boast it was s That the grass grew not where his horse had trod, Gave birth to VENICE. Like the water-fowl, They built their nests among the ocean-waves; And where the sands were shifting, as the wind Blew from the north or south-where they that came Had to make sure the ground they stood upon, Rose, like an exhalation from the deep, A vast metropolis," with glistering spires, With theatres, basilicas adorned;

A scene of light and glory, a dominion,
That has endured the longest among men."

And whence the talisman, whereby she rose,
Towering? T was found there in the barren sea.
Want led to Enterprise; and, far or near,

61

62

Who met not the Venetian?—now among
The EGEAN Isles, steering from port to port,
Landing and bartering; now, no stranger there,
In CAIRO, or without the eastern gate,
Ere yet the Cafila 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!

63

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; 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.

LUIGI.

HAPPY is he who loves companionship,

And lights on thee, LUIGI. Thee I' found,
Playing at MORA on the cabin-roof

64

With Punchinello. 'Tis a game to strike

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,

« PreviousContinue »