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All eye, all ear, nowhere and everywhere,
Entering the closet and the sanctuary,
No place of refuge for the Doge himself;
Most present when least thought of — nothing dropt
In secret, when the heart was on the lips,
Nothing in feverish sleep, but instantly
Observed and judged — a power, that if but named
In casual converse, be it where it might, The speaker lowered at once his eyes, his voice, And pointed upward as to God in heaven What though that power was there, he who lived thus, Pursuing Pleasure, lived as if it were not. But let him in the midnight air indulge A word, a thought against the laws of VENICE, And in that hour he vanished from the earth!
Boy, call the Gondola; the sun is set.
It came, and we embarked ; but instantly,
As at the waving of a magic wand,
Though she had stept on board so light of foot,
So light of heart, laughing she knew not why,
Sleep overcame her; on my arm she slept.
From time to time I waked her; but the boat
Rocked her to sleep again. The moon was now
Rising full-orbed, but broken by a cloud.
The wind was hushed, and the sea mirror-like.
A single zephyr, as enamored, played
With her loose tresses, and drew more and more
Her veil across her bosom. Long I lay
Contemplating that face so beautiful,
That rosy mouth, that cheek dimpled with smiles,
That neck but half concealed, whiter than snow.
’T was the sweet slumber of her early age.
I looked and looked, and felt a flush of joy
I would express, but cannot. Oft I wished
Gently — by stealth — to drop asleep myself,
And to incline yet lower that sleep might come;
Oft closed my eyes as in forgetfulness.
'Twas all in vain. Love would not let me rest.
But how delightful when at length she waked !
When, her light hair adjusting, and her veil
So rudely scattered, she resumed her place
Beside me; and, as gayly as before,
Sitting unconsciously nearer and nearer,
Poured out her innocent mind!
So, nor long since,
Sung a Venetian; and his lay of love,*
Dangerous and sweet, charmed VENICE. For myself
(Less fortunate, if Love be Happiness),
No curtain drawn, no pulse beating alarm,
I went alone beneath the silent moon;
Thy square, St. Mark, thy churches, palaces,
Glittering and frost-like, and, as day drew on,
Melting away, an emblem of themselves.
Those porches passed, through which the water-breeze Plays, though no longer on the noble forms so That moved there, sable-vested — and the quay, Silent, grass-grown — adventurer-like I launched Into the deep, ere long discovering Isles such as cluster in the Southern seas, All verdure. Everywhere, from bush and brake,
The musky odor of the serpents came;
Their slimy track across the woodman's path
Bright in the moonshine; and, as round I went,
Dreaming of GREECE, whither the waves were gliding,
I listened to the venerable pines
Then in close converse, and, if right I guessed,
Delivering many a message to the winds,
In secret, for their kindred on Mount IDA.91
Nor when again in VENICE, when again
In that strange place, so stirring and so still,
Where nothing comes to drown the human voice
But music, or the dashing of the tide,
Ceased I to wander. Now a JESSICA
Sung to her lute, her signal as she sate
At her half-open window. Then, methought,
A serenade broke silence, breathing hope
Through walls of stone, and torturing the proud heart
Of some PRIULI. Once, we could not err
(It was before an old Palladian house,
As between night and day we floated by),
A gondolier lay singing; and he sung,
As in the time when VENICE was herself,
Of TANCRED and ERMINIA.92
On our oars We rested; and the verse was verse divine ! We could not err —
perhaps he was the last For none took
up the strain, none answered him; And, when he ceased, he left upon my ear A something like the dying voice of VENICE!
The moon went down; and nothing now was seen Save where the lamp of a Madonna shone Faintly — or heard, but when he spoke, who stood Over the lantern at the prow and cried,
Turning the corner of some reverend pile,
Some school or hospital of old renown,
Though haply none were coming, none were near,
“Hasten or slacken."* But at length Night fled;
And with her fled, scattering, the sons of Pleasure.
Star after star shot by, or, meteor-like,
Crossed me and vanished
lost at once among
Those hundred isles that tower majestically,
That rise abruptly from the water-mark,
Not with rough crag, but marble, and the work
Of noblest architects. I lingered still;
Nor sought my threshold, 94 till the hour was come
And past, when, flitting home in the gray light,
The young BIANCA found her father's door,
That door so often with a trembling hand,
So often - then so lately left ajar,
Shut; and, all terror, all perplexity,
Now by her lover urged, now by her love,
Fled o'er the waters to return no more.
THE BRIDES OF VENICE.%
It was St. Mary's Eve, and all poured forth
For some great festival. The fisher came
From his green islet, bringing o'er the waves
His wife and little one; the husbandman
From the firm land, with many a friar and nun,
And village-maiden, her first flight from home,
Crowding the common ferry. All arrived;
And in his straw the prisoner turned to hear,
So great the stir in VENICE. Old and young
Thronged her three hundred bridges; the grave Turk,
Turbaned, long-vested, and the cozening Jew
In yellow hat and threadbare gabardine,
Hurrying along. For, as the custom was,
The noblest sons and daughters of the state,
Whose names are written in the Book of Gold,
Were on that day to solemnize their nuptials.
At noon a distant murmur, through the crowd
Rising and rolling on, proclaimed them near;
And never from their earliest hour was seen
Such splendor or such beauty." Two and two
(The richest tapestry unrolled before them),
First came the brides ; each in her virgin-veil,
Nor unattended by her bridal maids,
The two that, step by step, behind her bore
The small but precious caskets that contained
The dowry and the presents. On she moved
In the sweet seriousness of virgin-youth;
Her eyes cast down, and holding in her hand
A fan, that gently waved, of ostrich-plumes.
Her veil, transparent as the gossamer,
Fell from beneath a starry diadem ;
And on her dazzling neck a jewel shone,
Ruby or diamond or dark amethyst;
A jewelled chain, in many a winding wreath,
Wreathing her gold brocade.
Before the church,
That venerable structure now no more
On the sea-brink, another train they met,
No strangers, nor unlooked for ere they came,
Brothers to some, still dearer to the rest;
Each in his hand bearing his cap and plume