Page images

And casting lots—had slain them, one and all,
All to the last, and flung them far and wide
Into the sea, their proper element;

Him first, as first in rank, whose name so long
Had hushed the babes of VENICE, and who yet,
Breathing a little, in his look retained

The fierceness of his soul.102

Thus were the brides

Lost and recovered; and what now remained

But to give thanks? Twelve breast-plates and twelve


By the young victors to their patron-saint
Vowed in the field, inestimable gifts

Flaming with gems and gold, were in due time.
Laid at his feet; 103 and ever to preserve
The memory of a day so full of change,
From joy to grief, from grief to joy again,
Through many an age, as oft as it came round,
'T was held religiously. The Doge resigned
His crimson for pure ermine, visiting
At earliest dawn St. Mary's silver shrine;
And through the city, in a stately barge
Of gold, were borne with songs and symphonies
Twelve ladies young and noble.10 Clad they were
In bridal white with bridal ornaments,

Each in her glittering veil; and on the deck,
As on a burnished throne, they glided by ;
No window or balcóny but adorned
With hangings of rich texture, not a roof
But covered with beholders, and the air
Vocal with joy. Onward they went, their oars
Moving in concert with the harmony,

Through the Rialto 105 to the Ducal Palace,
And at a banquet, served with honor there,
Sat representing, in the eyes of all,
Eyes not unwet, I ween, with grateful tears,
Their lovely ancestors, the Brides of VENICE.


LET us lift up the curtain, and observe

What passes in that chamber.

And now a groan is heard.

Now a sigh,

Then all is still.

Twenty are sitting as in judgment there; 106

Men who have served their country and grown gray

In governments and distant embassies,

Men eminent alike in war and peace;

Such as in effigy shall long adorn

The walls of VENICE- to show what she was!
Their garb is black, and black the arras is,
And sad the general aspect. Yet their looks
Are calm, are cheerful; nothing there like grief,
Nothing or harsh or cruel. Still that noise,
That low and dismal moaning.

Half withdrawn.

A little to the left, sits one in crimson,

A venerable man, fourscore and five.

Cold drops of sweat stand on his furrowed brow.

His hands are clenched; his eyes half-shut and glazed

His shrunk and withered limbs rigid as marble.

'Tis FOSCARI, the Doge. And there is one, A young man, lying at his feet, stretched out "T is his son. 'Tis GIACOMO

In torture.

His only joy (and has he lived for this?)
Accused of murder. Yesternight the proofs,
If proofs they be, were in the Lion's mouth.
Dropt by some hand unseen; and he, himself,
Must sit and look on a beloved son

Suffering the Question.

Twice, to die in peace,

To save, while yet he could, a falling house,
And turn the hearts of his fell adversaries,
Those who had now, like hell-hounds in full cry,
Chased down his last of four, twice did he ask
To lay aside the crown, and they refused,
An oath exacting, never more to ask;
And there he sits, a spectacle of woe,
Condemned in bitter mockery to wear
The bauble he had sighed for.

Once again

The screw is turned; and, as it turns, the son
Looks up, and, in a faint and broken tone,

Murmurs "My father!" The old man shrinks hack,

And in his mantle muffles up his face.

"Art thou not guilty?" says a voice, that once
Would greet the sufferer long before they met,
"Art thou not guilty?" "No! Indeed I am not!'
But all is unavailing. In that court

Groans are confessions; patience, fortitude,
The work of magic; and, released, revived,
For condemnation, from his father's lips

He hears the sentence, "Banishment to CANDIA.
Death, if he leaves it." And the bark sets sail;
And he is gone from all he loves in life!

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Without a word, a look of tenderness,
To be called up, when, in his lonely hours,
He would indulge in weeping. Like a ghost,
Day after day, year after year, he haunts
An ancient rampart that o'erhangs the sea;
Gazing on vacancy, and hourly there
Starting as from some wild and uncouth dream,
To answer to the watch. Alas! how changed
From him the mirror of the youth of VENICE;
Whom in the slightest thing, or whim or chance,
Did he but wear his doublet so and so,
All followed; at whose nuptials, when he won
That maid at once the noblest, fairest, best,107
A daughter of the house that now among
Its ancestors in monumental brass
Numbers eight Doges-to convey her home,
The Bùcentaur went forth; and thrice the sun
Shone on the chivalry, that, front to front,
And blaze on blaze reflecting, met and ranged
To tourney in ST. MARK'S.-But, lo! at last,
Messengers come. He is recalled: his heart
Leaps at the tidings. He embarks: the boat
Springs to the oar, and back again he goes--
Into that very chamber! there to lie

In his old resting-place, the bed of steel;
And thence look up (five long, long years of grief
Have not killed either) on his wretched sire,
Still in that seat—as though he had not stirred·
Immovable, and muffled in his cloak.

But now he comes convicted of a crime
Great by the laws of VENICE. Night and day,
Brooding on what he had been, what he was,

'T was more than he could bear. His longing-fits
Thickened upon him. His desire for home
Became a madness; and, resolved to go,
If but to die, in his despair he writes
A letter to the sovereign-prince of MILAN
(To him whose name, among the greatest now,"
Had perished, blotted out at once and razed,
But for the rugged limb of an old oak),
Soliciting his influence with the state,
And drops it to be found.


"Would ye know all ?

I have transgressed, offended wilfully; 109
And am prepared to suffer as I ought.

But let me, let me, if but for an hour

(Ye must consent

for all of you are sons,

Most of you husbands, fathers) - let me first
Indulge the natural feelings of a man,
And, ere I die, if such my sentence be,
Press to my heart ('t is all I ask of you)

My wife, my children and my aged mother-
Say, is she yet alive?"

He is condemned

To go ere set of sun, go whence he came,
A banished man; and for a year to breathe
The vapor of a dungeon. But his prayer
(What could they less ?) is granted.

In a hall
Open and crowded by the common herd,
'T was there a wife and her four sons yet young,
A mother borne along, life ebbing fast,

And an old Doge, mustering his strength in vain,
Assembled now, sad privilege! to meet

One so long lost, one who for them had braved,

« PreviousContinue »