Page images
PDF
EPUB

And at a banquet, served with honour there,
Sat representing, in the eyes of all,
Eyes not unwet, I ween, with grateful tears,
Their lovely ancestors, the Brides of Venice.

nio it was second to none. I sottoportici,” says Sansovino, writing in 1580,“ sono ogni giorno frequentati da i mercatanti Fiorentini, Genovesi, Milanesi, Spagnuoli, Turchi, e d'altre nationi diverse del mondo, i quali vi concorrono in tanta copia, che questa piazza è annoverata fra le prime dell'universo.” It was there that the Christian held discourse with the Jew ; and Shylock refers to it, when he says,

Signor Antonio, many a time and oft,

In the Rialto you have rated me—” * Andiamo a Rialto'— L'ora di Rialto'-were on every tongue; and continue so to the present day, as we learn from the comedies of Goldoni, and particularly from his Mercanti.

There is a place adjoining, called Rialto Nuovo ; and so called, according to Sansovino, “ perchè fù fabbricato dopo il vecchio."

66

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

Let us lift up the curtain, and observe
What passes in that chamber. Now a sigh,
And now a groan is heard. Then all is still.
Twenty are sitting as in judgment there ;*
Men who have served their country and grown grey
In governments and distant embassies,
Men eminent alike in war and

peace;
Such as in effigy shall long adorn
The walls of VENICE—to shew 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,

* The Council of Ten and the Giunta, “nel quale,” says Sanuto, “ fù messer lo doge.” The Giunta at the first examination consisted of ten Patricians, at the last of twenty.

This story and the Tragedy of the Two Foscari were published, within a few days of each other, in November 1821.

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Half withdrawn,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
In torture. 'Tis his son. 'Tis GIACOMO,
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 back,
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 !
Gone in the dead of night-unseen of any-
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,
A daughter of the House that now among
Its ancestors in monumental brass
Numbers eight Doges--to convey her home,
The Bucentaur 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

She was a Contarini ; a name coeval with the Republic, and illustrated by eight Doges. On the occasion of their marriage the Bùcentaur came out in its splendour ; and a bridge of boats was thrown across the Canal Grande for the Bridegroom and his retinue of three hundred horse. Sanuto dwells with pleasure on the costliness of the dresses and the magnificence of the processions by land and water. The tournaments in the place of St. Mark lasted three days, and were attended by thirty thousand people.

« PreviousContinue »