« PreviousContinue »
Landing, have here performed their several parts,
Then left the stage to others. Not a stone
In the broad pavement, but to him who has
eye, an ear for the inanimate world, Tells of past ages.
In that temple-porch
(The brass is gone, the porphyry remains )
Did BARBAROSSA fling his mantle off,
And kneeling, on his neck receive the foot
Of the proud Pontiff's — thus at last consoled
For flight, disguise, and many an aguish shake
On his stone pillow.
In that temple-porch,
Old as he was, so near his hundredth year,
And blind his eyes put out —- did DANDOLO
Stand forth, displaying on his crown the cross.
There did he stand, erect, invincible,
Though wan his cheeks, and wet with many tears,
For in his prayers he had been weeping much ;
And now the pilgrims and the people wept
With admiration, saying in their hearts,
"Surely those aged limbs have need of rest ! " 69
There did he stand, with his old armor on,
Ere, gonfalon in hand, that streamed aloft,
As conscious of its glorious destiny,
So soon to float o'er mosque and minaret,
He sailed away, five hundred gallant ships,
Their lofty sides hung with emblazoned shields,
Following his track to fame. He went to die;
But of his trophies four arrived ere long,
Snatched from destruction—the four steeds divine,
That strike the ground, resounding with their feet,
And from their nostrils snort ethereal flame
Over that very porch ; and in the place
Where in an aftertime, beside the Doge,
Sate one yet greater, "1 one whose verse shall live
When the wave rolls o'er VENICE. High he sate,
High over all, close by the ducal chair,
At the right hand of his illustrious host,
Amid the noblest daughters of the realm,
Their beauty shaded from the western ray
By many-colored hangings ; while, beneath,
Knights of all nations,"2 some of fair renown
From ENGLAND, 13 from victorious EDWARD'S court,
Their lances in the rest, charged for the prize.
Here, among other pageants, and how oft
It met the eye, borne through the gazing crowd,
As if returning to console the least,
Instruct the greatest, did the Doge go round;
Now in a chair of state, now on his bier.
They were his first appearance, and his last.
The sea, that emblem of uncertainty,
Changed not so fast, for many and many an age,
As this small spot. To-day ’t was full of masks ; 74
And, lo! the madness of the Carnival,
The monk, the nun, the holy legate masked !
To-morrow came the scaffold and the wheel ;
And he died there by torch-light, bound and gagged,
Whose name and crime they knew not. Underneath
Where the Archangel," as alighted there,
Blesses the city from the topmost tower,
His arms extended — there, in monstrous league,
Two phantom-shapes were sitting, side by side,
Or up, and, as in sport, chasing each other;
Horror and Mirth. Both vanished in one hour !
But ocean only, when again he claims
His ancient rule, shall wash away their footsteps.
Enter the palace by the marble stairs
Down which the grizzly head of old FALIER
Rolled from the block. Pass onward through the hall,
Where, among those drawn in their ducal robes,
But one is wanting - where, thrown off in heat, ,
A brief inscription on the Doge's chair
Led to another on the wall as brief;
And thou wilt track them - Wilt from rooms of state,
Where kings have feasted, and the festal song
Rung through the fretted roof, cedar and gold,
Step into darkness; and be told, “'T was here,
Trusting, deceived, assembled but to die,
To take a long embrace and part again,
CARRARA 78 and his valiant sons were slain;
He first — then they, whose only crime had been
Struggling to save their father." ---Through that door,
So soon to cry, smiting his brow, "I am lost!”
Was with all courtesy, all honor, shown
The great and noble captain, CARMAGNOLA."9 —
That deep descent so (thou canst not yet discern
Aught as it is) leads to the dripping vaults
Under the flood, where light and warmth were never !
Leads to a covered bridge, the Bridge of Sighs ;
And to that fatal closet at the foot,
Lurking for prey.
But let us to the roof,
And, when thou hast surveyed the sea, the land,
Visit the narrow cells that cluster there,
As in a place of tombs. There burning suns,
Day after day, beat unrelentingly;
Turning all things to dust, and scorching up
The brain, till Reason fled, and the wild yell
And wilder laugh burst out on every side,
Answering each other as in mockery !
Few houses of the size were better filled;
Though many came and left it in an hour.
“ Most nights," so said the good old Nicolo
(For three-and-thirty years his uncle kept
The water-gate below, but seldom spoke,
Though much was on his mind), "most nights arrived
The prison-boat, that boat with many oars,
And bore away as to the Lower World,
Disburdening in the Canal ORFANO,81
That drowning-place, where never net was thrown,
Summer or Winter, death the penalty ;
And where a secret, once deposited,
Lay till the waters should give up their dead."
Yet what so gay as VENICE ? Every gale Breathed music! and who flocked not, while she reigned, To celebrate her Nuptials with the Sea ; To wear the mask, and mingle in the crowd With Greek, Armenian, Persian — night and day (There, and there only, did the hour stand still) Pursuing through her thousand labyrinths The enchantress Pleasure; realizing dreams The earliest, happiest — for a tale to catch Credulous ears, and hold young hearts in chains, Had only to begin, “There lived in VENICE”
“Who were the six we supped with yesternight ?” 83 Kings, one and all! Thou couldst not but remark The style and manner of the six that served them."
" Who answered me just now? Who, when I said, "T is nine, turned round and said so solemnly,
Siynor, he died at nine'?”—“'T was the Armenian The mask that follows thee, go where thou wilt.”'
“But who moves there, alone among them all?" 85 The Cypriot. Ministers from distant courts Beset his doors, long ere his rising-hour; His the great secret! Not the golden house Of Nero, nor those fabled in the East, Rich though they were, so wondrous rich as his ! Two dogs, coal-black, in collars of pure gold, Walk in his footsteps.- Who but his familiars ? They walk, and cast no shadow in the sun!
"And mark him speaking. They, that listen, stand As if his tongue dropped honey; yet his glance None can endure! He looks nor young nor old; And at a tourney, where I sat and saw, A very child (full threescore years are gone) Borne on my father's shoulder through the crowd, He looked not otherwise. Where'er he stops, Though short the sojourn, on his chamber-wall, Mid many a treasure gleaned from many a clime, His portrait hangs -- but none must notice it! For TITIAN glows in every lineament, (Where is it not inscribed, The work is his ?) And TITIAN died two hundred years ago.
Such their discourse. Assembling in St. Mark's, All nations met as on enchanted ground !
What though a strange mysterious power was there, Moving throughout, subtle, invisible, And universal as the air they breathed ; A power that never slumbered, nor forgave?