« AnteriorContinuar »
Some say he came and cross'd it at the instant,)
A smile, a glance at parting, given and answer'd,
That turn'd her blood to gall. That very night
The deed was done. That night, ere yet the moon
Was up on Monte Calvo, and the wolf
Baying as still he does, (oft do I hear him,
An hour and more by the old turret clock,)
They led her forth, th’ unhappy, lost Cristina,
Helping her down in her distress—to die.
“No blood was spilt; no instrument of death
Lurk’d—or stood forth, declaring its bad purpose;
Nor was a hair of her unblemish'd head
Hurt in that hour. Fresh as a flower ungather'd,
And warm with life, her youthful pulses playing,
She was wall’d up within the castle wall.
The wall itself was hollow'd to receive her;
Then closed again, and done to line and rule.
Would you descend and see it *—"Tis far down;
And many a stair is gone. 'Tis in a vault
Under the chapel; and there nightly now,
As in the narrow niche, when smooth and fair,
And as though nothing had been done or thought of,
The stone-work rose before her, till the light
Glimmer'd and went—there, nightly, at that hour,
(You smile, and would it were an idle tale !
Would we could say so ') at that hour she stands
Shuddering—her eyes uplifted, and her hands
Join’d as in prayer; then, like a blessed soul
Bursting the tomb, springs forward, and away
Flies o'er the woods, the mountains. Issuing forth,
The hunter meets her in his hunting track;
The shepherd on the heath, starting, exclaims,
(For still she bears the name she bore of old,)
‘'Tis the White Lady" "
THERE is a glorious city in the sea. The sea is in the broad, the narrow streets, Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed Clings to the marble of her palaces. No track of men, no footsteps to and fro, Lead to her gates. The path lies o'er the sea, Invisible; and from the land we went, As to a floating city—steering in, And gliding up her streets as in a dream, So smoothly, silently—by many a dome Mosque-like, and many a stately portico, The statues ranged along an azure sky; By many a pile in more than eastern splendour, Of old the residence of merchant kings; The fronts of some, though time had shatter'd them, Still glowing with the richest hues of art, As though the wealth within them had run o’er.
Thither I came, and in a wondrous ark, (That, long before we slipp'd our cable, rang As with the voices of all living things,) From Padua, where the stars are, night by night, Watch'd from the top of an old dungeon tower, Whence blood ran once, the tower of Ezzelin— Not as he watch'd them, when he read his fate And shudder'd. 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, Some who, like him, had cried, “Spill blood enough!”
And could shake long at shadows. They had play'd
Their parts at Padua, and were now returning;
A vagrant crew, and careless of to-morrow,
Careless and full of mirth. Who, in that quaver,
Sings “Caro, caro 7"—"Tis the prima donna,
And to her monkey, smiling in his face,
Who, as transported, cries, “Brava! ancora "
'Tis a grave personage, an old macaw,
Perch’d on her shoulder. But mark him who leaps
Ashore, and with a shout urges along
The lagging mules; then runs and climbs a tree
That with its branches 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; for ever looking round
As if in search of subjects for his wit,
His satire; and as often whispering
Things, though unheard, not unimaginable.
Had Ithy 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, for ever in extremes;
Gentle when unprovoked, easily won,
But quick in quarrel—through a thousand shades
His spirit flits, chameleon-like; and mocks
The eye of the observer.
At length we leave the river for the sea.
At length a voice aloft proclaims “Venezia"
And, as call'd forth, it comes.
A few in fear,
Flying away from him whose boast it was,"
That the grass grew not where his horse had trod,
Gave birth to Venice. Like the waterfowl,
They built their nests among the ocean waves;
And, where the sands were shifting, as the wind
Blew from the north, the south; where they that
Had to make sure the ground they stood upon,
Rose, like an exhalation, from the deep,
A vast metropolis, with glittering spires,
With theatres, basilicas adorn'd :
A scene of light and glory, a dominion,
That has endured the longest among men.
And whence the talisman by which she rose,
Towering ' 'Twas found there in the barren sea.
Want led to enterprise; and, far and near,
Who met not the Venetian *—now in Cairo;
Ere yet the califa came, listening to hear
Its bells approaching from the Red Sea coast;
Now on the Euxine, on the Sea of Azoph,
In converse with the Persian, with the Russ,
The Tartar; on his lowly deck receiving
Pearls from the Gulf of Ormus, gems from Bagdad,
Eyes brighter yet, that shed the light of love,
From Georgia, from Circassia. Wandering round,
When in the rich bazaar he saw, display'd,
Treasures from unknown climes, away he went,
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 the black forests of the Rhine, the Danube,
Where o'er each narrow glen a castle hangs,
And, like the wolf that hunger'd 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 emerging,
A glittering file, the trumpet heard, the scout
Sent and recall’d—but at a city gate
All gayety, and look'd for ere it comes;
Winning its way 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 '
Thus did Venice rise,
Thus flourish, till th’ 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 open'd, and the golden stream
Turn’d to enrich another. Then she felt
Her strength departing, and at last she fell,
Fell in an instant, blotted out and razed;
She who had stood yet longer than the longest
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 trace of civilized life—to where
Light shone again, and with unclouded splendour.
Though many an age in the midsea she dwelt, From her retreat calmly contemplating The changes of the earth, herself unchanged. Before her pass'd, 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 Caesars 2 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? follow'd 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.
HE who is on his travels and loves ease, Ease and companionship, should hire a youth, Such as thou wert, Luigi. Thee I found, Playing at mora on the cabin roof With Pulcinella, crying, as in wrath, “Tre! Quattro ! Cinque !”—’tis a game to strike Fire from the coldest heart. What then from
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 and pleasure,
Thou wouldst have number'd in thy family
At least six doges and twelve procurators.
But that was not to be. In thee I saw
The last of a long line of Carbonari,
Who in their forest, for three hundred years,
Had lived and labour’d, cutting, charring wood;
Discovering where they were, to those astray,
By the re-echoing stroke, the crash, the fall,
Or the blue wreath that travell'd slowly up
Into the sky. Thy nobler destinies
Led thee away to jostle in the crowd;
And there I found thee—by thy own prescription
Crossing the sea to try once more a change
Of air and diet, landing, and as gayly
Near the Dogano—on the great canal,
As though thou knewest where to dine and sleep.
First didst thou practise patience in Bologna,
Serving behind a cardinal's gouty chair,
Laughing at jests that were no laughing matter;
Then teach the art to others in Ferrara,
—At the Three Moors—as guide, as ciceronc-
Dealing out largely in exchange for pence
Thy scraps of knowledge—through the grassy street
Leading, explaining—pointing to the bars
Of Tasso's dungeon, and the Latin verse
Graven in the stone, that yet denotes the door
Many a year is gone
Since on the Rhine we parted; yet, methinks
I can recall thee to the life, Luigi,
In our long journey ever by my side,
O'er rough and smooth, o'er Apennine, Maremma;
Thy locks jet black, and clustering round a face
Open as day, and full of manly daring.
Thou hadst a hand, a heart for all that came,
Herdsman or pedlar, monk or muleteer;
And few there were that met thee not with smiles.
Mishap pass'd o'er thee like a summer cloud.
Cares thou hadst none; and they, who stood to hear
Caught the infection, and forgot their own.
Nature conceived thee in her merriest mood,
Her happiest—not a speck was in the sky;
And at thy birth the cricket chirp’d, Luigi,
Thine a perpetual voice—at every turn
A larum to the echo. In a clime
Where all the world was gay, thou wert the gayest,
And, like a babe, hush'd only by thy slumbers,
Up hill and down, morning, and noon, and night,
Singing or talking; singing to thyself
When none gave car, but to the listener talking.
Over how many tracts, vast, measureless, Nothing from day to day, from year to year, Passes, save now and then a cloud, a meteor, A famish’d eagle ranging for his prey; While on this spot of earth, the work of man, How much has been transacted' Emperors, popes, Warriors, from far and wide, laden with spoil, Landing, have here perform'd their several parts, Then left the stage to others. Not a stone In the broad pavement, but to him who has An 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—thus at last consoled
For flight, disguise, and many an anguish 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 ducal crown
The cross just then assumed at the high altar.
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."
—There did he stand, with his old armour on,
Ere, gonfalon in hand, that stream’d aloft,
As conscious of its glorious destiny,
So soon to float o'er mosque and minaret,
He sail'd away, five hundred gallant ships,
Their lofty sides hung with emblazon'd shields,
Following his track to glory. He returned not ;
But of his trophies four arrived ere long,
Snatch'd from destruction—the four steeds divine,
That strike the ground, resounding with their feet,
And from their nostrils snort ethereal flame
Over that very portal—in the place
Where in an after-time Petrarch was seen
Sitting beside the doge, on his right hand,
Amid the ladies of the court of Venice,
Their beauty shaded from the setting sun
By many-colour'd hangings; while, beneath,
Knights of all nations, some from merry England,
Their lances in the rest, charged for the prize.
Here, among other pageants, and how oft
It came, as if returning to console
The least, instruct the greatest, did the doge,
Himself, go round, borne through the gazing crowd,
Once in a chair of state, once 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 'twas full of maskers; And lo, the madness of the carnival, The monk, the nun, the holy legate mask'd : To-morrow came the scaffold and the headsman; And he died there by torchlight, bound and gagg’d, Whose name and crime they knew not. Under
Where the archangel, turning with the wind,
Blesses the city from the topmost tower,
His arms extended—there continually
Two phantom shapes were sitting side by side,
Or up, and, as in sport, chasing each other;
Horror and Mirth. Both vanish’d 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 grisly head of old Faliero
Roll'd from the block. Pass onward through the
Where, among all drawn in their ducal robes,
But one is wanting—where, thrown off in heat.
A short inscription on the doge's chair
Led to another on the wall yet shorter;
And thou wilt track them—wilt from halls of state
Where kings have feasted, and the festal song
Rung through the fretted roof, cedar and gold,
Step into darkness; and be told, “”Twas here,
Trusting, deceived, assembled but to die,
To take a long embrace and part again,
Carrara and his valiant sons were strangled;
He first—then they, whose only crime had been
Struggling to save their father.”—Through that
So soon to cry, smiting his brow, “I’m lost '"
Was shown, and with all courtesy, all honour,
The great and noble captain, Carmagnola-
That deep descent (thou canst not yet discern
Aught as it is) leads to the dripping vaults
Under the flood, where light and warmth came never,
Leads to a cover'd bridge, the Bridge of Sighs;
And to that fatal closet at the foot,
Lurking for prey, which, when a victim enter'd,
Grew less and less, contracting to a span;
An iron door, urged onward by a screw,
Forcing out life.—But let us to the roof,
And, when thou hast survey'd the sea, the land,
Visit the narrow cells that cluster there,
As in a place of tombs. They had their tenants,
And each supplied with sufferings of his own.
There burning suns 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 fill'd ;
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
The prison boat, that boat with many oars,
And bore away as to the lower world,
Disburdening in the canal Orfano,
That drowning-place, were 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 heavenly music' and who flock'd not
To celebrate her nuptials with the sea 7 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 supp'd with yesternight?” “Kings, one and all ! Thou couldst not but remark The style and manner of the six that served them.” “Who answer'd me just now 7 Who, when I said, ‘'Tis nine,” turn’d round, and said so solemnly, “Signor, he died at nine !’”—“”Twas the Armenian; The mask that follows thee, go where thou wilt.” “But who stands there, alone among them all?” “The Cypriot. Ministers from foreign courts Beset his doors, long ere his hour of rising; His the great secret! Not the golden house Of Nero, or those fabled in the East, As wrought by magic, half so rich as his ' Two dogs, coal black, in collars of pure gold, Walk in his footsteps—who but his familiars 2 He casts no shadow, nor is seen to smile !” 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 slumber'd, never pardon'd, 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 glanced at In casual converse, be it where it might, The speaker lower'd 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 vanish’d from the earth !
Boy, call the gondola ; the sun is set.— It came, and we embark’d ; but instantly, 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 Rock’d her to sleep again. The moon was up, But broken by a cloud. The wind was hush'd, And the sea mirror-like. A single zephyr Play’d with her 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.
'Twas the sweet slumber of her early age.
I look’d and look'd, and felt a flush of joy
I would express, but cannot.
Oft I wish’d
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 scatter’d, she resumed her place
Beside me; and, as gayly as before, |
Sitting unconsciously nearer and nearer,
Pour’d out her innocent mind
So, nor long since,
Sung a Venetian: and his lay of love,
Dangerous and sweet, charm'd Venice.
(Less fortunate, if love be happiness)
No curtain drawn, no pulse beating alarm,
I went alone under the silent moon ;
Thy place, St. Mark, thy churches, palaces,
Glittering, and frost-like, and as day drew on,
Melting away, an emblem of themselves.
Those porches pass'd through which the water-
Plays, though no longer on the noble forms
That moved there, sable-vested—and the quay
Silent, grass-grown—adventurer-like I launch'd
Into the deep, ere long discovering
Isles such as cluster in the southern seas,
All verdure. Everywhere, from bush and brake,
The musky odour 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
I listen’d to the venerable pines
Then in close converse; and, if right I guess'd,
Delivering many a message to the winds
In secret, for their kindred on Mount Ida.
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
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. 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 answer'd 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
Save here and there the lamp of a madonna,
Glimmering—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 sled, scattering, the sons of pleasure.
Star after star shot by, or meteor-like,
Cross'd me and vanish’d—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 linger'd still;
Nor struck my threshold, 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.
It was St. Mary's eve, and all pour'd forth As to some grand solemnity. The fisher Came from his islet, bringing o'er the waves His wife and little one; the husbandman From the firm land, along the Po, the Brenta, Crowding the common ferry. All arrived; And in his straw the prisoner turn’d and listen’d, So great the stir in Venice. Old and young Throng’d her three hundred bridges; the grave Turk, Turban'd, long vested, and the cozening Jew, In yellow hat and threadbare gaberdine, Hurrying along. For, as the custom was, The noblest sons and daughters of the state, They of patrician birth, the flower of Venice, 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, announced their coming; And never from the first was to be seen Such splendour or such beauty. Two and two, (The richest tapestry unroll'd before them,) First came the brides in all their loveliness; Each in her veil, and by two bridemaids follow’d, Only less lovely, who behind her bore The precious caskets that within contain’d The dowry and the presents. On she moved, Her eyes cast down, and holding in her hand A fan, that gently waved, of ostrich feathers. 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 jewell’d chain, in many a winding wreath, Wreathing her gold brocade.
Before the church,
That venerable pile on the sea brink,
Another train they met, no strangers to them,
Brothers to some, and to the rest still dearer;
Each in his hand bearing his cap and plume,
And, as he walk'd, with modest dignity
Folding his scarlet mantle, his tabarro.
They join, they enter in, and, up the aisle,
Led by the full-voiced choir in bright procession,
Range round the altar. In his vestments there
The patriarch stands; and, while the anthem flows,
Who can look on unmoved 2–mothers in secret
Rejoicing in the beauty of their daughters,
Sons in the thought of making them their own;
And they, array’d in youth and innocence,
Their beauty heighten’d by their hopes and fears.
At length the rite is ending. All fall down
In earnest prayer, all of all ranks together;
And, stretching out his hands, the holy man
Proceeds to give the general benediction;
When hark, a din of voices from without,
And shrieks, and groans, and outcries as in battle;
And lo, the door is burst, the curtain rent,
And armed ruffians, robbers from the deep,
Savage, uncouth, led on by Barbarigo,
And his six brothers in their coats of steel,
Are standing on the threshold! Statue-like,
A while they gaze on the fallen multitude,
Each with his sabre up, in act to strike;
Then, as at once recovering from the spell,
Rush forward to the altar, and as soon
Are gone again—amid no clash of arms
Bearing away the maidens and the treasures.
Where are they now —ploughing the distant
Their sails all set, and they upon the deck
Standing triumphant. To the east they go,
Steering for Istria; their accursed barks
(Well are they known, the galliot and the galley)
Freighted with all that gives to life its value!
The richest argosies were poor to them
Now might you see the matrons running wild
Along the beach; the men half arm'd and arming,
One with a shield, one with a casque and spear;
One with an axe hewing the mooring-chain
Of some old pinnace. Not a raft, a plank,
But on that day was drifting. In an hour
Half Venice was afloat. But long before,
Frantic with grief and scorning all control,
The youths were gone in a light brigantine,
Lying at anchor near the arsenal;
Each having sworn, and by the holy rood,
To slay or to be slain.
And from the tower
The watchman gives the signal. In the east,
A ship is seen, and making for the port;
Her flag St. Mark's.-And now she turns the point.
Over the waters like a sea-bird flying !
Ha, ’tis the same, ’tis theirs! from stern to prow
Hung with green boughs, she comes, she comes, re-
All that was lost.
Coasting, with narrow search,
Friuli—like a tiger in his spring,
They had surprised the corsairs where they lay
Sharing the spoil in blind security
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