Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

la prima.” Italy has great names still—Canova, Monti, Ugo Foscolo, Pindemonti, Visconti, Morelli, Cicognara, Albrizzi, Mezzofanti, Mai, Mustoxidi, Aglietti, and Vacca, will secure to the present generation an honourable place in most of the departments of art, science, and belles-lettres ; and in some the very highest;—Europe—the world—has but one Canova.

It has been somewhere said by Alfieri, that “ La pianta uomo nasce più robusta in Italia che in qualunque altra terra e que gli stessi atroci delitti che vi si commettono ne sono una prova.” Without subscribing to the latter part of his proposition, a dangerous doctrine, the truth of which

may be disputed on better grounds, namely, that the Italians are in no respect more ferocious than their neighbours, that man must be wilfully blind, or ignorantly heedless, who is not struck with the extraordinary capacity of this people, or, if such a word be admissible, their capabilities, the facility of their acquisitions, the rapidity of their conceptions, the fire of their genius, their sense of beauty, and, amidst all the disadvantages of repeated revolutions, the desolation of battles, and the despair of ages, their still unquenched“ longing after immortality,” -the immortality of independence. And when we, ourselves, in riding round the walls of Rome, heard the simple lament of the labourer's chorus, “ Roma! Roma ! Roma! Roma non è più come era prima,” it was difficult not to contrast this melancholy dirge with the bacchanal roar of the songs of exultation still yelled from the London taverns, over the carnage of Mont St. Jean, and the betrayal of Genoa, of Italy, of France, and of the world, by men whose conduct you yourself have exposed in a work worthy of the better days of our history. For me,

“ Non movero mai corda

Ove la turba di sue ciance assorda." What Italy has gained by the late transfer of nations, it were useless for Englishmen to inquire ; till it becomes ascertained that England has acquired something more than a permanent army and a suspended Habeas Corpus, it is enough for them to look at home. For what they have done abroad, and especially in the South, “ verily they will have their reward," and at no very

distant period. Wishing you, my dear Hobhouse, a safe and agreeable return to that country whose real welfare can be dearer to none than to yourself, I dedicate to

you this

poem in its completed state ; and repeat once more how truly I am ever

Your obliged
And affectionate friend,

BYRON. Venice, January 2, 1818.

[ocr errors]

CANTO IV.

Visto ho Toscana, Lombardia, Romagna,
Quel monte che divide, e quel che serra
Italia, e un mare e l' altro che la bagna.

Ariosto, Satira iv.

1.

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;'
A palace and a prison on each hand :
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand :
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times, when many a subject land

Look'd to the winged Lion's marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles !

II.

2

She looks sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,"
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers :
And such she was ;-her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Pour’d in her lap all gems in sparkling showers :

In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increased.

[ocr errors]

III.

In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier ;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear :
Those days are gone—but beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade—but nature doth not die :
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,

The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!

[ocr errors]

IV.

But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city's vanish'd sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto ; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, can not be swept or sworn away“

The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er, For us repeopled were the solitary shore.

V.

The beings of the mind are not of clay ;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence : that which fate
Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
First exiles, then replaces what we hate ;

Watering the heart whose early flowers have died, And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.

[ocr errors]

VI.

[ocr errors]

Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
The first from hope, the last from vacancy ;
And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
And, may be, that which grows beneath mine eye:
Yet there are things whose strong reality
Outshines our fairy land ; in shape and hues
More beautiful than our fantastic sky,

And the strange constellations which the muse
O'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse :

VII.

I saw or dream'd of such, but let them go--
They came like truth, and disappear'd like dreams ;
And whatsoe'er they were-are now but so :
I could replace them if I would, still teems
My mind with many a form which aptly seems
Such as I sought for and at moments found ;-
Let these too go—for waking reason deems

Such overweening fantasies unsound,
And other voices speak, and other sights surround.

[ocr errors]

VIII.

I've taught me other tongues—and in strange eyes
Have made me not a stranger ; to the mind
Which is itself no changes bring surprise ;
Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
A country with-ay, or without mankind;
Yet was I born where men are proud to be,
Not without cause ; and should I leave behind

The inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea ?

IX.

1

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

a

1

Perhaps I loved it well: and should I lay
My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
My spirit shall resume it—if we may
Unbodied chuse a sanctuary. I twine
My hopes of being remember'd in my line
With my land's language: if too fond and far
These aspirations in their scope incline,--
If my famé should be as

my

fortunes are, Of hasty growth and blight, and dull oblivion bar

X.

[ocr errors]

My name from out the temple where the dead
Are honour'd by the nations-let it be
And light the laurels on a loftier head !
And be the Spartan's epitaph on me

Sparta hath many a worthier son than he,"4
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need ;
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree

I planted—they have torn me,--and I bleed :
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.

[ocr errors]

XI.

[ocr errors][merged small]

The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord,
And annual marriage now no more renew'd ;
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his wither'd power,
Over the proud Place where an emperor sued,

And monarchs gazed and envied, in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequall'd dower.

XII.

The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns_6
An emperor tramples where an emperor knelt ;
Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt
From power's high pinnacle, when they have felt
The sunshine for a while, and downward go
Like lauwine loosen'd from the mountain's belt.

O for one hour of blind old Dandolo !?,
Th' octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe.

[ocr errors]

XIII.

Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun ;
But is not Doria's menace come to pass ?8
Are they not bridled ?-Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a sea-weed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelm'd beneath the waves, and shun,

Even in destruction's depth, her foreign foes, From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.

XIV.

In youth she was all glory,

,-a new Tyre,
Her very by-word sprung from victory,
The “ Planter of the Lion,"9 which through fire
And blood she bore o'er subject earth and sea ;,
Though making many slaves, herself still free,
And Europe's bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite ;
Witness Troy's rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye

Immortal waves that saw Lepanto's fight!
For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.

XV.

Statues of glass-all shiver'd—the long file
Of her dead doges are declined to dust ;
But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust
Have yielded to the stranger : empty halls,
Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must

Too oft remind her who and what enthrals,"
Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls.

« ForrigeFortsett »