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SKETCHES OF ITALY, IN VERSE AND PROSE.

NO. 111.-VENICE.
Thou cloudless Moon, whose trembling light appears
Like the faint image of departed years,
Mournful but lovely; now in distance spread
O'er dim uncertain forms, now nearer shed
In gems of sparkling lustre, O be thou
With starry cincture and unclouded brow
My guide and guardian ; by the mountain-side,
Through the wild forest, o'er the heaving tide,
Pour all the softness of thy liquid ray,
And shine serene as childhood's purest day.
For, looking on thine orb, again I seem
To taste the freshness of life's early stream,
I view again those visions whence I drew
The dreams of hope, and all its joys renew.
Mild eye of Heaven, still does thy radiance sleep
O’er earth and air, and o'er the unruffled deep,
The same as when I watch'd thy path with gaze
Of infant wonder, in thy silvery rays
Reading my wayward fancies; but, alas !

Time's gnawing cares, those mental clouds which pass,
Shade deep’ning shade, o'er manhood's breast, have changed
The mind that woos thee; thoughts which soaring ranged
On thy bright sphere into the heavens are now
Seen but as memory's image, and the brow
Which then was calm as thine æthereal light,
Is overcast with melancholy night
Of earthly passions. Orb of peace, once more
My virtuous joys, my soothing hopes restore,
Subdue each grosser wish, and leave me free
As in the hour when first I gazed on thee.

'Twas thus I mused, as from Italia's shore
The dark prow sprang beneath the bending oar,
And Venice rose before me in her pride
The moon's last rays were quivering on the tide,
The stars were shooting in the heavens, the sigh
Of distant winds re-echoed in the sky,
And night in virgin beauty shone serene.
So shouldst thou, Ocean's fairest Isle, be seen,
Not mid the fervour of meridian day,
When foods of gorgeous splendour round thee play,
But in the soft repose, the milder light
Which streams from earth's attendant satellite :
Then spire and dome more ample rise, and throw
A deeper shadow on the vale below;
Then those pale argent rays that slanting fall
On arch and pinnacle and turret-wall,
From point to point in level lustre stray,
And on the edge of darkness fade away.
All is the night's-how broad the chasten'd glare
Floats round each mass and melts it into air!
How the grey hues on mould'ring turrets lie,
And blend their forms of æther with the sky,
Till every trace of earthly semblance die,
And spirits of celestial image seem
To sail around them on the lunar beam,
Choosing her wave-worn palaces and towers
Wherein to revel through the midnight hours,

Till morn returns, and to the sons of pain
Restores the bitter load of life again.

O fair and beauteous to the eye, within
Corrupt and foul and tainted o'er with sin,
Which ages have engender'd! I will weep
Not thy past glories ; let thy children keep
Their records to efface the bitter shame
Of crime that darkens, Venice, round thy name.
I mourn that thou hast ever been ; the wave
Which Freedom to thy suppliant fathers gave
Long since should have o'erwhelm'd thee, ere the blood
Of one poor slave had flow'd to stain its flood;
Ere thou hadst thrown thy mounds upon its tide,
And curb’d the heavings of its free-born pride,
Till round thee it compress'd its stagnant pool
In fetid stillness like thy tyrant-rule.
No conquer'd pation then had cursed the hour
Which doom'd their children to thy lawless power ;
Lonely in woe still Athens would have view'd
Her trophied marbles guard her solitude ;
Still in her silent port she might have seen
The couching lion* glare with angry mien
On Salamis, as list’ning to the dirge
Of heroes, swelling slowly o'er the surge.
She had not then bewail'd that Christians dared
To seize those relics which the Moslem spared,
Nor 'mid the ruins of Minerva's fane *
Felt all the wounds of ages bleed again.

But vain my meditations : 'tis the hour
When Pleasure woos her votaries to her bower,
And Venice views her dark-hair'd daughters glide
Like sea-nymphs on the night-o'ershadow'd tide.
Now softly-struck guitars sound silvery sweet,
And lovers sighs on midnight breezes meet.
Now Ait the gondolas; from prow to stern
The gorgeous banners wave, the torches burn

;
Through noiseless streets, where footstep never fell
On maiden's ear her lover's watch to tell,
They move ; a rippling lustre marks their way,
And lights before their furrow'd pathway play,
Streaming from palaces where masque and ball
Unto the throngd saloon the triflers call,
Those listless flutterers of fashion's hour,
Who fly in Folly's chase from flower to flower,
Whose task it is life's dulness to beguile,
To gaze, to yawn, to saunter, and to smile,
Whose only hope is to escape from thought,
Whose sole ambition to remain untaught,
Save in that lore which every fool can teach,
The Alimsy nothing, wrapp'd in Aippant speech;
Who with the lines of an unmeaning face
Twisted into the angles of grimace,
In rival contest of distortion vie,
And mould their hideousness for beauty's eye.
Here let them loiter whilst their country groans,
Here let them prate of pleasure, whilst the moans

Alluding to the figure of a lion which adorned the Piræus and was carried off by the Venetians ; and to the destruction of the Temple of Minerva when they besieged the city.

eye

Of tortured man, from caverns foul and dank,
Join with the ringing bolt and fetter's clank.
Insensate! here your nightly vigils keep;
I turn to him who only wakes to weep.

Within the lowest dungeon's darkest shade,
Upon a tushy mattress squalid laid,
Where slime-engender'd reptiles slowly crawl,
And the thick damps hang clotted on the wall,
His manly limbs to shreds of sinew shrunk,
His hollow within its socket sunk,
Behold the captive–he for twenty years,
Has bathed that dungeon's pavement with his tears,
Torn from the world in manhood's carly prime,
Unseen, unknown the accuser and the crime;
Dooin'd in this charnel-house to draw his breath,
And hour by hour to feel a living death,
When rush in visions on his madd’ning brain
Those forms of love he ne'er must see again,
Wife, children, all that made him feel it bliss
To live, the infant grasp, the matron kiss
Still fresh in memory on his lips, still press'd
With aching recollection to his breast.
Long did he hope, and when the door unbarr'd
Upon its rusty hinges hoarsely jarr’d,
He

sprang with trembling eagerness to drink The Hood of day, that quiver'd round the brink Of his lone vault; and turn’d his upward eye To catch once more the beam of liberty; And clasp'd his supplicating hands to know If vengeance yet were sated with his woe. In vain—the mournful day succeeded day, Sad years of bitter anguish rollid away, Till all that high disdain and generous pride That steel'd his breast to bear, within him died. He hoped, he feard no more; the joyous past, Love, friendship, peace, were all effac'd at last, Sear'd from his blighted bosom ; --now to scrawl Unmeaning lines upon his prison-wall, To play with straws, or trace the spider's thread Hanging its long festoons around his bed, Or o'er his brows his tatter'd robe to bind, Betray the warderings of a ruin'd mind; And ihat sad smile which furrows his pale cheek, Is the heart's last faint effort ere it break.

And dost thou boast, amidst such woes as these, Thy painted halls, thy gorgeous palaces, Tyrannic Venice! Can all these atone For this one guiltless captive's secret groanFor the long pangs of him, who, born as free As mountain-air, was spurn'd to dust by thee! I mourn thee not in thy misfortune's hour; No-perish, I exclaim, insatiate Pow'r ! Perish all those who at the bloody shrine Of mad ambition offer'd crimes like thine; Who strain'd each thought to conquer and oppress, But left undone the nobler task, to bless; Strove not the applause of virtuous minds to gain, And in the hearts of grateful thousand reign, But fellow-inan like herds of cattle sold, And barter'd sacred liberty for gold.

Proud city! I will read the lesson here,
Which speaks to ages : on thy massive pier,
Where met the nations of the world and spread
Its wealth into thy bosom, the lone tread
Sounds fearfully; within thy port the reed
Clusters unstirr’d, and round thy keels the weed
Shelters the gnawing worm; because thy sway
Taught calumny to whisper life away,
On every thought of cruelty refined,
And with the keenest tortures rack'd the mind
(That heavenly particle which man defies
And soars exulting whilst the body dies),
Lent to suspiciou's breath the ready ear,
And shew'd thy slaves the danger e’en to * fear,
When looks and sighs were summon’d forth to plead
'Gainst bloodless hands, the foul imputed deed.
Hadst thou not thus each generous wish suppress’d,
Hadst thou from the oppressor snatch'd the oppress’d,
This storm of desolation would have pass'd
Thy children would have rallied to the last,
And thou wouldst still have shone the Ocean's gem,

Firm ’mid thy subject isles, unchanged, unmoved like them. Whilst other celebrated cities derive in part their interest from their civil and military history, Venice is attractive chiefly by her local peculiarities. A romantic feeling is awakened at the sight of her, which may be attributed more to the singularity of her situation than to the genius or achievements of her natives. Her magnificent edifices rest upon the waves, and are approached only along the silent bosom of the waters. Even the busy operations of commerce were performed in her streets with comparative tranquillity. She received the treasures of the East upon her quays and in her warehouses, not with the tumul-. tuous crash of overloaded wains and sledges, but from the peaceful felucca, which having deposited its burthen, spread again its canvass to the breeze and sailed in search of richer offerings to the pride of its sea-wreathed mistress. When we recline in our gondolas and impelled by an invisible hand glide along her broad canals--when at every turn we perceive new objects of architectural splendour rising before us in rapid succession, palaces receding beyond palaces, domes clustering behind domes, the long perspective of arcades, the broad expanse of piazzas, the tapering points of towers and pinnacles—when we survey all these reflecting their façades in the watery mirror beneath them, which, far from seeming to supply the place of a foundation, continues their images to another heaven and another sky, the whole appears like a magnificent pageant with the immateriality of which the sea and the air mingle, but to which the earth affords no support. This unsubstantial character of Venice forms a singular contrast with the extent and duration of her political power. It seems as if a breath could at any time have annihilated, and yet it required the lapse of ages to shake and to subvert the fabric of her empire. Mistress in the days of her greatness of so large a portion of the civilized world, she fixed the seat of her power, not on the land which she possessed, but on the waters which flowed by her. She grasped with insatiable ambition distant possessions, and contended with mighty empires, but still her

* From Tacitus--id ipsum paventes quod timuissent.

existence was on the waves; her ships conveyed to her port the produce of the Eastern world, or bore the sound of her vengeance to remote countries, whilst she, unprotected by bulwarks, unconfined by ramparts, and defended only by the singularity of her situation and the terror of her name, seemed to exist as much at least in imagination as in reality. The extent and greatness of her power appeared to her opponents as undefined as the walls of her capital. A shadowy uncertainty overspread her actions as well as her habitations. She was felt before she was seen. She was present every where, and as occasion required could condense to a point, or expand to a long line of attack, the numerous population which she commanded. The genius of her government partook of this secresy and indistinctness. Its designs were conceived in darkness, and its mandates issued in silence: there was no preparatory notice by debate and discussion, no attempt to ascertain the state of popular feeling by hints and surmises; the decree and the execution were simultaneous, the flash was seen and the bolt felt at the same instant. Obscurity is a source of power as well as of sublimity, and the long existence of the Venetian government may, perhaps, be ascribed in part to that cause. Of the wisdom of its institutions, on which it was, during so long a period, the fashion for political writers to descant, we may now be allowed to entertain considerable doubts. If to sacrifice individual rights to public security-if to consolidate into a morbid mass of suspicion, treachery, and fear, the mental energies of the people-if to stifle Nature's most honourable feelings at their birth, and form the infant reason by artificial compression, to that passive character which assents when it should inquire, and complies when it should object—if to call off, by the open sanction of unbounded profligacy, the observer's attention from the crimes of the state, to the vices of the citizen, and thus, under the mask of private licentiousness, to advance with security to the perpetration of the móst atrocious actions, be wisdom, Venice may claim and enjoy the reputation of political sagacity. The reward, however, of such sagacity has been the fate which Venice has experienced. She fell with ignominy, as she existed by oppression. The objects of her ambition were wealth and power : these she possessed, and these have passed away ; nor will the Muse of Italy, whom she despised in her prosperity, and who could alone have ensured her immortality, now awaken along the waters which receive into their stagnant depths the falling fragments of her ruined halls and palaces, one strain to celebrate her former grandeur, or bewail her present desolation.

H,

SONG. BY T. CAMPBELL. STAR that bringest home the bee, Whilst far-offlowing herds are heard, And sett'st the weary labourer free! And songs, when toil is done, If any star shed peace, 'tis thou, From cottages whose smoke unstirr'd That send'st it from above,

Curls yellow in the sun. Appearing when Heaven's breath and Star of love's soft interviews, brow

Parted lovers on thee muse; Are sweet as her's we love.

Their remembrar cer in Heav'n, Come to the luxuriant skies,

Of thrilling vows thou art, Whilst the landscape's odours rise, Too delicious to be riven

By absence from the heart.

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