Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Canto the Fourth

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I 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, thron'd on her hundred isles!

II 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 rob'd, and of her feastMonarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increas'd.

III 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!

IV 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, cannot be swept or worn away-- The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er,For us repeopl'd were the solitary shore.

V Essentially immortal, they create And multiply in us a brighter ray And more belov'd 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.

VI The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy; And this worn feeling peoples many a page, And, maybe, 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 MuseO'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:

VII 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.

VIII 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 My ashes in a soil which is not mine, My spirit shall resume it--if we may Unbodied choose 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 fame should be, as my fortunes are,Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar

X 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." 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.

XI And annual marriage now no more renew'd, The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestor'd, 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 gaz'd and envied in the hourWhen Venice was a queen with an unequall'd dower.

XII 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: Oh, for one hour of blind old Dandolo,Th' octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe!

XIII Their gilded collars glittering in the sun; But is not Doria's menace come to pass? 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 Her very by-word sprung from victory, The "Planter of the Lion," 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 Of her dead Doges are declin'd 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 enthralls,Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls.

XVI And fetter'd thousands bore the yoke of war, Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse, Her voice their only ransom from afar: See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car Of the o'ermaster'd victor stops, the reins Fall from his hands--his idle scimitar Starts from its belt--he rends his captive's chains,And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.

XVII Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot, Thy choral memory of the Bard divine, Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot Is shameful to the nations--most of all, Albion, to thee: the Ocean queen should not Abandon Ocean's children; in the fallOf Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.

XVIII Was as a fairy city of the heart, Rising like water-columns from the sea, Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart; And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare's art, Had stamp'd her image in me, and even so, Although I found her thus, we did not part; Perchance even dearer in her day of woe,Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.

© George Gordon Byron