Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Venice
Venice
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
(From Lines Written among the Euganean Hills)

SUN-GIRT city! thou hast been
Ocean’s child, and then his queen;
Now is come a darker day,
And thou soon must be his prey,
If the power that raised thee here        5
Hallow so thy watery bier,
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne, among the waves        10
Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew
Flies, as once before it flew,
O’er thine isles depopulate,
And all is in its ancient state,
Save where many a palace-gate        15
With green sea-flowers overgrown
Like a rock of ocean’s own,
Topples o’er the abandoned sea
As the tides change sullenly.
The fisher on his watery way,        20
Wandering at the close of day,
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o’er the starlight deep,        25
Lead a rapid masque of death
O’er the waters of his path.
 
Those who alone thy towers behold
Quivering through aerial gold,
As I now behold them here,        30
Would imagine not they were
Sepulchres, where human forms,
Like pollution-nourished worms,
To the corpse of greatness cling,
Murdered, and now mouldering;        35
But if Freedom should awake
In her omnipotence, and shake
From the Celtic anarch’s hold
All the keys of dungeons cold,
Where a hundred cities lie        40
Chained like thee, ingloriously,
Thou and all thy sister band
Might adorn this sunny land,
Twining memories of old time
With new virtues more sublime;        45
If not, perish thou and they,
Clouds which stain truth’s rising day
By her sun consumed away,
Earth can spare ye: while like flowers,
In the waste of years and hours,        50
From your dust new nations spring
With more kindly blossoming.
Perish! let there only be
Floating o’er thy hearthless sea,
As the garment of thy sky        55
Clothes the world immortally,
One remembrance, more sublime
Than the tattered pall of Time,
Which scarce hides thy visage wan,
That a tempest-cleaving swan        60
Of the songs of Albion,
Driven from his ancestral streams
By the might of evil dreams,
Found a nest in thee; and Ocean
Welcomed him with such emotion        65
That its joy grew his, and sprung
From his lips like music flung
O’er a mighty thunder-fit,
Chastening terror: what though yet
Poesy’s unfailing river,        70
Which through Albion winds forever,
Lashing with melodious wave
Many a sacred poet’s grave,
Mourn its latest nursling fled!
What though thou with all thy dead        75
Scarce can for this fame repay
Aught thine own,—O, rather say,
Though thy sins and slaveries foul
Overcloud a sunlike soul!
As the ghost of Homer clings        80
Round Scamander’s wasting springs;
As divinest Shakespeare’s might
Fills Avon and the world with light,
Like omniscient power, which he
Imaged mid mortality;        85
As the love from Petrarch’s urn,
Yet amid yon hills doth burn,
A quenchless lamp, by which the heart
Sees things unearthly: so thou art,
Mighty spirit; so shall be        90
The city that did refuge thee.
 
 
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