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
Tintoretto
Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
 
SLOW, underneath the Casa d’Oro’s wall,
  Three searchers and three peering shadows came,
Before them and behind them lurked the night,
  Save where the torches’ wavering yellow flame
Blew backwards, lighting up the stony face        5
  Of some street statue, or a crucifix:
There was no sound, save where, upon a step,
  The water lipped, black as the sluggish Styx.
 
Like disappointed thieves, they sullen shrunk
  To where there sat upon the water-stair,        10
Resting one foot upon a piled-up boat,
  A man wrapped all in black, his tangled hair
Hid half his face, who, crying, “Why, you leave
  Your work half done!” chid rough and angrily;
“Rogues, did not Francia say that Tintoret,        15
  The painter, had a daughter dead? Go see!”
 
Half growling and half mocking, the three knaves
  Leaped from the stair into the laden boat,
Joining their master. “Time was made for slaves,”
  Cried one in jest: “let the dead woman wait.”        20
And then they quenched each torch, and thrust the bark
  Into the fuller tide and Lido way,
Turned the boat’s head, and, roaring out a song,
  They passed,—those searchers, with their ghastly prey.
 
Alone, in the barred-up and silent house,        25
  Before whose padlocked door a watchman paced,
Sat one beside a bed,—the curtains closed,—
  Brooding entranced; a picture, half erased,
Before him on the easel; palette, brush,
  Upon the floor; one lamp, against the wall,        30
Cast flickering shadows on the tapestry
  Of the great palace doorway, wide and tall.
 
All on a sudden Tintoretto rose,
  The haggard, bearded man, so worn and pale,
And tore the curtains back, and set the lamp        35
  By the dead face, and raised the veil
That hid her features, now so saintly calm,
  And, with a madman’s wild and fevered haste,
Renewed the task that wrung him to the heart,
  Muttering, as swiftly the fierce lines he traced:—        40
 
“That Titian ’s still before me in the race;
  The harpies snatch this angel from my side,
And leave his proud-eyed girl, with lavish hair
  And great white shoulders, to enhance his pride,
And serve round sweetmeats to the senators,        45
  Who flock to him by dozens, to hand down
To ages, heedless of the boon, each vacant face,
  Steeped in one dull dark fog of golden brown.
 
“He fills the churches, palaces, and halls;
  ’T is he who sweeps the ducats to his lap.        50
He paints the emperors, cardinals, and popes;
  To him the meanest boatman doffs his cap.
Out on the cunning, envious, wily hunks!
  But quick to work before those wretches come,
At the first light, to steal my angel hence,        55
  And tear my darling from her father’s home.
 
“Death took my Lisa first,—’t was half my life;
  And now Maria, her own self again,
My hope and solace, my sweet singing-bird,
  The soother of my long and bitter pain,        60
The sun of this old house, the ceaseless joy
  Of this whole quarter, very saint and queen,
Pure as the lily in the virgin’s hand.
  How calm she lies, how still, and how serene!
 
“Yet we shall meet in Paradise, and there        65
  She ’ll smile to see St. Luke my wrinkled hand
Grasp at the golden gate, while Titian takes
  The lower seat. I have him on the hip.
That hour will pay for all past checks and spurns;
  God grant it dawn, and soon, yes, very soon.        70
Maria cara, bid St. Jerome come
  To see my masterpiece: God grant this boon.
 
“There I shall see my martyrs and my saints,
  Ranged in their circles all to welcome me.
Maria cara, they will bring a crown        75
  For thy old father,—Immortality
Is won at last! Stop, the cold cobalt light
  Streams through the curtains on my dead child’s bed.”
There was a wrenching at the padlocked door,
  And loud arose the cry, “Bring out your dead!”        80
 
 
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