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
Written at Venice
Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
 
NOT only through the golden haze
Of indistinct surprise,
With which the Ocean-bride displays
Her pomp to stranger eyes;—
Not with the fancy’s flashing play,        5
The traveller’s vulgar theme,
Where following objects chase away
The moment’s dazzling dream;—
 
Not thus art thou content to see
The city of my love,        10
Whose beauty is a thought to me
All mortal thoughts above;
And pass in dull unseemly haste,
Nor sight nor spirit clear,
As if the first bewildering taste        15
Were all the banquet here!
 
When the proud sea, for Venice’ sake,
Itself consents to wear
The semblance of a land-locked lake,
Inviolably fair;        20
And in the dalliance of her isles,
Has levelled his strong waves,
Adoring her with tenderer wiles
Than his own pearly caves,—
 
Surely may we to similar calm        25
Our noisy lives subdue,
And bare our bosoms to such balm
As God has given to few;
Surely may we delight to pause
On our care-goaded road,        30
Refuged from Time’s most bitter laws
In this august abode.
 
Thou knowest this,—thou lingerest here,
Rejoicing to remain;
The plashing oars fall on thy ear        35
Like a familiar strain;
No wheel prolongs its weary roll,
The earth itself goes round
Slower than elsewhere, and thy soul
Dreams in the void of sound.        40
 
Thy heart, by Nature’s discipline,
From all disdain refined,
Kept open to be written in
By good of every kind,
Can harmonize its inmost sense        45
To every outward tone,
And bring to all experience
High reasoning of its own.
 
So, when these forms come freely out,
And wonder is gone by,        50
With patient skill it sets about
Its subtle work of joy;
Connecting all it comprehends
By lofty moods of love,—
The earthly Present’s farthest ends,—        55
The Past’s deep Heaven above.
 
O bliss! to watch, with half-shut lid,
By many a secret place,
Where darkling loveliness is hid,
And undistinguished grace,—        60
To mark the gloom, by slow degrees,
Exfoliate, till the whole
Shines forth before our sympathies,
A soul that meets a soul!
 
Come out upon the broad Lagoon,        65
Come for the hundredth time,—
Our thoughts shall make a pleasant tune,
Our words a worthy rhyme;
And thickly round us we will set
Such visions as were seen,        70
By Tizian and by Tintorett,
And dear old Giambellin,—
 
And all their peers in art, whose eyes,
Taught by this sun and sea,
Flashed on their works those burning dyes,        75
That fervent poetry;
And wove the shades so thinly clear
They would be parts of light
In northern climes, where frowns severe
Mar half the charms of sight.        80
 
Did ever shape that Paolo drew
Put on such brilliant tire,
As Nature, in this evening view,—
This world of tinted fire?
The glory into whose embrace        85
The virgin pants to rise
Is but reflected from the face
Of these Venetian skies.
 
The sun beneath the horizon’s brow
Has sunk, not passed away;        90
His presence is far lordlier now
Than on the throne of day;
His spirit of splendor has gone forth,
Sloping wide violet rays,
Possessing air and sea and earth        95
With his essential blaze.
 
Transpierced, transfused, each densest mass
Melts to as pure a glow,
As images on painted glass
Or silken screens can show.        100
Gaze on the city,—contemplate
With that fine sense of thine
The Palace of the ancient state,—
That wildly grand design!
 
How mid the universal sheen        105
Of marble amber-tinged,
Like some enormous baldaquin
Gay-checkered and deep-fringed,
It stands in air and will not move,
Upheld by magic power,—        110
The dun-lead domes just caught above,—
Beside, the glooming tower.
 
Now a more distant beauty fills
Thy scope of ear and eye,—
That graceful cluster of low hills,        115
Bounding the western sky,
Which the ripe evening flushes cover
With purplest fruitage-bloom,—
Methinks that gold-lipt cloud may hover
Just over Petrarch’s tomb!        120
 
Petrarch! when we that name repeat,
Its music seems to fall
Like distant bells, soft-voiced and sweet,
But sorrowful withal;—
That broken heart of love!—that life        125
Of tenderness and tears!
So weak on earth, in earthly strife,—
So strong in holier spheres!
 
How in his most of godlike pride,
While emulous nations ran        130
To kiss his feet, he stept aside
And wept the woes of man!
How in his genius-woven bower
Of passion ever green,
The world’s black veil fell, hour by hour,        135
Him and his rest between.
 
Welcome such thoughts;—they well atone
With this more serious mood
Of visible things that night brings on,
In her cool shade to brood;        140
The moon is clear in heaven and sea,
Her silver has been long
Slow-changing to bright gold, but she
Deserves a separate song.
 
 
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