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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


Ode on Venice

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

O VENICE! Venice! when thy marble walls

Are level with the waters, there shall be

A cry of nations o’er thy sunken halls,

A loud lament along the sweeping sea!

If I, a northern wanderer, weep for thee,

What should thy sons do?—anything but weep?

And yet they only murmur in their sleep.

In contrast with their fathers, as the slime,

The dull green ooze of the receding deep,

Is with the dashing of the spring-tide foam,

That drives the sailor shipless to his home,

Are they to those that were; and thus they creep,

Crouching and crab-like, through their sapping streets.

O agony! that centuries should reap

No mellower harvest! Thirteen hundred years

Of wealth and glory turned to dust and tears;

And every monument the stranger meets,

Church, palace, pillar, as a mourner greets;

And even the Lion all subdued appears,

And the harsh sound of the barbarian drum,

With dull and daily dissonance, repeats

The echo of thy tyrant’s voice along

The soft waves, once all musical to song,

That heaved beneath the moonlight with the throng

Of gondolas,—and to the busy hum

Of cheerful creatures, whose most sinful deeds

Were but the overbeating of the heart,

And flow of too much happiness, which needs

The aid of age to turn its course apart

From the luxuriant and voluptuous flood

Of sweet sensations, battling with the blood.

But these are better than the gloomy errors,

The weeds of nations in their last decay,

When vice walks forth with her unsoftened terrors,

And mirth is madness, and but smiles to slay.