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


San Giovanni and San Paolo

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Marino Faliero, Act III, Scene I)

I AM before the hour, the hour whose voice,

Pealing into the arch of night, might strike

These palaces with ominous tottering,

And rock their marbles to the corner-stone,

Waking the sleepers from some hideous dream

Of indistinct but awful augury

Of that which will befall them. Yes, proud city!

Thou must be cleansed of the black blood which makes thee

A lazar-house of tyranny: the task

Is forced upon me, I have sought it not;

And therefore was I punished, seeing this

Patrician pestilence spread on and on,

Until at length it smote me in my slumbers,

And I am tainted, and must wash away

The plague-spots in the healing wave. Tall fane!

Where sleep my fathers, whose dim statues shadow

The floor which doth divide us from the dead,

Where all the pregnant hearts of our bold blood,

Mouldered into a mite of ashes, hold

In one shrunk heap what once made many heroes,

When what is now a handful shook the earth,—

Fane of the tutelar saints who guard our house!

Vault where two doges rest,—my sires! who died

The one of toil, the other in the field,

With a long race of other lineal chiefs

And sages, whose great labors, wounds, and state

I have inherited,—let the graves gape,

Till all thine aisles be peopled with the dead,

And pour them from thy portals to gaze on me!

I call them up, and them and thee to witness

What it hath been which put me to this task,—

Their pure high blood, their blazon-roll of glories,

Their mighty name dishonored all in me,

Not by me, but by the ungrateful nobles

We fought to make our equals, not our lords.