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


The Piazza of St. Mark at Midnight

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

HUSHED is the music, hushed the hum of voices;

Gone is the crowd of dusky promenaders,—

Slender-waisted, almond-eyed Venetians,

Princes and paupers. Not a single footfall

Sounds in the arches of the Procuratie.

One after one, like sparks in cindered paper,

Faded the lights out in the goldsmiths’ windows.

Drenched with the moonlight lies the still Piazza.

Fair as the palace builded for Aladdin,

Yonder St. Mark uplifts its sculptured splendor,—

Intricate fretwork, Byzantine mosaic,

Color on color, column upon column,

Barbaric, wonderful, a thing to kneel to!

Over the portal stand the four gilt horses,

Gilt hoof in air, and wide distended nostril,

Fiery, untamed, as in the days of Nero.

Skyward, a cloud of domes and spires and crosses;

Earthward, black shadows flung from jutting stone-work.

High over all the slender Campanile

Quivers, and seems a falling shaft of silver!

Hushed is the music, hushed the hum of voices.

From coigne and cornice and fantastic gargoyle,

At intervals the moan of dove or pigeon,

Fairily faint, floats off into the moonlight.

This, and the murmur of the Adriatic,

Lazily restless, lapping the mossed marble,

Staircase or buttress, scarcely break the stillness.

Deeper each moment seems to grow the silence,

Denser the moonlight in the still Piazza.

Hark! on the Tower above the ancient gateway,

The twin bronze Vulcans, with their ponderous hammers,

Hammer the midnight on their brazen bell there!