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

Torcello, the Island


By Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885)

SHORT sail from Venice sad Torcello lies,

Deserted island, low and still and green.

Before fair Venice was a bride and queen

Torcello’s court was held in fairer guise

Than Doges knew. To-day death-vapors rise

From fields where once her palaces were seen,

And in her silent towers that crumbling lean

Unterrified the brooding swallow flies.

O once-loved friend, who dost in vain implore

My presence, thou art like Torcello’s land.

Thy wasted life to me seems life no more.

With all its beauty death goes hand in hand,

I shrink from thee, as on its blighted strand

Torcello’s ghosts might turn and fly the shore.