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



By John Edmund Reade (1800–1870)

(From Italy)

THE SUN is setting; his last rays are steeping

In golden hues yon clouds that steadfast keep

Their station on the far horizon sleeping,

Breasting the sky yet blended with the deep:

Lo, from their braided edges glittering creep

Sharp pointed spires, in blue air faintly shown

O’ershadowed as the sea-mists round them sweep;

Away, those azure mists are substant grown,

Fair Venice there reclines upon her ocean-throne!

Yea, there she sleeps, while on the waters lying

Her spires and gilded domes reflected shine

In the rich lustre shed by twilight dying;

Silent and lone as a deserted shrine

Reared o’er that mirror’s floating hyaline;

Ancestral Venice! earth to her bowed down

Deeming her Roman birth should mock decline:

There still is throned the queen without her crown,

The halo round her forehead of her past renown.

Enter as in the vision of a dream,

Where all is strange, grotesque, mysterious, wild,

Ye glide through paths that are the ocean stream;

Mid palaces with sea-green weed defiled,

Looking desertion, yet unreconciled

To be the sepulchres of greatness fled:

Where silence is a presence felt, the child

Of desolation, for ye hear no tread,

No shout, no trump, to wake this city of the dead!


Yea, all is here romantic, strange and wild,

And mystical and dreamlike: lo, the square

Where domes and spires and minarets are piled,

The ducal hall’s barbaric splendor there,

The steeds of bronze that glitter in the air

Bridled: the towering Campanile’s height

Where Galileo found his starry chair,

And yonder triple shrine that fills the sight

With a strange sense of awe, of marvel, yet delight.

The Greek, the Goth, the Saracenic twined,

Spires reared o’er Moorish cupolas appear;

The long arched front, with myriad columns lined:

Behold, undisciplined by art severe,

The poetry of architecture here:

Heaped up and as a conqueror’s spoil displayed,

The o’er-crowded wealth of either hemisphere,

Enter, where mantled in her deepest shade

Religion hath her own the sanctuary made.