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



By Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872)

NIGHT on the Adriatic, night!

And like a mirage of the plain,

With all her marvellous domes of light,

Pale Venice looms along the main.

No sound from the receding shore,

No sound from all the broad lagoon,

Save where the light and springing oar

Brightens our track beneath the moon;

Or save where yon high campanile

Gives to the listening sea its chime;

Or where those dusky giants wheel

And smite the ringing helm of Time.

’T is past,—and Venice drops to rest;

Alas! hers is a sad repose,

While in her brain and on her breast

Tramples the vision of her foes.

Erewhile from her sad dream of pain

She rose upon her native flood,

And struggled with the Tyrant’s chain,

Till every link was stained with blood.

The Austrian pirate, wounded, spurned,

Fled howling to the sheltering shore,

But, gathering all his crew, returned

And bound the Ocean Queen once more.

’T is past,—and Venice prostrate lies,—

And, snarling round her couch of woes,

The watch-dogs, with the jealous eyes,

Scowl where the stranger comes or goes.

Lo! here awhile suspend the oar;

Rest in the Mocenigo’s shade,

For Genius hath within this door

His charmed, though transient, dwelling made.

Somewhat of “Harold’s” spirit yet,

Methinks, still lights these crumbling halls;

For where the flame of song is set

It burns, though all the temple falls.

O, tell me not those days were given

To Passion and her pampered brood;

Or that the eagle stoops from heaven

To dye his talons deep in blood.

I hear alone his deathless strain

From sacred inspiration won,

As I would only watch again

The eagle when he nears the sun.

O, would some friend were near me now,

Some friend well tried and cherished long,

To share the scene; but chiefly thou,

Sole source and object of my song.

By Olivola’s dome and tower,

What joy to clasp thy hand in mine,

While through my heart this sacred hour

Thy voice should melt like mellow wine.

What time or place so fit as this

To bid the gondolier withhold,

And dream through one soft age of bliss

The olden story, never old?

The domes suspended in the sky

Swim all above me broad and fair;

And in the wave their shadows lie,—

Twin phantoms of the sea and air.

O’er all the scene a halo plays,

Slow fading, but how lovely yet;

For here the brightness of past days

Still lingers, though the sun is set.

Oft in my bright and boyish hours

I lived in dreams what now I live,

And saw these palaces and towers

In all the light romance can give.

They rose along my native stream,

They charmed the lakelet in the glen;

But in this hour the waking dream

More frail and dreamlike seems than then.

A matchless scene, a matchless night,

A tide below, a moon above;

An hour for music and delight,

For gliding gondolas and love!

But here, alas! you hark in vain,—

When Venice fell her music died;

And voiceless as a funeral train,

The blackened barges swim the tide.

The harp which Tasso loved to wake,

Hangs on the willow where it sleeps,

And while the light strings sigh or break

Pale Venice by the water weeps.

’T is past, and weary droops the wing

That thus hath borne me idly on;

The thoughts I have essayed to sing

Are but as bubbles touched and gone.

But, Venice, cold his soul must be,

Who, looking on thy beauty, hears

The story of thy wrongs, if he

Is moved to neither song nor tears.

To glide by temples fair and proud,

Between deserted marble walls,

Or see the hireling foeman crowd

Rough-shod her noblest palace halls;

To know her left to vandal foes

Until her nest be robbed and gone;

To see her bleeding breast, which shows

How dies the Adriatic swan;

To know that all her wings are shorn,

That Fate has written her decree,

That soon the nations here shall mourn

The lone Palmyra of the sea,

Where waved her vassal flags of yore

By valor in the Orient won;

To see the Austrian vulture soar,

A blot against the morning sun;

To hear a rough and foreign speech

Commanding the old ocean mart,—

Are mournful sights and sounds that reach,

And wake to pity, all the heart.