Samuel Rogers.

The poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir online

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As to a floating City — steering in,
And gliding up her streets as in a dream,
So smoothly, silently — by many a dome
Mosque-like, and many a stately portico,
The statues ranged along an azure sky ;
By many a pile in more than Eastern splendour.
Of old the residence of merchant-kings ;
The fronts of some, though Time had shatter'd

them,
Still glowing with the richest hues of art.
As though the wealth within them had run o'er.

Thither I came, and in a wondrous Ark,
(That, long before we slipt our cable, rang
As with the voices of all living things)
From Padua, where the stars are, night by

night,
Watch' d from the top of an old dungeon-tower.
Whence blood ran once, the tower of Ezze-

Un— (12)
Not as he watch'd them, when he read his fate
And shudder'd. But of him I thought not then,



ITALT. 45

Him or his horoscope ; far, far from me

The forms of Guilt and Fear ; thDugh some

were there,
Sitting among us round the cabin-board,
Some who, hkc liim, had cried, " Spill blood

enough !"
And could shake long at shadows. They had

play'a
Their parts a: Padua, and were now returning ;
A vagrant crew, and careless of to-morrow,
Careless and full of mirth. Who, in that quaver,
Sings " Caro, Caro ?" — 'T is the Prima Doima,
And to her monkey, smiling in his face,
Who, as transported, cries, " Brava ! Ancora?"
T is a grave personage, an old macaw,
Perch'd on her shoulder. But mark him who

leaps
Ashore, and with a shout urges along
The lagging mules ; (13) then runs and climbs a

tree
That with its branches overhangs the stream,
And, like an acorn, drops on deck again.
* T is he who speaks not, stirs not, but we laugh ;
That child of fun and frolic, Arlecchino.(14)
And mark their Poet — with what emphasis
He prompts the young Soubrette, conning her

part !
Her tongue plays truant, and he raps his box,
And prompts again ; for ever looking round
As if in search of subjects for his wit.
His satire ; and as often whispering
Things, though unheard, not unimaginabl«



46 llALY.

Had I thy pencil, Crabbe, (when thou hatt

done, —
Late may it be — it will, like Prospero'a staff,
Be buried fifty fathoms in the earth),
I would portray the Italian — Now I cannot.
Subtle, discerning, eloquent, the slave
Of Love, of Hate, for ever in extremes;
Gentle when unprovoked, easily won.
But quick in quarrel — through a thousand shaaea
His spirit flits, chameleon-like ; and mocks
The eye of the observer.

Gliding on,
At length we leave the river for the sea.
At length a voice aloft proclaims " Venezia!"
And, as call'd forth, it comes.

A few in fear,
Flying away from him whose boast it wtis,*
That the grass grew not where his horse had

trod,
Gave birth to Venice. Like the water-fowl.
They built their nests among the ocean-waves ;
And, where the sands were shifting, as the wind
Blew from the north, the south ; where they

that Game,
Had to make sure the ground they stood upon,
Rose, like an exhalatioii, from the deep,
A vast Metropolis, with glittering spires,
"With theatres, basilicas adorn*d ;
A scene of light and glory, a dominion,
That has endured the longest among men.

*Auila.



ITALY. 47

Arid wlience the talisman, by which she rose,
Towering? 'T was found there in the tarrem

sea.
Want led to Enterprise ; and, far or near,
Who met not the Venetian ?— now in Cairo;
Ere yet the Califa came, (15) Ustening to hear
Its bells approaching from the Red- Sea coast ;
Now on the Euxine, on the Sea. of Azoph,
In converse with the Persian, with the Russ,
The Tartar ; on his lowly deck receiving
Pearls from the gulf of Ormus, gems from

Bagdad
Eyes brighter yet, that shed the hght of kive,
From Georgia, from Circassia. Wandering

round,
When in the rich bazaar he saw display' d,
Treasures from miknown climes, away he

went,
And, travelling slowly upward, drew ere-long
From the well-head, supplying all below ;
Making the Imperial City of the East,
Herself, his tributary.

If we turn
To the black forests of the Rhine, the Danube,
Where o'er each narrow glen a castle hangs.
And, like the wolf that hunger'd at his door,
The baron lived by rapine — there we meet,
In Warlike guise, the Caravan from Venice ;
When on its march, now lost and now emerging.
A glittering file, the trumpet heard, the scou*
Sent and recall' d — but at a city-gate
All gaiety, and look'd for ere it comes :



iS ITALY.

Winning its way with all that can attract,
Cages, whence every wild cry of the desert,
Jugglers, stage-dancers. Well might Charl*

main,
And his brave peers, each with his visor up
On their long lances lean and gaze awhile,
When the Venetian to their eyes disclosed
The Wonders of the East ! Well might they

then
Sigh for new Conquests !

Thus did Venice rise
Thus flourish, till the unwelcome tidings came
That in the Tagus had arrived a fleet
From India, from the region of the Sun,
Fragrant with spices — that a way was found,
A channel open'd, and the golden stream
Turn'd to enrich another. Then she felt
Her strength departing, and at last she fell,
Fell in an instant, blotted out and razed;
She who had stood yet longer than the longest
Of the Four Kingdoms — who, as in an Ark,
Had floated down, amid a thousand wrecks,
Uninjured, from the Old World to the New,
From the last trace of civilized life — to where
Light shone again, and with unclouded splen-
dour

Though many an age in the mid-sea She
dwelt,
From her retreat calmly contemplating
The changes of the Earth, herself unchanged-
Before her pass'd, as in an awful dream.



ITALY. 49

The migbtit st of the mighty. What are these,
Clothed in their purple ? O'er the globe they

fling
Their monstrous shadows ; and, while yet we

speak,
Phantom-liko, vanish with a dreadful scream !
What — but the last that styled themselves the

Caesars ?
And who in long array (look where they

come ;
Their gestures menacing so far and wide)
Wear the green turban and the heron's plume ?
Who — but the Caliphs ? follow'd fast by shapes
As new and strange — Emperor, and King, and

Czar,
And Soldan, each, with a gigantic stride,
Tram.pling on all the flourishing works of peace
To make his greatness greater, and inscribe
His name in blood — some, men of steel, steel-
clad ;
Others, nor long, alas, the interval.
In light and gay attire, with brow serene
Wielding Jove's thunder, scattering sulphurous

fire
Mingled with darkness ; and, among the rest,
Lo, one by one. passing continually.
Those who assume a swav beyond them all ;
Men grey with age, each in a triple crown.
And in his tremulous hands grasping the keys
That can alone, as he would signify,
Unlock Heaven's gate.

4



.'>.» n ALY.

XTI.

LUIGI.

He who if on his travels and loves ease,
Ease and companionship, should hire a yout)!i,
Such as thou wert, Luigi. Thee I found,
Playing at Mora (16) on the cabin-roof
With Pulcinella — crying, as in wrath,
" Tre ! Quattro! Cinque!" — 't is a game to

strike
Fire from the coldest heart. What then frona

thine
And, ere the twentieth throw, I had resolved,
Won by thy looks. Thou wert an honest lad ;
Wert generous, grateful, not without ambition.
Had it depended on thy will and pleasure.
Thou wouldst have numbered in thy family
At least six Doges and twelve Procurators. (17)
But that was not to be. In thee I saw
The last of a long line of Carbonari,
Who in their forest, for three hundred years,
Had lived and laboured, cutting, charring wood ;
Discovering where they were, to those astray,
By the re-echoing stroke, the crash, the fall,
Or the blue wreath that travelled slowly up
Into the sky. Thy nobler destinies
Led thee away to justle in the crowd ;
And there I found thee — by thy own prescrij^

tion
Crossing the sea to try once more a change
Of air and diet, landing and as gaily.



ITALY. 51

Near the Dogana — on the Great Canal,
As though thou knewest where to dine and
sleep.

First did thou practise patience at Bologna,
Serving behind a Cardinal's gouty chair,
Laughing at jests that were no laughing matter ;
Then teach the Art to others in Ferrara
— At the Three Moors — as Guide, as Cice-

rone —
Dealing out largely in exchange for pence
Thy scraps of knowledge — through the grassy

street
Leading, explaining — pointing to the bars
Of Tasso's dungeon, and the Latin verse,
Graven in the stone, that yet denotes the door
Of Ariosto.

]\Iany a year is gone
Since on the Rhine we parted ; yet, methinks,
I can recall thee to the hfe, Luigi ;
In our long journey ever by my side,
O'er rough and smooth, o'er apennine, marem-

ma;
Thy locks jet-black, and clustering round a face
Open as day and full of manly daring.
Thou hadst a hand, a heart for all that came,
Herdsman or pedlar, monk or muleteer ;
And few there were, that met thee not with

smiles.
Mishap pass'd o'er thee like a summer-cloud.
Cares thou hadst none ; and they, who stood to

hear thee,



52 ITALY.

Caught the infection and forgot their own.

Nature conceived thee in her merriest mood,

Her happiest — not a speck was in the sky ;

And at thy birth the cricket chirp'd, Luigi,

Thine a perpetual voice — at every turn

A larum to the echo. In a cUme,

Where all the world was gay, thou wert iho

gayest,
And, like a babe, hush'd only by thy slumbers,
Up hill and down, morning and noon and night,
Singing or talking ; singing to thyself
When none gave ear, but to the hstener talking.

XIII.

ST. MARK'S PLACE.

Over how many tracts, vast, measureless.
Nothing from day to day, from year to year,
Passes, save now and then a cloud, a meteor,
A famish' d eagle ranging for his prey ; ,

While on this spot of earth, the work of man.
How much has been transacted ! Emperors,

Popes,
Warriors, from far and wide, laden with spoil,
Landing, have here perform'd their several parts,
Then left the stage to others. Not a stone
In the broad pavement, but to him who has
An eye, an ear for the Inanimate World,
Tells of Past Ages.

In thrt temple-porch .,
(The brass is gone, the porphyry remains), Tl8)
Did Barbarossa fling his manile off.



ITALY. 51

And, kneeling, on his neck receive the foot
Of the proud Pontiff (19) — thus at last consoled
For flight, disguise, and many an aguish shake
On his stone pillow. In that temple-porch,
Old as he was, so near his hundredth year.
And blind — his eyes put out — did Dandolo
Stand forth, displaying on his ducal crown
The cross just then assumed at the high altar.
There did he stand, erect, invincible,
Though wan his cheeks, and wet with many

tears,
For in his prayers he had been weeping much ;
And now the pilgrims and the people wept
With admiration, saying in their hearts,
" Surely those aged limbs have need of rest !"
— There did he stand, with his old armour on.
Ere, gonfalon in hand, that stream' d aloft,
As conscious of its glorious destiny,
So soon to float o'er mosque and minaret,
He sail'd away, five hundred gallant ships.
Their lofty sides hung with emblazon' d shields,
Following his track to Glory. He returned not ;
But of his trophies four arrived ere-long,
Snatch' d from destruction — the four steeds di-
vine,
That strike the ground, resounding with their

feet,
And from their nostrils snort ethereal flame
Over that very portal — in the place
Where in an after-time Petrarch was seen
Sitting beside the Doge, on his right hand,
Amid the ladies of the court of Venice.



54 ITALY.

Their beauty shaded from the se'kjrg sun
By many-colour'd hangings : while, beneath,
Knights of all nations, some from merry En-
gland, (20)
Their lances in th« rest, charged for the prize.

Here, among other pageants, and how oft
It came, as if returning to console
The least, instruct the greatest, did the Doge,
Himself, go round, borne through the gazing

crowd.
Once in a chair of state, once on his bier.
They were his firs: appearance, and his last.

The sea, that emblem of uncertainty.
Changed not so fast for many and many an age,
As this small spot. To-day 't was full of

maskers ;
And lo, the madness of the Carnival, (21)
The monk, the nun, the holy legate mask'd !
To-morrow came the scaftbld and the heads-
man ;
And he died there by torch-light, bound and

gagg'd.
Whose name and crime they knew not- Ud'

derneath
Where the Archangel turning with the wind,
Blesses the City from the topmost-tower,
His arms extended — there continually
Two phantom-shapes were sitting, side by side,
Or up, and, as in sport, chasing each other;
Horror and Mirth. Btth vanisb'd in one houi !



ITALY. 55

But Ocean only, when again he claims

His ancient rule, shall wash away their foot3teps.

Enter the Palace by the marble stairs*
Down which the grizzly head ot old Fahen)
Roll'd from the block. Pass onward through

the Chamber,
Where, among all drawn in their ducal robes,
But one is wanting — where, thrown oif in heat,
A short inscription on the Doge's chair
Led to another on the wall yet shorter ;
And thou will track them — wilt from halls of

state
Where kings have feasted, and the festal song
Rung through the fretted roof, cedar and gold,
Step into darkness ; and be told, " 'T was here,
Trusting, deceived, assembled but to die,
To take a long embrace and part again,
Carrara and his valient sons were strangled;
He first — then they, whose only crime had been
Struggling to save their Father. — Through that

door
So soon to cry, smiting his brow, " I 'm lost !"
Was shown, and with all courtesy, all honour.
The great and noble captain, Carmagnola. —
That deep descent (thou canst not yet discern
Aught as it is) leads to the dripping vaults
Under the flood, where light and warmth came

never !
Leads to a cover'd Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs ;
And to that fatal closet at the foot,

* Scala d3' Gigaati.



56 ITALY.

Lurking for prey, which, when a victim enter' d.
Grew less and less, contracting to a span ;
An iron door, urged onward by a screw,
Forcing out life. — But let us to the roof,
And, when thou hast survey' d the sea, the land,
Visit the narrow cells that cluster there,
As in a place of tombs. They had their tenants,
And each supplied with sufferings of his own.
There burning suns beat unrelentingly,
Turning all things to dust, and scorching up
The brain, till Reason fled, and the wild yell
And wilder laugh burst out on every side,
Answering each other as in mockery !
—Few Houses of the size were better fiU'd;
Though many came and left it in an hour.
" Most nights," so said the good old Nicolo
(For three-and-thirty year? his uncle kept
The water-gate below, but seldom spoke,
Though much was on his mind), " most nights

arrived
The prison-boat, that boat vrith many oars,
And bore away as to the Lower World,
Disburdening in the Canal Orfano, (22)
That drowning-place, where never net was

thrown,
Summer or Winter, death the penalty ;
And where a secret, once deposited.
Lay till the waters should give up their dead."

Yet what so gay as Venice ? Every gale
Breathed heavenly music ! and who flock 'd not
thither



ITALY. 57

To celebrate her Nuptials with the Sea ?
To wear the mask, and mingle in the crowd
With Greek, Armenian, Persian — night and

day
(There, and there only, did the hour standstill)
Pursuing through her thousand labyrinths
The Enchantress Pleasure ; realizing dreams
The earliest, happiest — for a tale to catch
/Credulous ears, and hold young hearts in chains,
Had only to begin, " There lived in Venice."—

" Who were the Six we supp'd with yester-
night ?"

"Kings, one and all! Thou couldst not but
remark

The style and manner of the Six that served
them."

" Who answer' d me just now ? Who, when
I said,

* 'T is nine,' turn'd round and said so solemnly,
' Signor, he died at nine!'" — " 'T was tha

Armenian ;
The mask that follows thee, go where thou
v/ilt."

"But who stands there, alone among them
all?"

* The Cypriot. Ministers from foreign courts
Beset his doors, long ere his hour of rising ;
His the Great Secret I Not the golden hou.se
Of Nero, or those fabled in the East.



38 ITALY.

As wrought by magic, half so rich as his !
Two dogs, coal-bhick, in collars of pure gold,
Walk in his footsteps — Who but his familiars I
He casts no shadow, nor is seen to smile !"

Such their discourse. Assembling in St.

Mark's,
All Nations met as on enchanted ground !

What though a strange, mysterious Power

was there,
Moving throughout, subtle, invisible,
And universal as the air they breathed ;
A Power that never slumber'd, never pardon'd.
All eye, all ear, nowhere and everywhere, (23)
Entering the closet and the sanctuary,
No place of refuge for the Doge himself;
Most present when least thought of — nothing

dropt
In secret, when the heart was on the lips,
Nothing in feverish sleep, but instantly
Observed and judged — a Power, that if but

glanced at
In casual converse, be it where it might.
The speaker lower'd at once his eyes, his voice,
And pointed upward, as to God in Heaven —
What though that Power was there, he who

lived thus.
Pursuing Pleasure, lived as if it were not,
But let him in the midnight -air indulge
A word, a thought against the laws of Venice,
And m that hov r he vanish' d from the earth !



ITALY. 59

XIV.

THE GONDOLA.

Boy, call the Gondola ; the sun is set.
It came, and we embark'd ; but instantly,
Though she had stept on bo:ird so light of foot
So light of heart, laughing she knew not why,
Sleep overcame her ; on my arm she slept.
From time to time I waked her ; but the boat
Rock'd her to sleep again.

The moon was up,
But broken by a cloud. The wind was hush'd,
And the sea mirror-hke. A single zephyr
Play'd with her tresses, and drew more and

more
Her veil across her bosom.

Long I lay
Contemplating that face so beautiful.
That rosy mouth, that cheek dimpled with

smiles,
That neck but half-concealed, whiter than snow.
'T was the sweet slumber of her early age.
I look'd and look'd, and ielt a flush of joy
I would express, but cannot.

Oft I wish'd
Gently — by stealth — to drop asleep myself.
And to incline yet lower that sleep might come ;
Oft closed my eyes as in forgetfulness.
T was all in vain. Love v, ould not let me rest.

But how delightful when at length she waked .
When, her light hair adju^-iing, and her veil



60 ITALY.

So rudely scatter'd, she resumed her place
Beside me ; and, as gaily as before,
Sitting unconscio js'.y nearer and nearer,
Pour'd out her innocent mind !

So, nor long since
Sung a Venetian : and his lay of love,
Dangerous and sweet, charm'd Venice. Aa

for me .

(Less fortunate, if Love be Happiness)
No curtain drawn, no pulse beating alarm,
1 went alone under the silent moon ;
Thy place, St. Pvlark, thy churches, palaces,
Glittering, and frost-like, and as day drew on,
Melting away, an emblem of themselves.

Those porches pass'd through which tha
water-breeze
Plays, though no longer on the noble forms
That moved there, sable-vested — and the Quay,
Silent, grass-grown — adventurer-like Ilaunch'd
Into the deep, ere-long discovering
Isles such as cluster in the Southern seas,
All verdure. Everywhere, from bush and brake,
The musky odour of the serpents came ;
Their shmy track across the woodman's path
Bright in the moonshine : and, as round I went,
Dreaming of Greece, whither the waves were

gliding,
I listen' d to the venerable pines
Then in close converse ; and, if right I guess' d.
Delivering many a message to the Winds
In secret, for iheir kindred on Mount Ida.



ITALY. 61

Nor when again in Venico, when again
In that strange place, so stirring and so still,
Where nothing conies to drown the human

voice
But music, or the dashing of the tide,
Ceased I to wander. Now a Jessica
Sung to her lute, her signal as she sate
At her half-open window. Then, methought,
A serenade broke silence, breathing hope
Through walls of stone, and torturing the proud

heart
Of some Priuli. Once, we could not err,
(It was before an old Palladian house,
As between night and day we floated by),
A Gondoher lay singing ; and he sung
As in the time when Venice was herself, (24)
Of Tancrf d and Erminia. On our oars
We rested ; and the verse was verse divine !
We could not err — Perhaps he was the last —
For none took up the strain, none answer'd him ;
And when he ceased, he left upon my ear
A something like the dying voice of Venice.

The moon went down ; and nothing now was

seen
Save here and there the lamp of a Madonna,
Glimmering — or heard, but when he spoke,

who stood
Over the lantern at the prow, and cried.
Turning the corner of some reverend pile,
Some s^.hool or hospital of old renown,



62 ITALY.

Though haply none were coming, none were

near,
*• Hasten or slacken." *

But at length Night fled ;
And with her fled, scattering, the sons of Plea-
sure.
Star after star shot by, or, meteor-like,
Cross'd me and vanish'd — lost at once among
Those hundred Isles that tower majestically,
That rise abruptly from the water-mark.
Not with rough crag but marble, and the work
Of noblest architect.^!. T linger'd still ;
Nor struck my threshold, till the hour was come
And past, when, flitting home in the grey light,
The young Bianca found her father's door, (25)
That door so often vviih a trembling hand,
So often — then so lately left ajar,
Shut ; and, all terror, all perplexity.
Now by her lover urged, now by her love,
Fled o'er the waters to return no more.

XV.
THE BRIDES Ot VENICE.

It was St. Mary's Eve, and all pour'd forth
A-S to some grand solemnity. The fisher
Came from his islet, bringing o'er the waves
His wife and little one ; the husbandman
From the Firm Land, along the Po, the Brenta,
Crowding tVe common ferry. AH arrived;

♦ Fremi o sta.



ITALY. 63

And in his straw the prisoner turn'd and Usten'd,
So great the stir in Venice. Old and yoking
Throng' d her three hundred bridges; the grave

Turk,
Turban' d, long-vested, and the cozening Jew,
In yellow hat and threadbare gaberdine,
Hurrying along. For, as the custom was,
The noblest sons and daughters of the State,
They of Patrician birth, the flower of Venice,
Whose names are written in the Book of Gold,
Were on that day to solemnize their nuptials.

At noon, a distant murmur through ths
cro.vd,
Rising and rolling on, announced their coming;
And never from the lirst was to be seen
Such splendour or such beauty. Two and two
(The richest tapestry unroll' d before them).
First came the Brides in all their loveliness ;
Each in her veil, and oy two bride-maids fol

low'd.
Only less lovely, who behind her bore
The precious caskets that within contain' d
The dowry and the presents. On she moved.
Her eyes cast down, and holding in her hand
A fan, that gently waved, of ostrich-feathers.
Her veil, transparent as the gossamer,
Fell from beneath a starry diadem ;
And on her aazzling neck a jewel shone.
Ruby or diamond or dark amethyst ;
A jevrell'd chain, in many a winding wreath,
Wreathing her gold brocade



Oi ITALY.

LeJore the Church,
That venerable Pile on the oea-brink,
Another train they met, no strangers to theiP,
Brothers to some, and to the rest still dearer *
Each in his hand bearing his can and plume,
And, as he walk'd, with modest dignitj
Folding his scarlet mantle, liis tabarro.

They join, they enter in, and. up the aisle
Led by the full- voiced choii in bright provCv-

sion,
Range round the altar. In iii? vestments there
The Patriarch stands : and, while the anthen*.

flows,
Who cai. lock on unmoved ? — mothers in secret
Rejoicinp; in the beauty of their daughters.
Sons in tbo thought of uiaking them their own ;
And they — array'd in youth and innocence,
Their beauty heighten' d by their hopes an'^

fears.

At length the rite is ending. All fall down
1.1 earnest prayer, all of all ranks together ;
And, stretching out his hands, the holy man
Proceeds to give the general benediction ;
When hark, a din of voices from without
And shrieks and groans and outcries as in bat*I«
And lo, the door is burst, the curtain rent,
And armed ruffians, robbers from the deep,
lavage, uncouth, led on by Barbarigo,
And his six brothers in their coats of steel,
Are standing on the threshold ! Statue-like,



rrALT. 65

Awhile they gaze on the fallen rnuhitude,
Each with his sabre up, in act to strike ;
Then, as at onoe recovering from the spell,
Rush forward to the altar, and as soon
Are gone again — amid no clash of arms
Bearing away the maidens and the treasures.

Where are they now ? — ^plowing the distant

waves
Their sails all set, and they upon the deck


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Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 3 of 16)