Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Venice
Ode on Venice
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
O VENICE! Venice! when thy marble walls
  Are level with the waters, there shall be
A cry of nations o’er thy sunken halls,
  A loud lament along the sweeping sea!
If I, a northern wanderer, weep for thee,        5
What should thy sons do?—anything but weep?
And yet they only murmur in their sleep.
In contrast with their fathers, as the slime,
The dull green ooze of the receding deep,
Is with the dashing of the spring-tide foam,        10
That drives the sailor shipless to his home,
Are they to those that were; and thus they creep,
Crouching and crab-like, through their sapping streets.
O agony! that centuries should reap
No mellower harvest! Thirteen hundred years        15
Of wealth and glory turned to dust and tears;
And every monument the stranger meets,
Church, palace, pillar, as a mourner greets;
And even the Lion all subdued appears,
And the harsh sound of the barbarian drum,        20
With dull and daily dissonance, repeats
The echo of thy tyrant’s voice along
The soft waves, once all musical to song,
That heaved beneath the moonlight with the throng
Of gondolas,—and to the busy hum        25
Of cheerful creatures, whose most sinful deeds
Were but the overbeating of the heart,
And flow of too much happiness, which needs
The aid of age to turn its course apart
From the luxuriant and voluptuous flood        30
Of sweet sensations, battling with the blood.
But these are better than the gloomy errors,
The weeds of nations in their last decay,
When vice walks forth with her unsoftened terrors,
And mirth is madness, and but smiles to slay.
*        *        *        *        *
        35
 
 
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