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
St. Mark’s Place
Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)
 
OVER how many tracts, vast, measureless,
Ages on ages roll, and none appear
Save the wild hunter ranging for his prey;
While on this spot of earth, the work of man,
How much has been transacted! Emperors, popes,        5
Warriors, from far and wide, laden with spoil,
Landing, have here performed 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,        10
Tells of past ages.
                In that temple-porch
(The brass is gone, the porphyry remains)
Did Barbarossa fling his mantle off,
And, kneeling, on his neck receive the foot
Of the proud Pontiff,—thus at last consoled        15
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 crown the cross.        20
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,        25
“Surely those aged limbs have need of rest!”
There did he stand, with his old armor on,
Ere, gonfalon in hand, that streamed aloft,
As conscious of its glorious destiny,
So soon to float o’er mosque and minaret,        30
He sailed away, five hundred gallant ships,
Their lofty sides hung with emblazoned shields,
Following his track to fame. He went to die;
But of his trophies four arrived erelong,
Snatched from destruction,—the four steeds divine,        35
That strike the ground, resounding with their feet,
And from their nostrils snort ethereal flame
Over that very porch; and in the place
Where in an after-time, beside the Doge,
Sate one yet greater, one whose verse shall live        40
When the wave rolls o’er Venice. High he sate,
High over all, close by the ducal chair,
At the right hand of his illustrious host,
Amid the noblest daughters of the realm,
Their beauty shaded from the western ray        45
By many-colored hangings; while, beneath,
Knights of all nations, some of fair renown
From England, from victorious Edward’s court,
Their lances in the rest, charged for the prize.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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