Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Descriptive Poems: III. Places
Venice
Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)
 
From “Italy”

  THERE is a glorious City in the Sea.
The Sea is in the broad, the narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.
No track of men, no footsteps to and fro,        5
Lead to her gates. The path lies o’er the Sea,
Invisible; and from the land we went,
As to a floating City,—steering in,
And gliding up her streets as in a dream,
So smoothly, silently,—by many a dome        10
Mosque-like, and many a stately portico,
The statues ranged along an azure sky;
By many a pile in more than Eastern splendor,
Of old the residence of merchant kings;
The fronts of some, though Time had shattered them,        15
Still glowing with the richest hues of art,
As though the wealth within them had run o’er.
*        *        *        *        *
                        A few in fear,
Flying away from him whose boast it was
That the grass grew not where his horse had trod,        20
Gave birth to Venice. Like the waterfowl,
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 came
Had to make sure the ground they stood upon,        25
Rose, like an exhalation, from the deep,
A vast Metropolis, with glittering spires,
With theatres, basilicas adorned;
A scene of light and glory, a dominion,
That has endured the longest among men.        30
 
  And whence the talisman by which she rose
Towering? ’T was found there in the barren sea.
Want led to Enterprise; and, far or near,
Who met not the Venetian?—now in Cairo,
Ere yet the Califa came, listening to hear        35
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,        40
Eyes brighter yet, that shed the light of love
From Georgia, from Circassia.
*        *        *        *        *
                Thus did Venice rise,
Thus flourish, till the unwelcome tidings came,
That in the Tagus had arrived a fleet        45
From India, from the region of the Sun,
Fragrant with spices,—that a way was found,
A channel opened, and the golden stream
Turned to enrich another. Then she felt
Her strength departing, and at last she fell,        50
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.        55
 
 
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