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
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 

  ALL is bright and clear and still
Round the solitary hill.
 
Beneath is spread like a green sea
The waveless plain of Lombardy,
Bounded by the vaporous air,        5
Islanded by cities fair;
Underneath day’s azure eyes,
Ocean’s nursling, Venice, lies,—
A peopled labyrinth of walls,
Amphitrite’s destined halls,        10
Which her hoary sire now paves
With his blue and beaming waves.
Lo! the sun upsprings behind,
Broad, red, radiant, half reclined
On the level quivering line        15
Of the waters crystalline;
And before that chasm of light,
As within a furnace bright,
Column, tower, and dome, and spire
Shine like obelisks of fire,        20
Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies;
As the flames of sacrifice
From the marble shrines did rise,        25
As to pierce the dome of gold
Where Apollo spoke of old.
 
Sun-girt city! thou hast been
Ocean’s child, and then his queen;
Now is come a darker day,        30
And thou soon must be his prey,
If the power that raised thee here
Hallow so thy watery bier.
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow        35
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne among the waves,
Wilt thou be when the sea-mew
Flies, as once before it flew,
O’er thine isles depopulate,        40
And all is in its ancient state,
Save where many a palace-gate
With green sea-flowers overgrown
Like a rock of ocean’s own,
Topples o’er the abandoned sea        45
As the tides change sullenly.
The fisher on his watery way
Wandering at the close of day
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,        50
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o’er the starlight deep,
Lead a rapid mask of death
O’er the waters of his path.
 
 
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