Lines Written At Venice In 1865 by Frances Anne Kemble
Sleep, Venice, sleep! the evening gun resounds
Over the waves that rock thee on their breast,
The bugle blare to kennel calls the hounds,
Who sleepless watch thy waking and thy rest.
Sleep till the night stars do the day star meet,
And shuddering echoes o’er the water run,
Rippling thro’ every glass-green wavering street
The stern good-morrow of thy guardian Hun.
Still do thy stones, O Venice, bid rejoice
With their old majesty the gazer’s eye,
In their consummate grace uttering a voice
From every line of blended harmony.
Still glows the splendour of each wondrous dream
Vouchsaf’d thy painters o’er each sacred shrine,
And from the radiant visions downward streams
In visible light an influence divine.
Still through thy golden days and silver nights
Sings his soft jargon thy gay gondolier,
And o’er thy floors of liquid malachite
Slide the black-hooded barks to mystery dear.
Like Spanish beauty in its sable veil,
They rustle sideling through the watery way,
The wild, monotonous cry, with which they hail
Each other’s course, echoing far away.
As each bright prow grazes the island strands,
Still ring the sweet Venetian voices clear,
And wondering wanderers from far, free lands,
Entranc’d look round—enchanted listen here.
From the far lands of Liberty they come,
England’s proud children and the younger race,
Those who possess the Past’s most glorious home,
And those who own the Future’s boundless space.
Pitying they stand—for thee who would not weep!
Well it beseems these men to weep for thee,
Whose flags as erst thine own control the deep,
Whose conquering sails o’ershadow every sea.
Yet not in pity only—but in hope,
Spring the hot tears the brave for thee may shed,
They watch the dawn that bids thy dungeon ope:
But sleep thou still—the sky is not yet red.
Sleep till the mighty helmsman of the world,
By the Almighty set at Fortune’s wheel,
Steers towards thy freedom, and once more unfurl’d
The banner of St. Mark the sun shall feel.
Then wake—then rise—then hurl away thy yoke,
And dye with life-blood that pale livery
Whose ghastly white has been thy jailor’s cloak,
Covering for years thy shame and misery.
Rise with a shout that down thy giant stair
Shall thy old giants bring with thundering tread,
The blind Crusader standing stony there,
And him—the latest of thy mighty dead—
Whose patriot heart broke at the Austrian’s foot,
Whose ashes under the black marble lie,
From whose dry dust stirr’d by thy voice shall shoot
A glorious tree of living Liberty.