Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Canto the Fourth

Original Text: 
Byron, Works. 17 vols. London: John Murray, 1832-33. PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA
2     A palace and a prison on each hand:
3     I saw from out the wave her structures rise
4     As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:
5     A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
6     Around me, and a dying Glory smiles
7     O'er the far times, when many a subject land
8     Look'd to the winged Lion's marble piles,
9Where Venice sate in state, thron'd on her hundred isles!
11     Rising with her tiara of proud towers
12     At airy distance, with majestic motion,
13     A ruler of the waters and their powers:
14     And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
15     From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
16     Pour'd in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
17     In purple was she rob'd, and of her feast
18Monarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increas'd.
20     And silent rows the songless gondolier;
21     Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
22     And music meets not always now the ear:
23     Those days are gone--but Beauty still is here.
24     States fall, arts fade--but Nature doth not die,
25     Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
26     The pleasant place of all festivity,
27The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
28     But unto us she hath a spell beyond
29     Her name in story, and her long array
30     Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
32     Ours is a trophy which will not decay
35     The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er,
36For us repeopl'd were the solitary shore.
37     The beings of the mind are not of clay;
38     Essentially immortal, they create
39     And multiply in us a brighter ray
40     And more belov'd existence: that which Fate
41     Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
42     Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
43     First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
44     Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
45And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
46     Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
47     The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy;
48     And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
49     And, maybe, that which grows beneath mine eye:
50     Yet there are things whose strong reality
51     Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues
52     More beautiful than our fantastic sky,
53     And the strange constellations which the Muse
54O'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:
55     I saw or dream'd of such--but let them go;
56     They came like truth--and disappear'd like dreams;
57     And whatsoe'er they were--are now but so:
58     I could replace them if I would; still teems
59     My mind with many a form which aptly seems
60     Such as I sought for, and at moments found;
61     Let these too go--for waking Reason deems
62     Such overweening fantasies unsound,
63And other voices speak, and other sights surround.
64     I've taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes
65     Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
66     Which is itself, no changes bring surprise;
67     Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
68     A country with--ay, or without mankind;
69     Yet was I born where men are proud to be--
70     Not without cause; and should I leave behind
71     The inviolate island of the sage and free,
72And seek me out a home by a remoter sea,
73     Perhaps I lov'd it well: and should I lay
74     My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
75     My spirit shall resume it--if we may
76     Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine
77     My hopes of being remember'd in my line
78     With my land's language: if too fond and far
79     These aspirations in their scope incline,
80     If my fame should be, as my fortunes are,
81Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar
82     My name from out the temple where the dead
83     Are honour'd by the nations--let it be--
84     And light the laurels on a loftier head!
86     "Sparta hath many a worthier son than he."
87     Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
88     The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
89     I planted: they have torn me, and I bleed:
90I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
92     And annual marriage now no more renew'd,
94     Neglected garment of her widowhood!
95     St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
96     Stand, but in mockery of his wither'd power,
98     And monarchs gaz'd and envied in the hour
99When Venice was a queen with an unequall'd dower.
101     An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt;
102     Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
103     Clank over sceptred cities, nations melt
104     From power's high pinnacle, when they have felt
105     The sunshine for a while, and downward go
108Th' octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe!
109     Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
110     Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
112     Are they not bridled?--Venice, lost and won,
113     Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
114     Sinks, like a sea-weed, into whence she rose!
115     Better be whelm'd beneath the waves, and shun,
116     Even in destruction's depth, her foreign foes,
117From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
118     In youth she was all glory, a new Tyre,
119     Her very by-word sprung from victory,
121     And blood she bore o'er subject earth and sea;
122     Though making many slaves, herself still free,
126For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
127     Statues of glass--all shiver'd--the long file
128     Of her dead Doges are declin'd to dust;
129     But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
130     Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
131     Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust,
132     Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls,
133     Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must
134     Too oft remind her who and what enthralls,
135Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls.
137     And fetter'd thousands bore the yoke of war,
138     Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse,
139     Her voice their only ransom from afar:
140     See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car
141     Of the o'ermaster'd victor stops, the reins
142     Fall from his hands--his idle scimitar
143     Starts from its belt--he rends his captive's chains,
144And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
145     Thus, Venice! if no stronger claim were thine,
146     Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot,
147     Thy choral memory of the Bard divine,
148     Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot
149     Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot
150     Is shameful to the nations--most of all,
151     Albion, to thee: the Ocean queen should not
152     Abandon Ocean's children; in the fall
153Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
154     I loved her from my boyhood; she to me
155     Was as a fairy city of the heart,
156     Rising like water-columns from the sea,
157     Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart;
159     Had stamp'd her image in me, and even so,
160     Although I found her thus, we did not part;
161     Perchance even dearer in her day of woe,
162Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.


1] For related views of Venice see Shelley's Lines Written among the Euganean Hills and Julian and Maddalo.
The Bridge of Sighs joins the Palace of the Doges and the Prison of St. Mark. The wingéd Lion is the lion of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice. Back to Line
10] Cybele: the mother of the gods, generally depicted with a turreted crown. Back to Line
19] Tasso's echoes. The custom of gondoliers' chanting in alternation stanzas from Tasso's sixteenth-century epic Gerusalemme Liberata had nearly died out by the end of the eighteenth century. Back to Line
31] dogeless city. Napoleon deposed Venice's last doge in 1797. Back to Line
33] Rialto: the financial centre of Venice. Back to Line
34] Pierre: a character in Venice Preserved by Otway, the Restoration tragic dramatist. Back to Line
85] the Spartan's epitaph: a Spartan mother's reply to praise of her dead son, the general Brasidas (as reported by Plutarch). Back to Line
91] The spouseless Adriatic: see note on Shelley's Lines Written among the Euganean Hills, 116. Back to Line
93] The Bucentaur lies rotting. The Doge's state galley, from which the ring was annually cast into the Adriatic, had been destroyed by the French in 1797. Back to Line
97] Place where an Emperor sued: the Place of St. Mark, where Frederick Barbarossa ("the Suabian" of the next stanza) submitted to Pope Alexander III in 1171. Back to Line
100] the Austrian reigns: see note on Shelley's Lines Written among the Euganean Hills, 13. Back to Line
106] lauwine: avalanche (German). Back to Line
107] Dandolo: the Doge in command of the capture of Constantinople in 1204. The line also refers to the Highlander's exclamation at the battle of Sheriffmuir (1715): "Oh for one hour of Dundee!" Back to Line
111] Pietro Doria, a fifteenth-century Genoese admiral, was reputed to have threatened not to make peace with Venice until he had bridled the four bronze horses over St. Mark's portal. Back to Line
120] "Planter of the Lion." The nickname of the Venetians, "pantaloons," was once supposed to be derived from "piantaleone" instead of from Saint Pantaleon. Back to Line
123] Ottomite: used in Othello for Ottoman or Turk. Back to Line
124] Candia: capital of Crete, which did not fall to the Turk until 1669. Back to Line
125] Lepanto: a battle (1571) in which the Venetians were mainly responsible for defeating the Turks. Back to Line
136] Plutarch tells how the recital of passages from Euripides won the release of some captives when the Athenians were defeated in Sicily, 413 B.C. Back to Line
158] art: Otway's Venice Preserved, Mrs. Radcliffe's novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, Schiller's novel Der Geisterseher, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and Othello. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.535.