WHILE the skies of this northern November
Scowl down with a darkening menace,
I wonder if you still remember
That marvelous summer in Venice, —
When the mornings by clouds unencumbered
Smiled on in unchanging persistence
On the broad, bright Lagura that slumbered
Afar in the magical distance;
And the mirror of waters reflected
The sails in their gay plumage, grouping
Like tropical birds that erected
Their wings, or sat drowsily drooping;
How by moonlight our gondola, gliding
Through gleams and through shadows of wonder,
With its sharp, flashing beak flew dividing
The waves slipping silently under.
Then almost too full seemed the chalice
Of new-brimming life and of beauty,
As we floated by Riva and palace,
Dogana and stately Salute,
Through deep-mouthed canals, overshaded
By balconies gray, quaint, and olden,
Where ruins of centuries faded
Stood stripped of their azure and golden.
Do you call back the days when before us
The masters of art shone, revealing
Their marvels of color, and o’er us
Glowed grand on the rich, massy ceiling
In the halls of the doges, where trembled
The state in its turbulent fever,
And purple-robed senates assembled
In days that are shadows forever ?
You remember the yellow light tipping
The domes when the sunset was dying;
The crowds on the quays, and the shipping,
The pennons and flags that were flying;
Saint Mark’s, with its mellow-toned glory,
The splendor and gloom of its riches;
The columns Byzantine and hoary,
The arches, the gold-crusted niches;
And the days when the sunshine invited
The painters abroad, until, mooring
Their bark in the shadow, delighted
They wrought at their labors alluring;
The pictures receding in stretches
Of amber and opal around us,
The joy of our mornings of sketches,
The spell of achievement that bound us.
Ah, never I busy my brushes
With scenes of that radiant weather,
But through me the memory rushes
When we were in Venice together.
Fair Venice, the pearl-shell of cities !
Though poor the oblations we bring her, —
The pictures, the songs, and the ditties, —
Ah, still we must paint her and sing her !
A vision of beauty long vanished,
A dream that is joy to remember,
A solace that cannot be banished
By all the chill blasts of November !
Christopher P. Cranch.