The Venetian in Bergamo, 1588

HARK, the sea is calling, calling! Prithee, Surgeon, let me go !
Venice calls me; would you keep me like a slave in Bergamo?
Let me forth and haste to Venice, down the many-channeled Po.
Hear the little waves a-lapping on the cold gray Lido sand,
Each a whisper, each a signal clearer than a beck’ning hand ;
Were you once a youth, a lover, yet you do not understand ?
I or you, which best should know the dovelike language of my home?
All the little waves they lisp it as they break in rainbow foam,
And the sunbeams flash its greeting from the Redentore’s dome.
Will you tell me ’t is the May wind stirs the orchard-trees again,
And that yonder Adriatic ’s but the vernal Lombard plain ?
Ah, you never were in Venice, and you plead to me in vain.
You convince me, you. a stranger ? Nay, I marvel how you dare
Talk of beauty, boast your mountains, call your crag-built .cities fair,
Spend your praise on glen and river; Beauty dwelleth only there!
Could you conjure up the colors of your most ethereal dream, —
Roseleaf dawn and Tyrian sunset, turquoise noon and diamond beam,
Tint of sea-shells, nameless jewels that in rippling waters gleam,
Liquid, lovely, evanescent, — still you could not quite retrieve
Just the magic of the mantle sea and sky for Venice weave,
From the earliest flush of morning to the last faint glow of eve.
That the mantle! She who wears it mocks the brush and ties the tongue
Of all painters and all poets ; only we from Venice sprung
Feel the charm that passes painting, and the queenliness unsung.
Gondoliers, row not too swiftly through the opaline lagoon ;
Venice dazzles, — let me slowly teach my eyes to hear her noon,
Drop by drop drink in her splendor, else the flooded senses swoon.
Ere we reach the Doge’s Palace take me through the narrow ways
Where the quiet seldom ceases and the shadow longer stays,
Where we children swam together in the sultry summer days.
All unchanged, but fairer, dearer! At yon steps I ’ll disembark ;
Well I know the winding passage that will bring me to St. Mark,
Whom I thank first, and Madonna ; then to greet my kinsmen. — Hark !
As of old the south wind hoarsens, and the angry billows beat
On the Lido, sand and sea-wall, mighty wind that brings the fleet
Like a flock of homing pigeons, rushing to the Mother’s feet.
In they sweep past Malamocco, up the channel serpentine :
Swift, majestic galleys driven by the long oars, line on line ;
Many a battle prize in convoy, vessels of a strange design ;
Merchantmen with swelling canvas, broad of beam and laden deep;
Saucy, gaudy-sailed feluccas ; fislier-boats that lurch and leap:
Shuttles in the loom of Venice, tow’rds the Grand Canal they sweep.
They have come at last to haven, as their guns a welcome roar,
Furled their sails and dropt their anchors, and the skiffs are ferrying o’er
Admiral and crews and captains to the Piazzetta shore.
In august array to meet them Doge and Procurators fare,
Women watching from the windows, throngs huzzaing in the Square, —
Oh, the women’s eyes in Venice, and the sunbeams in their hair !
Here are surly Turkish captives from Aleppo and beyond,
Bearers of the Cyprus tribute, hostages from Trebizond,
Slaves that roamed the hot equator, swarthy Moors, and Persians blond.
Some as spoils of Venice Victrix, some to barter, some to see ;
By her strength or by her splendor, whatsoever men may be,
Eager friend or foe reluctant, Venice draws them to her quay.
God be thanked who brings me to thee, Mother of the twofold crown,—
Thine the Beauty more than mortal. Strength to beat thy foemen down. —
Humblest of thy sons, I beg thee use my life for thy renown :
What, again beside me, Surgeon ? Still pent up in Bergamo ?
But a wound-bred vision, quotha ? Thick your mountain shadows grow.
Hark, the sea is calling, calling! Venice summons, and I go.
William Roscoe Thayer.