The Great War

from The Volunteer and Other Poems, an electronic edition

Venice

IN domes of dim and ancient gold,

In cloisters, where the lightning plays,

Where gleam the gorgeous saints of old

In aisles of jade and chrysoprase,

In halls that wave like waving water,

Still moves the voice of Ocean's daughter.

Venice ! What siren music then

Stirred on the shoals and shallow sea,

When that small band of wandering men

First in their dreams imagined thee,

And hung thy lyric splendour high

Between the water and the sky!

What Triton strains in other days

Were heard, when, on a sea of flame,

Thy battlefleet swung through the haze,

And homeward in her glory came,

Bearing the beauty of the East

To make Thy happy saint a feast.

Now, though that sceptre-hand be cold,

Those argent argosies no more

Their Tyrian-tinted wings unfold

From Cyprus unto Elsinore;

With broken sword, and banner furled,

How dies the Siren of the world?

The cloud has lifted from the stars,

And now again the starlight falls;

Now Venus calls again to Mars,

And Bacchus reels about his halls

And, lovely in a thousand forms,

Our Lady drifts above the storms.

Among the moonlit marble lace,

That wreathes this avenue forlorn,

Some God has made his dwelling place

And takes his manna from the morn;

And every young and wandering soul,

That passes here, must pay its toll.

Far off the city fades away,

Save where one tow'r of rosy light,

Like some dissolving shaft of day,

Pierces the bosom of the night:

The distant lightning breaks its shroud:

Valhalla gleams beyond the cloud.

Alone we float through gulfs remote,

The black canal no longer seen;

My boat it is a fairy boat,

Above the ripple silver-green,

Upon the wavelet violet-crowned,

My boat and I are outward bound!