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A mass of fluted shafts and marble domes,
Clustered together, form a pyramid
O'er which the sunlight softly searching roams,
Touching each sculptured emblem there amid
A treasure heap of gold and opal hid,
Its long low shape, with wondrous beauty crowned,
Inspiring awe that seemeth to forbid
All baser buildings near to venture round
St. Mark's most sacred shrine, and its enchanted ground.
Great vaulted porches, hollowed out below
In five large circles-on whose roof appear
Mosaics dazzling with their coloured glow,
And alabaster sculptures, like a tear
From weeping eyes most delicately clear,
Or like the amber wept from ancient trees,
Which grew of old where now the peasants hear
The rush of many waters, when the breeze
Has lashed the waves to fury on the Baltic seas.
Sculpture fantastic in its wondrous shapes
All intertwined together; here it weaves
An endless network of bright clustering grapes,
Pomegranate mingled; here are trailing leaves,
Palm branch and lily; here a branch receives
A weight of clinging birds, while all around
Flutter their mates, even as on English eaves
The swallows fly and cling; there buds are wound
With loafage set amidst the gleam of golden ground.
And as the crown of all, an Angel band
Sceptred and robed across the gateways lean,
Each facing each ; full solemnly they stand
Guarding the entrance, indistinctly seen
Upon the golden fretwork of the screen.
And round the porches there are pillars placed,
Jasper, and porphyry, and sullen green
Of snowflaked serpentine, pure marble traced
With veined labyrinths and mazy lines inlaced.
And over all, amid the capitals,
Where rooted knots of herbage intertwine
With soft acanthus, which down-drifting falls
In wild festoons about the mystic sign
Of holy Cross or leaves of wandering vine,
Over the archivolts, where stands displayed
Of language and of life an endless line-
Angels and heavenly signs and labours laid
On mortal men below, in order due portrayed-
Comes the clear lustre of the sunlit dawn
Eager to kiss the marble's tender veins,
Half bathed in splendour, half in gloom withdrawn,
When on one side the light dominion gains
The other still in sombre shade remains;
Until the shadow ever backward creeping
No more the brightness of the gleam restrains,
Long undulations in pure glory steoping,
Like lines on wavèd sand in summer sunshine sleeping.
Above, great pinnacles their summits raise,
High spires of marble foam; and arches white
Bordered with scarlet flowers alternate blaze
Resplendent-a confusion of delight;
There midmost stand in breadth of golden might
Four horses Grecian-moulded, while on high
Upon a field of azure gleaming bright
With countless stars, the symbol of the sky,
The Lion of St. Mark stands ever haughtily.
A sea of crested arches, wave on wave
Tossing themselves in wreaths of sculptured spray,
Flash higher still, with irridescence brave
Now glistening bright, now fading quite away,
Like sunset's halo at the close of day.
The breakers foaming on the Lido shore
Seemed standing, frost-bound, in confused array,
As though they meant to fall, but froze before,
And silent stood congealed, in stone for evermore.
Such was the vision that I saw appear,
A wondrous form of varied imagery,
And as I gazed, there came a mighty fear,
Touching my soul with sense of mystery,
Seizing my heart, I knew not whence or why.
I stood in presence of a solemn shrine,
The work of noble men in days gone by,
When Venice took the Lion for her sign
Ere vice could shame its pride or blood incarnadine.
The Lion of St. Mark still stands erect,
But sees the pride of all his glory stained;
Her walls with gold and azure still are decked,
But Freedom, Life, and Empire long have waned,
And Venico lies in slavery enchained.
She tasted Pleasure; tasting, craved for more,
And in fruition nobleness disdained,
But like the apple of the Dead Sea's shore
Found Pleasure turn to ashes, in repentance sore.
She was the crowning city of the sea,
Queen of the hundred isles, and gained the name
Of Mart of nations, Christianity
Ruling her purposes, till purest fame
Uplifted her beyond the reach of blame.
And still the dying glory seems to last
In faded splendour, through the fervent aim
Of those old workmen, who in stone set fast
Proofs of religious zeal and stern dominion passed.