VENETIAN MOONLIGHT

By Frederick Mellen

The midnight chime had tolled from Marco's towers;
O'er Adria's wave the trembling echo swept;
The gondolieri paused upon their oars,
Mutt'ring their prayers as through the still night crept.
Far on the wave the knell of time sped on,
Till the sound died upon its tranquil breast;
The sea-boy startled as the peal rolled on;
Gazed at his star, and turned himself to rest.
The throbbing heart, that late had said farewell,
Still lingering on the wave that bore it home,
At that bright hour sigh'd o'er the dying swell,
And thought on years of absence yet to come.
'T was moonlight on Venetia's sea,
And every fragrant bower and tree
Smiled in the golden light;
The thousand eyes that clustered there
Ne'er in their life looked half so fair
As on that happy night.
A thousand sparkling lights were set
On every dome and minaret;
While through the marble halls,
The gush of cooling fountains came,
And crystal lamps sent far their flame
Upon the high-arched walls.
But sweeter far on Adria's sea,
The gondolier's wild minstrelsy
In accents low began;
While sounding harp and martial zel
Their music joined, until the swell
Seemed heaven's broad arch to span.
Then faintly ceasing—one by one,
That plaintive voice sung on alone
Its wild, heart-soothing lay;
And then again that moonlight band
Started, as if by magic wand,
In one bold burst away.
The joyous laugh came on the breeze,
And, 'mid the bright o'erhanging trees,
The mazy dance went round;
And as in joyous ring they flew,
The smiling nymphs the wild flowers threw
That clustered on the ground.
Soft as a summer evening's sigh,
From each o'erhanging balcony
Low fervent whisperings fell;
And many a heart upon that night
On fancy's pinion sped its flight,
Where holier beings dwell.
Each lovely form the eye might see,
The dark-browed maid of Italy
With love's own sparkling eyes;
The fairy Swiss—all, all that night,
Smiled in the moonbeam's silvery light,
Fair as their native skies.
The moon went down, and o'er that glowing sea,
With darkness, Silence spread abroad her wing,
Nor dash of oars, nor harp's wild minstrelsy
Came o'er the waters in that mighty ring.
All nature slept—and, save the far-off moan
Of ocean surges, Silence reigned alone.