Home  »  Poetry of Byron  »  Dying Speech of the Doge of Venice

Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

III. Dramatic

Dying Speech of the Doge of Venice

(Marino Faliero, Act v. Scene 3.)

I SPEAK to Time and to Eternity,

Of which I grow a portion, not to man.

Ye elements! in which to be resolved

I hasten, let my voice be as a spirit

Upon you! Ye blue waves! which bore my banner,

Ye winds! which flutter’d o’er as if you loved it,

And fill’d my swelling sails as they were wafted

To many a triumph! Thou, my native earth,

Which I have bled for, and thou foreign earth,

Which drank this willing blood from many a wound!

Ye stones, in which my gore will not sink, but

Reek up to Heaven! Ye skies, which will receive it!

Thou sun! which shinest on these things, and Thou!

Who kindlest and who quenchest suns!—Attest!

I am not innocent—but are these guiltless?

I perish, but not unavenged; far ages

Float up from the abyss of time to be,

And show these eyes, before they close, the doom

Of this proud city, and I leave my curse

On her and hers for ever!——Yes, the hours

Are silently engendering of the day,

When she, who built ’gainst Attila a bulwark,

Shall yield, and bloodlessly and basely yield

Unto a bastard Attila, without

Shedding so much blood in her last defence

As these old veins, oft drain’d in shielding her,

Shall pour in sacrifice. She shall be bought

And sold, and be an appanage to those

Who shall despise her!—She shall stoop to be

A province for an empire, petty town

In lieu of capital, with slaves for senates,

Beggars for nobles, panders for a people!

Then when the Hebrew’s in thy palaces,

The Hun in thy high places, and the Greek

Walks o’er thy mart, and smiles on it for his!

When thy patricians beg their bitter bread

In narrow streets, and in their shameful need

Make their nobility a plea for pity!

Then, when the few who still retain a wreck

Of their great fathers’ heritage shall fawn

Round a barbarian Vice of Kings’ Vice-gerent,

Even in the palace where they sway’d as sovereigns,

Even in the palace where they slew their sovereign,

Proud of some name they have disgraced, or sprung

From an adulteress boastful of her guilt

With some large gondolier or foreign soldier,

Shall bear about their bastardy in triumph

To the third spurious generation;—when

Thy sons are in the lowest scale of being,

Slaves turn’d o’er to the vanquish’d by the victors,

Despised by cowards for greater cowardice,

And scorn’d even by the vicious for such vices

As in the monstrous grasp of their conception

Defy all codes to image or to name them;

When all the ills of conquer’d states shall cling thee,

Vice without splendour, sin without relief

Even from the gloss of love to smooth it o’er,

But in its stead, coarse lusts of habitude,

Prurient yet passionless, cold studied lewdness,

Depraving nature’s frailty to an art;—

When these and more are heavy on thee, when

Smiles without mirth, and pastimes without pleasure,

Youth without honour, age without respect,

Meanness and weakness, and a sense of woe

’Gainst which thou wilt not strive, and dar’st not murmur,

Have made thee last and worst of peopled deserts—

Then, in the last gasp of thine agony,

Amidst thy many murders, think of mine!

Thou den of drunkards with the blood of princes!

Gehenna of the waters! thou sea Sodom!

Thus I devote thee to the infernal gods!

Thee and thy serpent seed!