Sunday, 26 May 2013

Meditation from the Doge's Palace, Venice.

I walk slowly through this crumbling beauty
In quiet, still, crowd-free early morning,
Passing by the little pontes, the Rialto Bridge,
Sleek, curved, black gondolas at their mooring;
I wander narrow lanes and alleyways
To St. Marks’ Square, its splendour of marble,
Into the Doge’s Palace, the Golden Staircase,
And there in awed silence stop and marvel.

Rich, carved and painted rooms reveal a past
When trade from the East made Venice great;
Unimaginable wealth and great beauty
Designed to overwhelm and intimidate.
In this room nervous ambassadors waited;
This one has a Raphael painted ceiling;
A third and fourth are to judge and govern;
A fifth has paintings deeply revealing.

This fifth is large.  Paintings floor to ceiling
Depict Venetian sea battles. On each wall
Thousands of ships tangle in brutal chaos,
Scenes of death and horror which deeply appal.
In the forefront of one a man in agony,
Eyes rolling, mouth open, clutches an arrow
Embedded in the centre of his forehead,
A single emblem of this carnage and woe.

 I walk back into beautiful St Mark’s Square.
It too has displays of wealth and power-
Gilded mosaics, golden winged angels,
The spear-wielding saint on his high tower.
My mind is troubled by those sea battles,
The thought of that sailor as he dies,
Troubled too by the thought that this splendour
Came at the cost of ordinary men’s lives.

Then I think of that old paradox-
How rapacious commerce plays its part
Not just in the beauty of architecture
But in the wonder and glory of art,
And looking around this beautiful place,
This land ingeniously reclaimed from the sea,
See in it the beauty and the horror
That characterises human society.

And walking slowly past the gypsy beggars,
The street hawkers, the tangled human throng
That moves in shoulder to shoulder press,
Everywhere I hear that ancient song
Of money, power, desire and need,
That relentless pursuit of beauty and wealth,
Save Venice no longer needs ships to trade,
For Venice has trade sufficient in just itself.

A little ponte.

The Rialto Bridge.

The narrow lanes...

Sleek, curved, black gondolas.

Doge's Palace

Courtyard, Doge's Palace

Golden Staircase

Gilded Mosaics, St. Mark's.

Gilded Mosaics.

Statues, St. Mark's.

Home, Hotel Al Vagon.

1 comment:

  1. I felt the same ambivalence in Venice, Neil - more so than in other European cities although inside any great cathedral I'd always find myself thinking of how many workers died to create such beauty (and many did). There's something quite cool and mysterious about those water people. You capture it quite beautifully. Lovely.