Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/522

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478
[CANTO IV.
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

have both expired.[1] Most of the patrician mansions are deserted, and would gradually disappear, had not the Government, alarmed by the demolition of seventy-two during the last two years, expressly forbidden this sad resource of poverty. Many remnants of the Venetian nobility are now scattered, and confounded with the wealthier Jews upon the banks of the Brenta, whose Palladian palaces have sunk, or are sinking, in the general decay. Of the "gentiluomo Veneto," the name is still known, and that is all. He is but the shadow of his former self, but he is polite and kind. It surely may be pardoned to him if he is querulous. Whatever may have been the vices of the republic, and although the natural term of its existence may be thought by foreigners to have arrived in the due course of mortality, only one sentiment can be expected from the Venetians themselves. At no time were the subjects of the republic so unanimous in their resolution to rally round the standard of St. Mark, as when it was for the last time unfurled; and the cowardice and the treachery of the few patricians who recommended the fatal neutrality, were confined to the persons of the traitors themselves. The present race cannot be thought to regret the loss of their aristocratical forms, and too despotic government; they think only on their vanished independence. They pine away at the remembrance, and on this subject suspend for a moment their gay good humour. Venice may be said, in the words of the Scripture, "to die daily;" and so general and so apparent is the decline, as to become painful to a stranger, not reconciled to the sight of a whole nation expiring, as it were, before his eyes. So artificial a creation, having lost that principle which called it into life and supported its existence, must fall to pieces at once, and sink more rapidly than it rose. The abhorrence of slavery, which drove the Venetians to the sea, has, since their disaster, forced them to the land, where they may be at least overlooked amongst the crowd of dependents, and not present the humiliating spectacle of a whole nation loaded with recent chains. Their liveliness, their affability, and that happy indifference which constitution alone can give (for philosophy aspires to it in vain), have not sunk under circumstances; but many peculiarities of costume and manner have by degrees been lost;

  1. "Nonnullorum e nobilitate immensæ sunt opes, adeo ut vix æstimari possint; id quod tribus e rebus oritur, parsimonia, commercio, atque iis emolumentis, quæ e Repub. percipiunt, quæ hanc ob caussam diuturna fore creditur."—See De Principatibus Italiæ Tractatus Varii, 1628, pp. 18, 19.