“I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,

A palace and a prison on each hand;

I saw from out the waves her structures rise

As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;

A thousand years their cloudy wings expand

Around me, and a dying glory smiles

On the fair times, when many a subject land

Looked to the winged Lion’s marble piles,

When Venice sat, throned on her hundred isles.”

NO prisoner whose name is worth remembering, or whose sorrow deserved sympathy, ever crossed that Bridge of Sighs,’ which is the centre of the Byronic idea of Venice,” writes Mr. Ruskin, thus demolishing at a blow all the romantic halo that is attached to this celebrated arch. We are reluctantly compelled to admit the justice of the great art-critic’s dictum. A brief examination will at once suggest a close resemblance to Temple Bar, which belongs to that late Renaissance style of architecture unworthy of imitation.

But the entourage of the Bridge of Sighs belongs to the architectural wonders of the world. The Doge’s Palace, the Cathedral of St. Mark, and the Library of St. Mark form one of the three incomparable groups which hold the highest place in our memory ; the others being that open space at Pisa upon which stands the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Leaning Tower, and the Cloisters of the Campo Santo ; and the Acropolis of Athens with its ruined temples ” drowned in the shadow of the Parthenon.”

No other city is so fascinating to the imagination, so rich in associations, or so picturesque, as Venice. A protracted residence there served only to open out each day new and unexpected sources of interest and admiration. No other city will awaken such remembrances, or so help one to realize the life of the middle ages. Its desolate palaces, its grass-grown courts, its silent highways, its fallen greatness, are subjects which stir the heart, while there is still enough of beauty and grandeur to charm the eye.

Pleasant is it to glide about in the ‘Venetian gondola without noise, or dust, or hurry. But in time one takes pleasure in threading the intricate calles (by which after crossing innumerable bridges it is possible to reach any part of Venice), and the longing comes at length for a ” constitutional ” across an open country. The gondola will then be reserved for such excursions as to Murano and Torcello, and the islands scattered over the Lagoon, or the Lido, that bank of land upon which the Adriatic breaks, and which Shelley loved so much, and of which he wrote :

” I love all waste

And solitary places, where we taste

The pleasure of believing what we see

Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be :

And such was this wild ocean, and this shore

More barren than its billows.”


(From Treasure spots of the world: a selection of the chief beauties and wonders of nature and art, 1875)

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice by Joe deSousa 2016

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice by Joe deSousa 2016

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