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a scene from

by Lord Byron

DOGE: Take thou this paper:
The misty letters vanish from my eyes;
I cannot fix them.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Patience, my dear Uncle:
Why do you tremble thus?—nay, doubt not, all
Will be as could be wished.

DOGE: Say on.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: (reading). "Decreed
In council, without one dissenting voice,
That Michel Steno, by his own confession,
Guilty on the last night of Carnival
Of having graven on the ducal throne
The following words—"

DOGE: Would'st thou repeat them?
Would'st thou repeat them—thou, a Faliero,
Harp on the deep dishonour of our house,
Dishonoured in its Chief—that Chief the Prince
Of Venice , first of cities?—To the sentence.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Forgive me, my good Lord; I will obey—
(Reads) "That Michel Steno be detained a month
In close arrest."

DOGE: Proceed.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: My Lord, 'tis finished.

DOGE: How say you?—finished! Do I dream?—'tis false—
Give me the paper—(snatches the paper and reads)—
"'Tis decreed in council
That Michel Steno"—Nephew, thine arm!

Cheer up, be calm; this transport is uncalled for—
Let me seek some assistance.

DOGE: Stop, sir—Stir not—'Tis past.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: I cannot but agree with you
The sentence is too slight for the offence;
It is not honourable in the Forty
To affix so slight a penalty to that
Which was a foul affront to you, and even
To them, as being your subjects; but 'tis not
Yet without remedy: you can appeal
To them once more, or to the Avogadori,
Who, seeing that true justice is withheld,
Will now take up the cause they once declined,
And do you right upon the bold delinquent.
Think you not thus, good Uncle? why do you stand
So fixed? You heed me not:—I pray you, hear me!

DOGE: (dashing down the ducal bonnet, and offering to trample upon it, exclaims, as he is withheld by his nephew).
Oh! that the Saracen were in St. Mark's!
Thus would I do him homage.

Of Heaven and all its saints, my Lord—

DOGE: Away! Oh, that the Genoese were in the port!
Oh, that the Huns whom I o'erthrew at Zara
Were ranged around the palace!

In Venice' Duke to say so.

DOGE: Venice ' Duke!
Who now is Duke in Venice ? let me see him,
That he may do me right.

Your office, and its dignity and duty.
Remember that of man, and curb this passion.
The Duke of Venice ——

DOGE: (interrupting him). There is no such thing—
It is a word—nay, worse—a worthless by-word:
The most despised, wronged, outraged, helpless wretch,
Who begs his bread, if 'tis refused by one,
May win it from another kinder heart;
But he, who is denied his right by those
Whose place it is to do no wrong, is poorer
Than the rejected beggar—he's a slave—
And that am I—and thou—and all our house,
Even from this hour; the meanest artisan
Will point the finger, and the haughty noble
May spit upon us:—where is our redress?

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: The law, my Prince—

DOGE: (interrupting him). You see what it has done;
I asked no remedy but from the law—
I sought no vengeance but redress by law—
I called no judges but those named by law—
As Sovereign, I appealed unto my subjects,
The very subjects who had made me Sovereign,
And gave me thus a double right to be so.
The rights of place and choice, of birth and service,
Honours and years, these scars, these hoary hairs,
The travel—toil—the perils—the fatigues—
The blood and sweat of almost eighty years,
Were weighed i' the balance, 'gainst the foulest stain,
The grossest insult, most contemptuous crime
Of a rank, rash patrician—and found wanting!
And this is to be borne!

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: I say not that:—
In case your fresh appeal should be rejected,
We will find other means to make all even.

DOGE: Appeal again! art thou my brother's son?
A scion of the house of Faliero?
The nephew of a Doge? and of that blood
Which hath already given three dukes to Venice ?
But thou say'st well—we must be humble now.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: My princely Uncle! you are too much moved;—
I grant it was a gross offence, and grossly
Left without fitting punishment: but still
This fury doth exceed the provocation,
Or any provocation: if we are wronged,
We will ask justice; if it be denied,
We'll take it; but may do all this in calmness—
Deep Vengeance is the daughter of deep Silence.
I have yet scarce a third part of your years,
I love our house, I honour you, its Chief,
The guardian of my youth, and its instructor—
But though I understand your grief, and enter
In part of your disdain, it doth appal me
To see your anger, like our Adrian waves,
O'ersweep all bounds, and foam itself to air.

DOGE: I tell thee—must I tell thee—what thy father
Would have required no words to comprehend?
Hast thou no feeling save the external sense
Of torture from the touch? hast thou no soul—
No pride—no passion—no deep sense of honour?

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: 'Tis the first time that honour has been doubted,
And were the last, from any other sceptic.

DOGE: You know the full offence of this born villain,
This creeping, coward, rank, acquitted felon,
Who threw his sting into a poisonous libel,
And on the honour of—Oh God! my wife,
The nearest, dearest part of all men's honour,
Left a base slur to pass from mouth to mouth
Of loose mechanics, with all coarse foul comments,
And villainous jests, and blasphemies obscene;
While sneering nobles, in more polished guise,
Whispered the tale, and smiled upon the lie
Which made me look like them—a courteous wittol,
Patient—aye—proud, it may be, of dishonour.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: But still it was a lie—you knew it false,
And so did all men.

DOGE: Nephew, the high Roman
Said, "Cæsar's wife must not even be suspected,"
And put her from him.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: True—but in those days——

DOGE: What is it that a Roman would not suffer,
That a Venetian Prince must bear? old Dandolo
Refused the diadem of all the Cæsars,
And wore the ducal cap I trample on—
Because 'tis now degraded.


DOGE: It is—it is;—I did not visit on
The innocent creature thus most vilely slandered
Because she took an old man for her lord,
For that he had been long her father's friend
And patron of her house, as if there were
No love in woman's heart but lust of youth
And beardless faces;—I did not for this
Visit the villain's infamy on her,
But craved my country's justice on his head,
The justice due unto the humblest being
Who hath a wife whose faith is sweet to him,
Who hath a home whose hearth is dear to him—
Who hath a name whose honour's all to him,
When these are tainted by the accursing breath
Of Calumny and Scorn.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: And what redress
Did you expect as his fit punishment?

DOGE: Death! Was I not the Sovereign of the state—
Insulted on his very throne, and made
A mockery to the men who should obey me?
Was I not injured as a husband? scorned
As man? reviled, degraded, as a Prince?
Was not offence like his a complication
Of insult and of treason?—and he lives!
Had he instead of on the Doge's throne
Stamped the same brand upon a peasant's stool,
His blood had gilt the threshold; for the carle
Had stabbed him on the instant.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Do not doubt it,
He shall not live till sunset—leave to me
The means, and calm yourself.

DOGE: Hold, nephew: this
Would have sufficed but yesterday; at present
I have no further wrath against this man.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: What mean you? is not the offence redoubled
By this most rank—I will not say—acquittal;
For it is worse, being full acknowledgment
Of the offence, and leaving it unpunished?

DOGE: It is redoubled, but not now by him:
The Forty hath decreed a month's arrest—
We must obey the Forty.

Who have forgot their duty to the Sovereign?

DOGE: Why, yes;—boy, you perceive it then at last;
Whether as fellow citizen who sues
For justice, or as Sovereign who commands it,
They have defrauded me of both my rights
(For here the Sovereign is a citizen);
But, notwithstanding, harm not thou a hair
Of Steno's head—he shall not wear it long.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Not twelve hours longer, had you left to me
The mode and means; if you had calmly heard me,
I never meant this miscreant should escape,
But wished you to suppress such gusts of passion,
That we more surely might devise together
His taking off.

DOGE: No, nephew, he must live;
At least, just now—a life so vile as his
Were nothing at this hour; in th' olden time
Some sacrifices asked a single victim,
Great expiations had a hecatomb.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Your wishes are my law: and yet I fain
Would prove to you how near unto my heart
The honour of our house must ever be.

DOGE: Fear not; you shall have time and place of proof:
But be not thou too rash, as I have been.
I am ashamed of my own anger now;
I pray you, pardon me.

BERTUCCIO FALIERO: Why, that's my uncle!
The leader, and the statesman, and the chief
Of commonwealths, and sovereign of himself!
I wondered to perceive you so forget
All prudence in your fury at these years,
Although the cause—

DOGE: Aye—think upon the cause—
Forget it not:—When you lie down to rest,
Let it be black among your dreams; and when
The morn returns, so let it stand between
The Sun and you, as an ill-omened cloud
Upon a summer-day of festival:
So will it stand to me;—but speak not, stir not,—
Leave all to me; we shall have much to do,
And you shall have a part.—But now retire,
'Tis fit I were alone.

* * *

Download the full text of Marino Faliero



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