Venice Venice


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Publisher Description

There is no city more written about, more painted, and more misrepresented, than Venice. Students, poets, and painters have combined in reproducing her many charms. Usually, however, Venice is described in a hurried, careless way: the subject is seldom gone deeply into, and studied as it should be, before attempting to compile a book. It is only one who has been there, and observed the life and characteristics of the people for years, who can gain any true perception of their character. Those who have not been to Venice must needs know by heart her attractions, which have been so persistently thrust before the public; but unless half a dozen really excellent books have been read concerning her, the city of their imaginations must be a theatrical Venice, unreal and altogether false. Normally one feels that the last word about Venice has been said—the last chord struck upon her keyboard, the last harmony brought out. But this is by no means the case. There are chords still to be struck, and harmonies still to be brought out: her charm can never be exhausted. The last chord struck, no matter how poorly executed it may be, goes on vibrating in our ears, and all unconsciously we are listening for another. How strange this is! Why should it be so? What other cities impress us in the same way? Oxford perhaps, and Rome certainly. These are the only two which come to my mind at the moment. They are the cities of the soul, round which endless romantic histories cling, endless dear and glorious associations. Perhaps the reason why one never tires of books on Venice, or of pictures of Venice, is that they none of them fulfil one's desires and expectations—they never express just what one feels about her—there is always something left unsaid, something uninterpreted; and one is always waiting for that. It is impossible to express all one feels with regard to Venice. One feels one's own incompetence terribly. Try as you may, you can only give one day, one hour, one aspect of sea and sky, only the four seasons, not all the myriad changes between;—only four times of the day—dawn, mid-day, twilight, and night—not the thousand melting changes, not the continual variations. It is not a panorama, not a magnificent view permanent before one's gaze. The cloud forms will never be quite the same as you see them at a certain moment; the water will never be again of that particular shade of green; the reflection of a pink palace, with the black barge at its base laden with golden fruit, will never again be thrown upon the water quite in that same way; there will not always be that warm golden light bathing sea and sky and palace; that particular pearly-grey mist in the early morning will never recur, never quite that deep blue-black of night with the orange lights and the steely water.

28 October
Library of Alexandria

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