This was Venice, a flattering and suspect beauty...


Voluptuous Venice

“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.


Thomas Mann, German novelist.



The Mediterranean and Romanticism


Contrary to what you might expect to read, I’m not speaking about romantic couples, but Romantic Poets, in particular Mr. Percy Shelley and his lovely wife, the very dear to my heart Mrs. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)), who argues she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education.


The couple spend a few years in Italy, mostly accompanied by the notorious Lord Byron. The three of them are social outcasts at the time, hiding away from British creditors, and Byron in particular, has found a shelter from the consequences of his promiscuous behaviour and affairs with mostly married women.



It is actually Byron who paves the way of the Romantics to Italy. The bad boy of the 19th century literature has a profound connection to Venice in particular, he becomes fluent in Italian, plays an active role in politics, but as it often happens in life, the more things change, the more they remain the same and he continues his sexual escapades. Aside from that though, he hosts many writers and intellectuals and helps them find a safe-haven, inspiration and most importantly the freedom to be anonymous.



For the three of them, the Italian journey proves to be very fruitful in artistic terms. In Venice Percy finishes the poem Julian and Maddalo, based on his conversations with Byron, sailing down Canale Grande. And later finishes his pivotal poem Prometheus Unbound in Rome.


These excerpts bring Canale Grande to you for a few minutes.


Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)


I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand 5
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingéd’s Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!


I loved her from my boyhood,—she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn and of wealth the mart; 85
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare’s art,
Had stamped her image in me, and even so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part,
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.




On the Silky Roads of Venice.


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A fresh summer afternoon to you,




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