Mrs. Bronson tells us that the poet delighted in the seagulls, which in stormy weather come into the city waters. He used to wonder that no books referred to them. “They are more interesting,” he said, “than the doves of St. Mark.” Venice did not inspire the poet to much verse. There is of course that poignant little drama entitled “In a Gondola,” but not much else, and for some reason the collected works omit the sonnet in honour of Goldoni which was written for the ceremonies attaching to the erection of the dramatist’s statue near the Rialto. Mrs. Orr tells us that this sonnet, which had been promised for an album in praise of Goldoni, was forgotten until the messenger from the editor arrived for the copy. Browning wrote it while the boy waited. The day was November 27, 1883.
sunniest of souls—
Glassing half Venice in that verse of thine—
What though it just reflect the shade and shine
Of common life, nor render, as it rolls,
Grandeur and gloom? Sufficient for thy shoals
Was Carnival: Parini’s depths enshrine
Secrets unsuited to that opaline
Surface of things which laughs along thy scrolls.
There throng the people: how they come and go,
Lisp the soft language, flaunt the bright garb,—see,—
On Piazza, Calle, under Portico
And over Bridge! Dear king of Comedy,
Be honoured! Thou that did’st love Venice so,
Venice, and we who love her, all love thee.
The Rezzonico is the house most intimately associated with Browning in the public mind, although most of his Venetian life was spent elsewhere. It was here, on his last visit to his son, that the poet died. He had not been very well for some time, but he insisted on taking his daily walk on the Lido even although it was foggy. The fog struck in—it was November—and the poet gradually grew weaker until on December 12, 1889, the end came. At first he had lain in the left-hand corner room on the ground floor; he died in the corresponding room on the top floor, where there was more light.
[Illustration: VENICE WITH HERCULES AND CERES FROM THE PAINTING BY VERONESE In the Accademia]
Browning was buried in Westminster Abbey, but a funeral service was held first in Venice. In his son’s words, “a public funeral was offered by the Municipality, which in a modified form was gratefully accepted. A private service, conducted by the British Chaplain, was held in one of the halls of the Rezzonico. It was attended by the Syndic of Venice and the chief City authorities, as well as by officers of the Army and Navy. Municipal Guards lined the entrance of the Palace, and a Guard of Honour, consisting of City firemen in full dress, stood flanking the coffin during the service, which was attended by friends and many residents. The subsequent passage to the mortuary island of San Michele was organized by the City, and when the service had been