An Italian Dream
On a hazy Sunday morning in the northern spring of 2019 we sit on a park bench on Lido and look out over the lagoon. A young seagull allows himself to be photographed and even gives me a minute to studiously compose before flying away. In perfect tune with the universe (compositionally-speaking) a vaporetto appears. In the watery distance San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine church and campanile hover mirage-like.
One hundred and seventy five years ago (in 1844) Charles Dickens took some time out from novel writing. He and his family moved to Italy for a few months. From this sojourn came “Pictures from Italy” (first published in 1846), an illuminating and witty account of his Italian adventures. Charles Dickens was so hypnotized by Venice that he reminisces as if he had dreamed it all. The Venetian chapter of the book is called “An Italian Dream“. I trust CD doesn’t mind if I borrow his romantic title for my drawing.
I quote three paragraphs from “An Italian Dream“…
“The glory of the day that broke upon me in this Dream; its freshness, motion, buoyancy; its sparkles of the sun in water; its clear blue sky and rustling air; no waking words can tell. But, from my window, I looked down on boats and barks; on masts, sails, cordage, flags; on groups of busy sailors, working at the cargoes of these vessels; on wide quays, strewn with bales, casks, merchandise of many kinds; on great ships, lying near at hand in stately indolence; on islands, crowned with gorgeous domes and turrets: and where golden crosses glittered in the light, atop of wondrous churches, springing from the sea!”
“In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed of time, and had but little understanding of its flight. But there were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed along the streets.”
One hundred and seventy five years ago we weren’t talking about climate change or rising sea levels, yet Dickens concludes his chapter thus…
“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always. Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress”
“I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”