Byron and Shelley A-Rowing
The words and that voice held Shelley hostage
as the sun roamed across the liquid city
to drown blazing in a western canal.
Bridges and basilicas brokered conversation;
the younger poet’s agenda wrangled in the reeds
and into open seas where discourse caught a headwind
and sailed far beyond the shores of the lagoon.
Their slender boat, poled by song,
bobbed and slid over the dead fish stink
of last century’s Casanova
and the doge’s bygone rule.
And elsewhere, in the huddle of conversazione,
Venetian ladies and puttanas alike
might fan an afternoon’s seduction
under the aegis of the great winged griffon.
While wives and lovers simmered in the wings,
Oxford and Cambridge, spirit and matter —
“Julian and Maddalo” —
two wild enchanted minds
spun a literary web of intrigue
that would last far beyond their lifetimes.
Each thought the other mad.