Marino Faliero – Monologue (Doge – 1)

A monologue from the play by Lord Byron

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Lord Byron: Six Plays. Lord Byron. Los Angeles: Black Box Press, 2007.


Ye, though you know and feel our mutual mass
Of many wrongs, even ye are ignorant
What fatal poison to the springs of Life,
To human ties, and all that’s good and dear,
Lurks in the present institutes of Venice:
All these men were my friends; I loved them, they
Requited honourably my regards;
We served and fought; we smiled and wept in concert;
We revelled or we sorrowed side by side;
We made alliances of blood and marriage;
We grew in years and honours fairly,—till
Their own desire, not my ambition, made
Them choose me for their Prince, and then farewell!
Farewell all social memory! all thoughts
In common! and sweet bonds which link old friendships,
When the survivors of long years and actions,
Which now belong to history, soothe the days
Which yet remain by treasuring each other,
And never meet, but each beholds the mirror
Of half a century on his brother’s brow,
And sees a hundred beings, now in earth,
Flit round them whispering of the days gone by,
And seeming not all dead, as long as two
Of the brave, joyous, reckless, glorious band,
Which once were one and many, still retain
A breath to sigh for them, a tongue to speak
Of deeds that else were silent, save on marble——
From the hour they made me Doge, the Doge they made me—
Farewell the past! I died to all that had been,
Or rather they to me: no friends, no kindness,
No privacy of life—all were cut off:
They came not near me—such approach gave umbrage;
They could not love me—such was not the law;
They thwarted me—’twas the state’s policy;
They baffled me—’twas a patrician’s duty;
They wronged me, for such was to right the state;
They could not right me—that would give suspicion;
So that I was a slave to my own subjects;
So that I was a foe to my own friends;
Begirt with spies for guards, with robes for power,
With pomp for freedom, gaolers for a council,
Inquisitors for friends, and Hell for life!
I had only one fount of quiet left,
And that they poisoned! My pure household gods
Were shivered on my hearth, and o’er their shrine
Sate grinning Ribaldry, and sneering Scorn.
I had borne all—it hurt me, but I bore it—
Till this last running over of the cup
Of bitterness—until this last loud insult,
Not only unredressed, but sanctioned; then,
And thus, I cast all further feelings from me—
The feelings which they crushed for me, long, long
Before, even in their oath of false allegiance!
Even in that very hour and vow, they abjured
Their friend and made a Sovereign, as boys make
Playthings, to do their pleasure—and be broken!
I from that hour have seen but Senators
In dark suspicious conflict with the Doge,
Brooding with him in mutual hate and fear;
They dreading he should snatch the tyranny
From out their grasp, and he abhorring tyrants.
To me, then, these men have no private life,
Nor claim to ties they have cut off from others;
As Senators for arbitrary acts
Amenable, I look on them—as such
Let them be dealt upon.

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