Monday, 11 February 2013

Beppo: a Venetian Story by Lord Byron

published 1818  





I.

'T is known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The people take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking. 

II.
The moment night with dusky mantle covers
The skies ( and the more duskily the better ),
The time less liked by husbands than by lovers


Begins, and prudery flings aside her fetter;
And gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the gallants who beset her;
And there are songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses splendid, but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And harlequins and clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos...


observations: Byron’s poem is set in Venice at Carnevale: the season of joy and pleasure preceding Lent. Heroine Laura thinks she is widowed – her husband, Beppo, disappeared on a sea voyage – and she has found some comfort with a new companion, The Count. As they are enjoying the feasting and dancing, they notice a Turk staring and staring at them. Not very surprisingly, he will turn out to be her lost spouse. And that’s about it for the story. Perhaps there is an implication that the husband’s return (Lent) is the end of the good times (Carnevale) for Laura, but that is not overt. Apparently, the husband gets on just fine with the Count. But there is a lot more discussion and digression in the poem, which is enjoyable, easy to read, and very funny. Almost the first thing the rather splendid Laura says to her newly-returned husband is ‘Well, that’s the prettiest shawl! - As I’m alive! You’ll give it to me?’

Carnevale ends this week (Ash Wednesday coming up) and these amazing photographs were taken in Venice for us last week. There’ll be more of them tomorrow, along with a bit more of Beppo.

They were taken by Perry Photography, and you can see more of her work at the weddingsinitalytuscany website – and also on the blog, last year’s Mardi Gras entry, this picture which might be the most beautiful dress on the blog, and more photos here and here.

Another Byron poem featured in this entry.

4 comments:

  1. Moira - I am so glad you did a piece on Mardi Gras. What an amazing time of year for clothes, I always think. Such amazing costumes! And you tied it into Byron, too! An excellent post.

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  2. I love Venice and the Venetian masks. I've never heard of this Byron poem and in fact Byron doesn't really do it for me, although he did have an interesting life.

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