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THE GARIBALDI STATUE, VENICE

Usually on a geometric plinth,

sometimes ahorse, once like Charlemagne,

here at the end of the wide, tree lined gravelled

Viale Giuseppe Garibaldi

that leads from the Giardini Pubblici,

he stands, as if on an Appenine peak,

with one of his Red Shirts below to one side.

Though probably better known in Britain

for his eponymous biscuit, the hero

of both Italian freedom and unity

faces what had once been a canal

but was made a street in his honour,

the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.

 

The sculptor, Augusto Benvenuti,

was a local lad, a poor boy. Apprenticed

to a wood carver he learned to sculpt.

Though famous enough to be commissioned

to make Richard Wagner’s death mask he died,

in Venice, aged forty-one, destitute.

 

Garibaldi’s nickname was Il Leone,

and the head of a lion is set in the ‘rock’

now festooned in foliage. The monument

is placed in a small, railed, circular garden.

There is a crescent-shaped pool – with two carp, one

water rat, three abandoned terrapin, all

safe in obscurity.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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