The Amphitheatre of Nimes

Jean Reboul

Remnant of giant old, whose magnitude
Can show the scale of Nimes as once she stood,
The stranger's being thrills with feeling deep,
When thy vast outlines stretch before his eyes;
No stirring reveries in me arise,
For here did boyhood sleep.

I've heard the thousand-voiced wind at night
Sweep through thy countless arches in its might,
Till I death's renegades no more can view,
Still with their parting breath not satisfied;
Nor shades of those who in the arena died
Brandish their blades anew.

So often at the public evening fetes
The brilliant flame has lighted up thy gates,
That red reflections cast on every porch
Recall no more the nightly revelry
When Rome, debauched to gloomy energy,
Burnt Christians for a torch.

When here I bring the choice friend of my heart
On pilgrimage of poesy or art,
I leave to him to seek where Caesar swayed,
Place of proconsuls and each noble line,
And where the vestal's finger gave the sign
That plunged the fatal blade.

Dreaming of other days my mind is fain
To build from thought the Gothic wall again,
Catholic cradle of our St. Castor.
Creeping along thy steps as creeps the mould
Along the dead oak's bark, from houses old
The humble people pour.

Again I see the troop of merry girls
Turning the wheel and singing while it whirls,
On soil where bloodshed gave an ample yield, —
Just as the timid dove is sometimes seen
To build where greedy vultures oft have been
Reddening the verdant field.

The wild-fig's leaves o'erhang again to day
The doorway's arch corroded by decay,
As a dark brow o'erhangs an Afric eye;
The ruins jut from Moorish turrets where
Before St. Martin did thy brave knights swear
To conquer or to die.

And mail-clad soldiers here, whose sword and lance
Were pledged to keep thee from the foe's advance,
Who braved for thee a thousand fierce assaults;
Guileless profaners of Rome's wondrous art,
The martial swarm made with all-simple heart
Their cells of thy vast vaults.

For Rome was then abandoned so of all,
In her memorials was seen her fall;
Grand monuments in which her pride was placed
Were by the Goth put to an abject use;
What held her sacred ashes found abuse,
Into a trough debased.