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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


The Amphitheatre of Nîmes

By Jean Reboul (1796–1864)

Translated by Charlotte Fiske Bates

REMAINS of giant old whose magnitude

Can show the scale of Nîmes 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-voicéd 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 fêtes

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 Cæsar 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.