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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Spain

The Bull-fight

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

THE LISTS are oped, the spacious area cleared,

Thousands on thousands piled are seated round;

Long ere the first loud trumpet’s note is heard,

No vacant space for lated wight is found:

Here dons, grandees, but chiefly dames abound,

Skilled in the ogle of a roguish eye,

Yet ever well inclined to heal the wound;

None through their cold disdain are doomed to die,

As moonstruck bards complain, by Love’s sad archery.

Hushed is the din of tongues,—on gallant steeds,

With milk-white crest, gold spur, and light-poised lance,

Four cavaliers prepare for venturous deeds,

And lowly bending to the lists advance;

Rich are their scarfs, their chargers featly prance:

If in the dangerous game they shine to-day,

The crowd’s loud shout, and ladies’ lovely glance,

Best prize of better acts, they bear away,

And all that kings or chiefs e’er gain their toils repay.

In costly sheen and gaudy cloak arrayed,

But all afoot, the light-limbed Matadore

Stands in the centre, eager to invade

The lord of lowing herds; but not before

The ground, with cautious tread, is traversed o’er,

Lest aught unseen should lurk to thwart his speed:

His arms a dart, he fights aloof, nor more

Can man achieve without the friendly steed,—

Alas! too oft condemned for him to bear and bleed.

Thrice sounds the clarion; lo! the signal falls.

The den expands, and Expectation mute

Gapes round the silent circle’s peopled walls.

Bounds with one lashing spring the mighty brute,

And wildly staring, spurns, with sounding foot,

The sand, nor blindly rushes on his foe:

Here, there, he points his threatening front, to suit

His first attack, wide waving to and fro

His angry tail; red rolls his eye’s dilated glow.

Sudden he stops; his eye is fixed: away,

Away, thou heedless boy! prepare the spear;

Now is thy time to perish, or display

The skill that yet may check his mad career.

With well-timed croupe the nimble coursers veer;

On foams the bull, but not unscathed he goes;

Streams from his flank the crimson torrent clear:

He flies, he wheels, distracted with his throes:

Dart follows dart; lance, lance; loud bellowings speak his woes.

Again he comes; nor dart nor lance avail,

Nor the wild plunging of the tortured horse;

Though man and man’s avenging arms assail,

Vain are his weapons, vainer is his force.

One gallant steed is stretched a mangled corse;

Another, hideous sight! unseamed appears,

His gory chest unveils life’s panting source;

Though death-struck, still his feeble frame he rears;

Staggering, but stemming all, his lord unharmed he bears.

Foiled, bleeding, breathless, furious to the last,

Full in the centre stands the bull at bay,

Mid wounds, and clinging darts, and lances brast,

And foes disabled in the brutal fray:

And now the Matadores around him play,

Shake the red cloak, and poise the ready brand:

Once more through all he bursts his thundering way,—

Vain rage! the mantle quits the conynge hand,

Wraps his fierce eye,—’t is past,—he sinks upon the sand!

Where his vast neck just mingles with the spine,

Sheathed in his form the deadly weapon lies.

He stops,—he starts,—disdaining to decline:

Slowly he falls, amidst triumphant cries,

Without a groan, without a struggle dies.

The decorated car appears: on high

The corse is piled,—sweet sight for vulgar eyes;

Four steeds that spurn the rein, as swift as shy,

Hurl the dark bull along, scarce seen in dashing by.