Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Rome, Ruins of

The Circus

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

(From A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem)

HE pants to stand

In its vast circus, all alive with heads

And quivering arms and floating robes,—the air

Thrilled by the roaring fremitus of men,—

The sunlit awning heaving overhead,

Swollen and strained against its corded veins,

And flapping out its hem with loud report,—

The wild beasts roaring from the pit below,

The wilder crowd responding from above

With one long yell that sends the startled blood

With thrill and sudden flush into the cheeks,—

A hundred trumpets screaming,—the dull thump

Of horses galloping across the sand,—

The clang of scabbards, the sharp clash of steel,—

Live swords, that whirl a circle of gray fire,—

Brass helmets flashing ’neath their streaming hair,—

A universal tumult,—then a hush

Worse than the tumult,—all eyes straining down

To the arena’s pit, all lips set close,

All muscles strained,—and then that sudden yell,

Habet!—“That ’s Rome,” says Lucius: so it is!

That is, ’t is his Rome, ’t is not yours and mine.