Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A SURVEY OF THE AMPHITHEATRE, by                    
First Line: On, pegasus! Why, whither turn ye?
Last Line: To die—but get their living by't.
Subject(s): Fights; Italian Renaissance; Sports - Arenas & Stadia; Theater & Theaters; Travel; Stage Life; Journeys; Trips

ON, Pegasus! Why, whither turn ye?
What! lag, ere I've begun my journey?
If you so soon your speed diminish,
You'll grow quite crippled ere we finish.
My riddle by degrees unravels:
Good gentlemen, I'm on my travels.
You're journ'ing too, as I presume;
I warrant you, designed for Rome.
Shall we join chat? You'll quickly be-at-her;
I'm going to the Amphitheatre.
Bless us, what's here? What hodge-podge ruin!
Is this that famous pile we're viewing,
So cracked up in our schools—and taverns?
This heap of stones and awkward caverns?
Vile place! more fit for brutes than men!
Rome? Phaugh! I think 'tis Daniel's den.
Stop, let's observe. How vast the building!
In troth, I think they've walled a field in.
Look, tow'rd the centre have you seen-a
Rough pavement? That was their Arena,
The stage where combatants, I wist,
Of old went at it hand to fist.
There, in the fencing-science taught,
Their desp'rate gladiators fought,
Or beasts engaged (like cater-cousins)
Let loose to eat 'em up by dozens.
There, out of all those ugly nooks,
They issued: tigers, bears—adzooks!
While senators, on upper benches,
Sat safely cuddling of their wenches;
And ranged plebeian crowds, unmoved,
The horrid spectacle approved,
Heedless what mischief in the show
Befell poor fighting rogues below.
Some wounded, those by monsters fed on,
This a nose off, that ne'er a head on:
The common fate of gladiators.
Fine shows, where monarchs were spectators!
Here, from these pipes by time decayed,
Observe, their currents were conveyed;
Which served, when former sports were spent,
Their water-fights to represent,
By authors named—(a pesters take ye!
Why what, ye Muses!)—their Naumachia;
Where soldiers armed made dreadful charges
From broadside hulks and leaky barges,
Brought through this arch, and this, and this through,
Holes, now, a dog could scarcely piss through.
Hang this queer, gloomy, dirty station;
I'm weary of the speculation.
Let me from scenes so dread repair
Back to my country's milder air:
There visit famed bear-garden heroes,
From whose sham fights ne'er cause of fear rose,
Or trip to view some valiant Hibern
At Sutton's, neighb'ring seat to Tyburn,
Where gentle butchers oft resort,
That brotherhood's peculiar sport.
Here may I sit and fear no slaying,
Mid those meek masters of sword-playing;
Lay wagers, laugh at Figg and Stokes,
And all our harmless fighting folks.
Rome's fencing sparks, say what you please,
In wit fell vastly short of these;
Those met to kill, or to be killed,
But ours to have their pockets filled.
Shame of their boasted Roman sense!
To wisdom they've the best pretence,
Who ne'er in those encounters fight
To die—but get their living by't.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net