"A Roman Holiday"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Reaching Rome in the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Byron lists and describes some of its most notable sights, and mention of them leads him into bypaths of his own personal philosophy. His description of the ruins along the Appian Way near Rome and the fountain where the lovers Numa and Egeria traditionally met in secret, turns his thoughts to love in general and to the part that the mind plays in creating its physical representation. He then looks on the Coliseum and is led to ponder on the power of Time to cast a spell of beauty over things of the past. Perhaps Time will bestow a gift on him. After his death, it may reveal the truth of the calumny spread about him and act as a balance to give him someday his just position in the literary world. Back to the Coliseum, he thinks of the many people slain in its arena. He is reminded of the famous statue, then called "The Dying Gladiator," now believed to represent a dying Gaul. How unjust that man's death was, killed to provide excitement for a crowd of blood-thirsty spectators enjoying a holiday! In his anger Byron calls on the Goths to take revenge on Rome. Then looking around, he sees that Time has already had its revenge. Now the city lies in ruins, plundered to provide building material for many walls and palaces. Beginning in Stanza 140, the poet declares that in his imagination:

I see before me the gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand–his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony . . .
The arena swims around him–he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail'd the wretch
who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not–his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He reck'd not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother–he, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday–
All this rush'd with his blood.–Shall he expire
And unavenged?–Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!