Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

The Gemonian Stairs - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

Only a slave in Rome of old,
A slave for whom none cares!
Slaughtered in dungeon-deeps, and rolled
Down the Gemonian stairs;
Insulted, marred, exposed to view,
With other human lumber,
There in the Forum, where the Roman concourse grew
Around his mortal slumber.
There in the Forum, by the mighty walls,
And columns hero-crowned,
Whose mourning voice upon the slumberer calls?
The whine of a poor hound!
He will not leave the swarthy clay,
He licks the rigid face;
Harsh-laughing, stern men in long-robed array
Gather about the place:
One pitying hath offered bread;
The dog but lays it down
Before the dumb mouth of the master dead;
Whose body later thrown
In turbid Tiber's flood he follows,
Borne headlong by the river,
To lift it from the strong, loud gulf that swallows,
Struggling, till both have sunk for ever.

A gleam is for a moment cast
Over oblivion:
The dead slave, whose dog holds him fast,
Drifts, passes,- all are gone. . . .

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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