Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
Poppaea at the Theatre
By Charles Pelham Mulvaney (1835–1885)
 
DARK tresses made rich with all treasures,
  Earth’s gold-dust, and pearls of the sea,—
She is splendid as Rome that was Caesar’s,
  And cruel as Rome that was free!
 
Could I paint her but once as I found her,        5
  From her porphyry couch let her lean,
With the reek of the circus around her—
  Who is centre and soul of the scene;
 
Grey eyes that glance keen as the eagle
  When he swoops to his prey from on high;        10
Bold arms by the red gold made regal—
  White breast never vexed with a sigh;
 
And haughty her mien as of any
  Her sires whom the foemen knew well,
As they rode through the grey mist at Cannae,        15
  Ere consul with consular fell.
 
Unabashed in her beauty of figure—
  Heavy limbs and thick tresses uncurled
To our gaze, give the grace and the vigour
  Of the race that has conquered the world.        20
 
And fierce with the blood of the heroes—
  In their sins and their virtues sublime—
Sits the Queen of the world that is Nero’s,
  And as keen for a kiss or a crime!
 
But the game that amuses her leisure        25
  Loses zest as the weaker gives way;
And the victor looks up for her pleasure—
  Shall he spare with the sword-point or slay?
 
Half-grieving she gathers her tresses,
  Now the hour for the game has gone by;        30
And those soft arms, so sweet for caresses,
  Point prone as she signs, ‘Let him die.’
 
 
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