A circle canvas roofed, with thousands of eager eyes
Turned to the roped enclosure, and outside the moonless skies
Gemmed with white stars that speak to some of rest and Paradise.
In the wide outer tent, where still the torches redly flare,
An angry tiger's shuddering cough cuts thro' the heavy air.
Now, high above the trampled ring, the choking sawdust whirl,
All eyes are fixed on the trapeze, where swings a round-limbed girl.
As she with free uplifted hand pins close a straying curl,
A woman screams, and hides her eyes; some coarse-faced seamen laugh;
Paquita blows a kiss to them, amid a storm of chaff.
Paquita! Queen of the Trapeze! Up higher still she goes,
And now we see her laughing face, as fresh any rose;
And yet -- a slip -- a sudden fear -- and who among us knows,
How near death to Paquita in her airy triumph stands.
She holds her life as lightly as the slim ropes in her hands.
Outside, along the cool green parks, winds play among the trees,
Beyond, within the chapel walls, the nuns are on their knees,
And here we watch a woman's life a-swing on the trapeze!
The pagan Roman lives to-night -- these dust choked tents for choice;
Not out of place the quavering cough of that lean tiger's voice!
First published in The Australasian, 22 October 1904