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Then out spake brave Horatius,
The captain of the gate:
Than facing fearful odds
And for the tender mother
Who feed the eternal flame,
"Hew down the bridge, sir consul,
With all the speed ye may; I, with two more to help me, Will hold the foe in play. In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopp'd by three. Now who will stand on either hand, And keep the bridge with me?"
Then out spake Spurius LartiusA Ramnian proud was he: "Lo, I will stand at thy right hand, And keep the bridge with thee." And out spake strong Herminius— Of Titian blood was he:
"I will abide on thy left side, And keep the bridge with thee."
"Horatius," quoth the consul,
"As thou sayest, so let it be." And straight against that great array Went forth the dauntless three. For Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold, Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life, In the brave days of old.
Then none was for a party
Then all were for the state; Then the great man help'd the poor, And the poor man loved the great; Then lands were fairly portion'd; Then spoils were fairly sold: The Romans were like brothers In the brave days of old.
Now Roman is to Roman
More hateful than a foe,
In battle we wax cold;
Wherefore men fight not as they fought In the brave days of old.
Now while the three were tightening
Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
Right glorious to behold,
Came flashing back the noonday light,
Four hundred trumpets sounded
A peal of warlike glee,
As that great host with measured tread, And spears advanced, and ensigns spread, Roll'd slowly toward the bridge's head,
Where stood the dauntless three.
The three stood calm and silent,
From all the vanguard rose:
To earth they sprang, their swords they drew,
And lifted high their shields, and flew
Aunus, from green Tifernum,
Vassal in peace and war,
Who led to fight his Umbrian powers From that gray crag, where, girt with
The fortress of Nequinum lowers
O'er the pale waves of Nar.
Stout Lartius hurl'd down Aunus
Into the stream beneath;
Herminius struck at Seius,
And clove him to the teeth;
At Picus brave Horatius
Darted one fiery thrust,
And the proud Umbrian's gilded arms
Clash'd in the bloody dust.
Then Ocnus of Falerii
Rush'd on the Roman three;
And Lausulus of Urgo,
The rover of the sea;
And Aruns of Volsinium,
Who slew the great wild boar-
And wasted fields, and slaughter'd men,
Herminius smote down Aruns;
Lartius laid Ocnus low;
Right to the heart of Lausulus
Horatius sent a blow.
"Lie there," he cried, "fell pirate!
No more, aghast and pale,
From Ostia's walls the crowd shall mark
But now no sound of laughter
From all the vanguard rose.
And for a space no man came forth
But, hark! the cry is Astur:
And lo! the ranks divide; And the great lord of Luna
Comes with his stately stride.
Upon his ample shoulders
Clangs loud the fourfold shield, And in his hand he shakes the brand
Which none but he can wield.
fle smiled on those bold Romans
Quoth he, "The she-wolf's litter
Stand savagely at bay; But will ye dare to follow, If Astur clears the way?"
Then, whirling up his broadsword With both hands to the height, He rush'd against Horatius,
And smote with all his might. With shield and blade Horatius
Right deftly turn'd the blow. The blow, though turn'd, came yet to nigh,
It miss'd his helm, but gash'd his thighThe Tuscans raised a joyful cry
To see the red blood flow.
He reel'd, and on Herminius
He lean'd one breathing space;
Then, like a wild-cat mad with wounds,
Through teeth, and skull, and helmet,
The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
And the great lord of Luna
Fell at that deadly stroke, As falls on Mount Alvernus A thunder-smitten oak. Far o'er the crashing forest
The giant arms lie spread; And the pale augurs, muttering low,
Gaze on the blasted head.
On Astur's throat Horatius
Right firmly press'd his heel, And thrice and four times tugg'd amain, Ere he wrench'd out the steel. "And see," he cried, "the welcome, Fair guests, that wait you here! What noble Lucumo comes next To taste our Roman cheer?"
But at his haughty challenge
A sullen murmur ran,
Mingled with wrath, and shame, and dread,
Along that glittering van.
There lack'd not men of prowess,
Nor men of lordly race;
For all Etruria's noblest
Were round the fatal place.
But all Etruria's noblest
Felt their hearts sink to see On the earth the bloody corpses,
In the path the dauntless three, And from the ghastly entrance,
Where those bold Romans stood,
Was none who would be foremost
Yet one man for one moment
Strode out before the crowd; Well known was he to all the three, And they gave him greeting loud: "Now welcome, welcome, Sextus!
Now welcome to thy home! Why dost thou stay, and turn away?
Here lies the road to Rome."
Thrice look'd he at the city;
And thrice turn'd back in dread;
Scowl'd at the narrow way Where, wallowing in a pool of blood, The bravest Tuscans lay.
But meanwhile axe and lever
Have manfully been plied;
Above the boiling tide.
"Come back, come back, Horatius!"
Back darted Spurius Lartius;
Herminius darted back;
And, as they pass'd, beneath their feet They felt the timbers crack.
But when they turn'd their faces,
And on the farther shore Saw brave Horatius stand alone, They would have cross'd once more
But with a crash like thunder
Fell every loosen'd beam, And, like a dam, the mighty wreck Lay right athwart the stream; And a long shout of triumph Rose from the walls of Rome, As to the highest turret-tops Was splash'd the yellow foam.
And like a horse unbroken,
When first he feels the rein,
And whirling down, in fierce career,
Alone stood brave Horatius,
But constant still in mindThrice thirty thousand foes before, And the broad flood behind. "Down with him!" cried false Sextus, With a smile on his pale face; "Now yield thee," cried Lars Persena "Now yield thee to our grace!"
Round turn'd he, as not deigning
The white porch of his home;
That rolls by the towers of Rome:
"O Tiber! father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray, A Roman's life, a Roman's arms, Take thou in charge this day!" So he spake, and, speaking, sheathed The good sword by his side, And, with his harness on his back, Plunged headlong in the tide.
No sound of joy or sorrow
Was heard from either bank,
But friends and foes in dumb surprise,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
But fiercely ran the current,
And spent with changing blows; And oft they thought him sinking, But still again he rose.
Never, I ween, did swimmer
In such an evil case, Struggle through such a raging flood Safe to the landing-place;
But his limbs were borne up bravely
By the brave heart within, And our good father Tiber
Bare bravely up his chin.
"Curse on him!" quoth false Sextus,-
We should have sack'd the town!" "Heaven help him!" quoth Lars Porsena, "And bring him safe to shore; For such a gallant feat of arms Was never seen before."
And now he feels the bottom;
Now on dry earth he stands;
They gave him of the corn-land,
As much as two strong oxen
Could plough from morn till night;
And they made a molten image,
And there it stands unto this day
It stands in the comitium,
Halting upon one knee;
How valiantly he kept the bridge
And still his name sounds stirring
As the trumpet-blast that cries to them
For boys with hearts as bold
As his who kept the bridge so well
And in the nights of winter,
When the cold north winds blow,
Roar louder yet within;
When the oldest cask is open'd,
Around the firebrands close;
When the goodman mends his armor,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY.
IT little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race,