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Short time was there, ye may well guess, Lars Porsena of Clusium

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Then out spake brave Horatius,

The captain of the gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods?

And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens

Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?

"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,
And the tribunes beard the high,
And the fathers grind the low.
As we wax hot in faction,

In battle we wax cold;

Wherefore men fight not as they fought In the brave days of old.

Now while the three were tightening
Their harness on their backs,
The consul was the foremost man
To take in hand an axe;
And fathers, mix'd with commons,
Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
And smote upon the planks above,
And loosed the props below.

Meanwhile the Tuscan army,

Right glorious to behold,

Came flashing back the noonday light,
Rank behind rank, like surges bright
"Of a broad sea of gold.

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,
And look'd upon the foes,
And a great shout of laughter

From all the vanguard rose:
And forth three chiefs came spurring
Before that deep array ;

To earth they sprang, their swords they drew,

And lifted high their shields, and flew
To win the narrow way.

Aunus, from green Tifernum,
Lord of the hill of vines:
And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves
Sicken in Ilva's mines;
And Picus, long to Clusium

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-
The great wild boar that had his den
Amidst the reeds of Cosa's fen,

And wasted fields, and slaughter'd men,
Along Albinia's shore.

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
The track of thy destroying bark.
No more Campania's hinds shall fly
To woods and caverns when they spy
Thy thrice-accursèd sail.”

But now no sound of laughter
Was heard among the foes.
A wild and wrathful clamor

From all the vanguard rose.
Six spears' lengths from the entrance
Halted that deep array,

And for a space no man came forth
To win the narrow way.

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
A smile serene and high;
He eyed the flinching Tuscans,
And scorn was in his eye.

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,
Sprang right at Astur's face.

Through teeth, and skull, and helmet,
So fierce a thrust he sped,

The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
Behind the Tuscan's head.

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,
All shrank-like boys who, unaware,
Ranging the woods to start a hare,
Come to the mouth of the dark lair
Where, growling low, a fierce old bear
Lies amidst bones and blood.

Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack:
But those behind cried "Forward!"
And those before cried "Back!"
And backward now, and forward,
Wavers the deep array;
And on the tossing sea of steel
To and fro the standards reel
And the victorious trumpet-peal
Dies fitfully away.

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;
Thrice look'd he at the dead;
And thrice came on in fury,

And thrice turn'd back in dread;
And, white with fear and hatred,

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;
And now the bridge hangs tottering

Above the boiling tide.

"Come back, come back, Horatius!"
Loud cried the fathers all-
'Back, Lartius! back, Herminius!
Back, ere the ruin fall!"

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,
The furious river struggled hard,
And toss'd his tawny mane,
And burst the curb, and bounded,
Rejoicing to be free;

And whirling down, in fierce career,
Battlement, and plank, and pier,
Rush'd headlong to the sea.

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
Those craven ranks to see;
Naught spake he to Lars Porsena,
To Sextus naught spake he;
But he saw on Palatinus

The white porch of his home;
And he spake to the noble river

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,
With parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank;
And when above the surges
They saw his crest appear,

All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.

But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain,
And fast his blood was flowing;
And he was sore in pain,
And heavy with his armor,

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,-
"Will not the villain drown?
But for this stay, ere close of day

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;
Now round him throng the fathers
To press his gory hands;
And now, with shouts and clapping,
And noise of weeping loud,
He enters through the river-gate,
Borne by the joyous crowd.

They gave him of the corn-land,
That was of public right,

As much as two strong oxen

Could plough from morn till night;

And they made a molten image,
And set it up on high-

And there it stands unto this day
To witness if I lie.

It stands in the comitium,
Plain for all folk to see,-.
Horatius in his harness,

Halting upon one knee;
And underneath is written,
In letters all of gold,

How valiantly he kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.

And still his name sounds stirring
Unto the men of Rome,

As the trumpet-blast that cries to them
To charge the Volscian home:
And wives still pray to Juno

For boys with hearts as bold

As his who kept the bridge so well
In the brave days of old.

And in the nights of winter,

When the cold north winds blow,
And the long howling of the wolves
Is heard amidst the snow;
When round the lonely cottage
Roars loud the tempest's din,
And the good logs of Algidus

Roar louder yet within;

When the oldest cask is open'd,
And the largest lamp is lit;
When the chestnuts glow in the embers,
And the kid turns on the spit;
When young and old in circle

Around the firebrands close;
When the girls are weaving baskets,
And the lads are shaping bows;

When the goodman mends his armor,
And trims his helmet's plume;
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom;
With weeping and with laughter
Still is the story told,

How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.



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,

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