Wednesday Words: Horatius Parts XXVIII-XL

MORE Horatius: Thomas Babbington Macaulay

XXVIII
'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?
XXIX
'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 stopped by three.
 Now who will stand on either hand,
 And keep the bridge with me?'
XXX
Then out spake Spurius Lartius;
 A 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.'
XXXI
'Horatius,' quoth the Consul,
 'As thou sayest, so let it be.'
 And straight against that great array
 Forth went 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.
XXXII
Then none was for a party;
 Then all were for the state;
 Then the great man helped the poor,
 And the poor man loved the great:
 Then lands were fairly portioned;
 Then spoils were fairly sold:
 The Romans were like brothers
 In the brave days of old.
XXXIII
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.
XXXIV
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 mixed with Commons
 Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
 And smote upon the planks above,
 And loosed the props below.
XXXV
Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
 Right glorious to behold,
 Come 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,
 Rolled slowly towards the bridge's head,
 Where stood the dauntless Three.
XXXVI
The Three stood calm and silent,
 And looked 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 narrrow way;

XXXVII

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 towers,
The fortress of Nequinum lowers
O'er the pale waves of Nar.

XXXVIII

Stout Lartius hurled 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
Clashed in the bloody dust.

XXXIX

Then Ocnus of Falerii
Rushed 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 slaughtered men,
Along Albinia's shore.

XL

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 accursed sail.'
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