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Now, from the rock Tarpeian,
Could the wan burghers spy The line of blazing villages
Red in the midnight sky.
They sat all night and day,
With tidings of dismay.
To eastward and to westward
Have spread the Tuscan bands, Nor house, nor fence, nor dovecot,
In Crustumerium stands. Verbenna down to Ostia
Hath wasted all the plain; Astur hath stormed Janiculum,
And the stont guards are slain.
I wis, in all the senate
There was no heart so bold But sore it ached, and fast it beat,
When that ill news was told.
Up rose the fathers all ;
And hied them to the wall.
They held a council, standing
Before the river-gate;
For musing or debate.
“The bridge must straight go down; For, since Janiculum is lost,
Nought else can save the town.”
Just then a scout came flying,
All wild with haste and fear : “ To arms! to arms! sir consul
Lars Porsena is here."
The consul fixed his eye,
Rise fast along the sky.
Doth the red whirlwind come;
The trampling and the hum.
Now through the gloom appears,
The long array of spears.
And plainly and more plainly,
Above that glimmering line, Now might ye see the banners
Of twelve fair cities shine; But the banner of proud Clusium
Was highest of them all — The terror of the Umbrian,
The terror of the Gaul.
Now might the burghers know, By port and vest, by horse and crest,
Each warlike Lucumo: There Cilnius of Arretium
On his feet roan was seen ;
And Astur of the fourfold shield,
By reedy Thrasymene.
Fast by the royal standard,
O’erlooking all the war
Sat in his ivory car,
Prince of the Latian name,
That wrought the deed of shame.
But when the face of Sextus
Was seen among the foes,
From all the town arose.
But spat toward him and hissed,
And shook its little fist.
But the consul's brow was sad,
And the consul's speech was low, And darkly looked he at the wall,
And darkly at the foe:
Before the bridge goes down;
What hope to save the town?”
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The captain of the gate: "To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And hewan 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 ;
Will hold the foe in play-
a May well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?"
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."
“Horatius," quoth the consul,
“ As thou sayest, so let it be.” And straight against that great array
Forth went the dauntless three.
Then all were for the state ;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great ;
Then lands were
The Romans were like brothers
Now Roman is to Roman
More hateful than a foe,
And the fathers grind the low.
In battle we wax cold;
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;
Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
And fathers, mixed with commons,
And smote upon the planks above,
And loosed the props below.
Right glorious to behold,
rank, like surges bright Of a broad sea of gold.