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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 passed, beneath their feet They felt the timbers crack.

But when they turned their faces,
And on the farther shore

Saw brave Horatius stand alone,

They would have crossed once more.


But with a crash like thunder
Fell every loosened 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 splashed the yellow foam.


And, like a horse unbroken
When first he feels the rein,

The furious river struggled hard,
And tossed his tawny mane;
And burst the curb, and bounded,

Rejoicing to be free;

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


Alone stood brave Horatius,

But constant still in mind; Thrice 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 Porsena, "Now yield thee to our grace."


Round turned he, as not deigning
Those craven ranks to see;
Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,
To Sextus nought 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.


"Oh, 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 armour,
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. (1)


"Curse on him!" quoth false Sextus; "Will not the villain drown?

But for this stay, ere close of day
We should have sacked the town!"

"Heaven help him!" quoth Lars Porsena,

"And bring him safe to shore;

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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;

69. When the oldest cask is opened, And the largest lamp is lit,

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