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So like they were, man never
Saw twins so like before;
Red with gore their armour was,
“Hail to the great Asylum!
Hail to the hill-tops seven!
Hail to the fire that burns for aye,
And the shield that fell from heaven!
This day, by Lake Regillus,
All in the lands of Tusculum
Shall bring in triumph home
The spoils of thirty cities
To deck the shrines of Rome!"
Then burst from that great concourse
A shout that shook the towers,
And some ran north, and some ran south, Crying, "The day is ours!"
But on rode these strange horsemen,
With slow and lordly pace; And none who saw their bearing
Durst ask their name or race.
On rode they to the Forum,
While laurel-boughs and flowers, From house-tops and from windows, Fell on their crests in showers.
When they drew nigh to Vesta,
And washed their horses in the well
Then, like a blast, away they passed,
And all the people trembled,
And pale grew every cheek; And Sergius the High Pontiff Alone found voice to speak: "The Gods who live for ever
Have fought for Rome to-day!
Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
Through billows and through gales,
If once the Great Twin Brethren
Wherefore they washed their horses
Wherefore they rode to Vesta's door,
Here, hard by Vesta's temple,
Who fought so well for Rome.
And when the months returning
Marked evermore with white,
Before the sacred dome,
Where dwell the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome."
A COLLECTION Consisting exclusively of war-songs would give an imperfect, or rather an erroneous, notion of the spirit of the old Latin ballads. The Patricians, during about a century and a half after the expulsion of the Kings, held all the high military commands. A Plebeian, even though, like Lucius Siccius, he were distinguished by his valour and knowledge of war, could serve only in subordinate posts. A minstrel, therefore, who wished to celebrate the early triumphs of his country, could hardly take any but Patricians for his heroes. The warriors who are mentioned in the two preceding lays, Horatius, Lartius, Herminius, Aulus Posthumius, Ebutius Elva, Sempronius Atratinus, Valerius Poplicola, were all members of the dominant order; and a poet who was singing their praises, whatever his own political opinions might be, would naturally abstain from insulting the class to which they belonged, and from reflecting on the system which had placed such men at the head of the legions of the Commonwealth.
But there was a class of compositions in which the great families were by no means so courteously treated. No parts of early Roman history are richer with poetical colouring than those which relate to the long contest between the privileged houses and the commonalty. The population of Rome was, from a very early period, divided
into hereditary castes, which, indeed, readily united to repel foreign enemies, but which regarded each other, during many years, with bitter animosity. Between those castes there was a barrier hardly less strong than that which, at Venice, parted the members of the Great Council from their countrymen. In some respects, indeed, the line which separated an Icilius or a Duilius from a Posthumius or a Fabius was even more deeply marked than that which separated the rower of a gondola from a Contarini or a Morosini. At Venice the distinction was merely civil. At Rome it was both civil and religious. Among the grievances under which the Plebeians suffered, three were felt as peculiarly severe. They were excluded from the highest magistracies; they were excluded from all share in the public lands; and they were ground down to the dust by partial and barbarous legislation touching pecuniary contracts. The ruling class in Rome was a monied class; and it made and administered the laws with a view solely to its own interest. Thus the relation between lender and borrower was mixed up with the relation between sovereign and subject. The great men held a large portion of the community in dependence by means of advances at enormous usury. The law of debt, framed by creditors, and for the protection of creditors, was the most horrible that has ever been known among men. The liberty, and even the life, of the insolvent were at the mercy of the Patrician money-lenders. Children often became slaves in consequence of the misfortunes of their parents. The debtor was imprisoned, not in a public gaol under the care of impartial public functionaries, but in a private workhouse belonging to the creditor. Frightful stories were told respecting these dungeons. It was said that torture and brutal violation were common; that tight stocks, heavy chains, scanty measures of food, were used to punish wretches guilty of nothing but poverty; and that brave sol