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And how my darling loved me! How glad she was to hear
My footstep on the threshold when I came back last year!
And how she danced with pleasure to see my civic crown,
And took my sword, and hung it up, and brought me forth my
Now, all those things are over-yes, all thy pretty ways,
Thy needlework, thy prattle, thy snatches of old lays;
And none will grieve when I go forth, or smile when I return,
Or watch beside the old man's bed, or weep upon his urn.
The house that was the happiest within the Roman walls,
The house that envied not the wealth of Capua's marble halls,
Now, for the brightness of thy smile, must have eternal gloom,
And for the music of thy voice, the silence of the tomb.
The time is come. See how he points his eager hand this way!
See how his eyes gloat on thy grief, like a kite's upon the prey!
With all his wit, he little deems, that, spurned, betrayed, bereft,
Thy father hath in his despair one fearful refuge left.
He little deems that in this hand I clutch what still can save
Thy gentle youth from taunts and blows, the portion of the slave;
Yea, and from nameless evil, that passeth taunt and blow-
Foul outrage which thou know'st not, which thou shalt never
Then clasp me round the neck once more, and give me one more kiss;
And now, mine own dear little girl, there is no way but this."
With that he lifted high the steel, and smote her in the side,
And in her blood she sank to earth, and with one sob she died.
Then, for a little moment, all people held their breath; And through the crowded Forum was stillness as of death; And in another moment brake forth from one and all A cry as if the Volscians were coming o'er the wall. Some with averted faces shrieking fled home amain; Some ran to call a leech; and some ran to lift the slain: Some felt her lips and little wrist, if life might there be found; And some tore up their garments fast, and strove to stanch the
In vain they ran, and felt, and stanched; for never truer blow
That good right arm had dealt in fight against a Volscian foe.
When Appius Claudius saw that deed, he shuddered and sank
And hid his face some little space with the corner of his gown,
Till, with white lips and bloodshot eyes, Virginius tottered nigh,
And stood before the judgment-seat, and held the knife on high.
"Oh! dwellers in the nether gloom, avengers of the slain,
By this dear blood I cry to you, do right between us twain;
And even as Appius Claudius hath dealt by me and mine,
Deal you by Appius Claudius and all the Claudian line!"
So spake the slayer of his child, and turned, and went his way;
But first he cast one haggard glance to where the body lay,
And writhed, and groaned a fearful groan, and then, with steadfast feet,
Strode right across the market-place unto the Sacred Street.
Then up sprang Appius Claudius: "Stop him; alive or dead! Ten thousand pounds of copper to the man who brings his head.” He look'd upon his clients; but none would work his will. He look'd upon his lictors; but they trembled, and stood still. And, as Virginius through the press his way in silence cleft, Ever the mighty multitude fell back to right and left.
And he hath passed in safety unto his woeful home;
And there ta'en horse to tell the camp what deeds are done in Rome.
By this the flood of people was swollen from every side,
And streets and porches round were filled with that o'erflowing tide; And close around the body gathered a little train
Of them that were the nearest and dearest to the slain.
They brought a bier, and hung it with many a cypress crown,
And gently they uplifted her, and gently laid her down.
The face of Appius Claudius wore the Claudian scowl and sneer,
And in the Claudian note he cried, "What doth this rabble here?
Have they no crafts to mind at home, that hitherward they stray?
Ho! lictors, clear the market-place, and fetch the corpse away!"
Till then the voice of pity and fury was not loud;
But a deep sullen murmur wandered among the crowd,
Like the moaning noise that goes before the whirlwind on the deep,
Or the growl of a fierce watch-dog but half aroused from sleep.
But when the lictors at that word, tall yeomen all and strong,
Each with his axe and sheaf of twigs, went down into the throng,
Those old men say, who saw that day of sorrow and of sin,
That in the Roman Forum was never such a din.
The wailing, hooting, cursing, the howls of grief and hate,
Were heard beyond the Pincian hill, beyond the Latin gate.
But close around the body, where stood the little train
Of them that were the nearest and dearest to the slain,
No cries were there, but teeth set fast, low whispers, and black
And breaking up of benches, and girding up of gowns.
"Twas well the lictors might not pierce to where the maiden lay, Else surely had they been all twelve torn limb from limb that day. Right glad they were to struggle back, blood streaming from their heads,
With axes all in splinters, and raiment all in shreds.
Then Appius Claudius gnawed his lip, and the blood left his cheek; And thrice he beckoned with his hand, and thrice he strove to speak; And thrice the tossing Forum set up a frightful yell.
"See, see, thou dog! what thou hast done; and hide thy shame in
Thou that would'st make our maidens slaves must first make slaves of
Tribunes! Hurrah for Tribunes! Down with the wicked Ten!" And straightway, thick as hailstones, came whizzing through the
Pebbles, and bricks, and potsherds, all round the curule chair:
And upon Appius Claudius great fear and trembling came;
For never was a Claudius yet brave against aught but shame.
Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,
That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.
Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs, and his wrongs,
His vengeance, and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.
Beneath the yoke of Furius oft have Gaul and Tuscan bowed;
And Rome may bear the pride of him of whom herself is proud.
But evermore a Claudius shrinks from a stricken field,
And changes colour like a maid at sight of sword and shield.
The Claudian triumphs all were won within the City-towers;
The Claudian yoke was never pressed on any necks but ours.
A Cossus, like a wild cat, springs ever at the face;
A Fabius rushes like a boar against the shouting chase;
But the vile Claudian litter, raging with currish spite,
Still yelps and snaps at those who run, still runs from those who
now 'twas seen of Appius. When stones began to fly,
shook, and crouched, and wrung his hands, and smote upon his thigh.
"Kind clients, honest lictors, stand by me in this fray!
Must I be torn in pieces? Home, home the nearest way!"
While yet he spake, and looked around with a bewildered stare,
Four sturdy lictors put their necks beneath the curule chair;
And fourscore clients on the left, and fourscore on the right,
Arrayed themselves with swords and staves, and loins girt up for
But, though without or staff or sword, so furious was the throng,
That scarce the train with might and main could bring their lord
Twelve times the crowd made at him; five times they seized his
Small chance was his to rise again, if once they got him down:
And sharper came the pelting; and evermore the yell-
"Tribunes! we will have Tribunes!"-rose with a louder swell:
And the chair tossed as tosses a bark with tattered sail
When raves the Adriatic beneath an Eastern gale,
When the Calabrian sea-marks are lost in clouds of spume,
And the great Thunder-Cape has donned his veil of inky gloom.
One stone hit Appius in the mouth, and one beneath the ear;
And ere he reached Mount Palatine, he swooned with pain and
His cursed head, that he was wont to hold so high with pride,
Now, like a drunken man's, hung down, and swayed from side to
And when his stout retainers had brought him to his door,
His face and neck were all one cake of filth and clotted gore.
As Appius Claudius was that day, so may his grandson be,
God send Rome one such other sight, and send me there to see!