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I wis,1 in all the Senate,
There was no heart so bold,
In haste they girded up their gowns,3
They held a council standing
Short time was there, ye well may guess,
For musing or debate.
Out spake the Consul roundly:
"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."
connected with the city by the only bridge then existing on the river,a wooden structure built on piles (the Pons Sublicius). If the enemy succeeded in getting possession of the bridge, they would probably soon effect an entrance into Rome. 1 I wis: an adverb, meaning certainly.
2 Consul: one of the two chief magistrates or governors of Rome who took the place of the expelled kings.
3 Gowns: the toga or gown, a loose, shawl-like garment, was the national dress of the Romans.
4 Hied: hastened.
5 Sir Consul: Sir, a title of respect.
On the low hills to westward
And nearer fast and nearer
Doth the red whirlwind come;
Now through the gloom appears,
In broken gleams of dark-blue light,
And plainly and more plainly,
The terror of the Umbrian,2
The terror of the Gaul.3
1 Twelve fair cities: the twelve chief cities of Etruria.
2 Umbrian: the people of Umbria east of Etruria.
3 Gaul: a barbarous people that had conquered part of Northern Italy.
And plainly and more plainly
Now might the burghers know,
There Cilnius 5 of Arretium
On his fleet roan was seen;
And dark Verbenna from the hold
Fast by the royal standard,
Lars Porsena of Clusium
By the right wheel rode Mamilius,
And by the left false Sextus,12
That wrought the deed of shame.
1 Port: mien or bearing.
2 Vest: an outer garment or vestment.
3 Crest: a plume or ornament surmounting a helmet.
4 Lu'cumo: the Etruscan name for a ruler or chief. 5 Cil'nius.
6 As'tur: who had stormed Janiculum; see p. 7.
7 Fourfold shield: a shield made of hide of four thicknesses. 8 Brand: a sword.
10 Thrasyme'ne: but here pronounced Thras-i-meen'; it is a lake of Etruria; on its shores there was the fortification or stronghold of the chief Verbenna.
11 Ivory car: a war-chariot ornamented with ivory; it was usually drawn by four horses abreast.
12 Sextus: the son of Tarquin the Proud; see note 3, p. 1. He caused
But when the face of Sextus
But the Consul's brow was sad,
And darkly looked he at the wall,
the death of Lucrece, a noble Roman matron. Macaulay thus refers to Sextus in his "Battle of Lake Regillus":
"Their leader was false Sextus,
That wrought the deed of shame;
Men said he had strange visions,
And that strange sounds were in his ears
A woman fair and stately,
But pale as are the dead,
Oft through the watches of the night
And as she plied the distaff,
In a sweet voice and low,
And fights fought long ago.
So spun she, and so sang she,
Until the east was gray,
Then pointed to her bleeding heart,
And shrieked, and fled away."
"Battle of Lake Regillus," XII. (Lays of Ancient Rome)
"Their van 1 will be upon us
Before the bridge goes down;
Then out spake brave Horatius,
"And for the tender mother
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?
1 Van: the advance guard of an army.
2 The Captain of the Gate: Horatius had charge of the city gate at the entrance of the bridge leading to Janiculum.
3 The holy maidens: six maiden priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and home. On her altar, representing not only the domestic hearth, but also the city of Rome as the common home, a perpetual fire - the emblem of love and of patriotism - was kept burning. It was the duty of these "maidens" to feed and watch this sacred fire.