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But now no sound of laughter
And for a space no man came forth
But hark! the cry is Astur:
Comes with his stately stride.
Clangs loud the fourfold shield,
And in his hand he shakes the brand
He smiled on those bold Romans
But will ye dare to follow,
If Astur clears the way?"
1 The she-wolf's litter: the Romans. The legend was that Romulus and Remus, founders of the Roman people, were suckled by a she-wolf.
Then, whirling up his broadsword
And smote with all his might.
The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh;
To see the red blood flow.
He reeled, and on Herminius
He leaned one breathing-space;
Then, like a wild cat mad with wounds,
Through teeth, and skull, and helmet
The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
And the great Lord of Luna
2 Helm helmet (here put for head).
3 Mount Alver'nus: probably a poetic form of the name of some moun
tain near Rome.
The giant arms lie spread;
On Astur's throat Horatius
Right firmly pressed his heel,
And thrice and four times tugged amain
But at this haughty challenge
A sullen murmur ran,
Mingled of wrath, and shame, and dread,
Along that glittering van.
Nor men of lordly race;
For all Etruria's noblest
Were round the fatal place.
But all Etruria's noblest
Felt their hearts sink to see
On the earth the bloody corpses,
In the path the dauntless Three:
1 Augurs: a class of priests whose duty it was to foretell the future from various signs - especially from the flight of birds; these were Etrurian augurs who had probably predicted the success of the expedition against Rome. 2 Amain: violently, with all his might.
And, from the ghastly entrance
Well known was he to all the Three,
Now welcome to thy home!
Why dost thou stay, and turn away?
Here lies the road to Rome."
1 Standards: each division of the army had its banner or some figure, as a horse, eagle, etc., surmounting a tall staff, to designate it; these were called standards, and it was a matter of military honor to keep them erect and not let them fall into the hands of the enemy. 2 Fitfully unsteadily.
Thrice looked he at the city;
Thrice looked he at the dead; And thrice came on in fury,
And thrice turned back in dread: And, white with fear and hatred, Scowled at the narrow way
Where, wallowing in a pool of blood, The bravest Tuscans lay.
But meanwhile axe and lever
"Come back, come back, Horatius!"
Back darted Spurius Lartius;
And, as they passed, beneath their feet
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,