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But now no sound of laughter
Was heard among the foes.
A wild and wrathful clamor
From all the vanguard rose.
Six spears' length from the entrance
Halted that deep array,

And for a space no man came forth
To win the narrow way.


But hark! the cry is Astur:
And lo! the ranks divide;
And the great Lord of Luna

Comes with his stately stride.
Upon his ample shoulders

Clangs loud the fourfold shield,

And in his hand he shakes the brand
Which none but he can wield.


He smiled on those bold Romans
A smile serene and high;
He eyed the flinching Tuscans,
And scorn was in his eye.
Quoth he, "The she-wolf's litter1
Stand savagely at bay:

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
With both hands to the height,
He rushed against Horatius,

And smote with all his might.
With shield and blade Horatius
Right deftly1 turned the blow.

The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh;
It missed his helm,2 but gashed his thigh:
The Tuscans raised a joyful cry

To see the red blood flow.


He reeled, and on Herminius

He leaned one breathing-space;

Then, like a wild cat mad with wounds,
Sprang right at Astur's face.

Through teeth, and skull, and helmet
So fierce a thrust he sped,

The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
Behind the Tuscan's head.


And the great Lord of Luna
Fell at that deadly stroke
As falls on Mount Alvernus 3
A thunder-smitten oak.
Far o'er the crashing forest

1 Deftly:
: dexterously.

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;
And the paie augurs,1 muttering low,
Gaze on the blasted head.


On Astur's throat Horatius

Right firmly pressed his heel,

And thrice and four times tugged amain
Ere he wrenched out the steel.
"And see," he cried, "the welcome,
Fair guests, that waits you here!
What noble Lucumo comes next
To taste our Roman cheer?"


But at this haughty challenge

A sullen murmur ran,

Mingled of wrath, and shame, and dread,

Along that glittering van.
There lacked not men of prowess,

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
Where those bold Romans stood,
All shrank, like boys who unaware,
Ranging the woods to start a hare,
Come to the mouth of the dark lair
Where, growling low, a fierce old bear
Lies amidst bones and blood.

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Well known was he to all the Three,
And they gave him greeting loud,
"Now welcome, welcome, Sextus!

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
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,

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