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When the oldest cask1 is opened,
When the goodman mends his armor,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
1 Cask: cask of wine.
FRAGMENTS OF A LAY SUNG IN THE FORUM 1 ON THE DAY WHEREON LUCIUS SEXTIUS SEXTINUS LATERANUS AND CAIUS LICINIUS CALVUS STOLO WERE ELECTED TRIBUNES OF THE COMMONS THE FIFTH TIME, IN THE YEAR OF THE CITY CCCLXXXII.
YE good men of the Commons, with loving hearts and true,
Who stand by the bold Tribunes 2 that still have stood
Come, make a circle round me, and mark my tale with
A tale of what Rome once hath borne, of what Rome yet may bear.
This is no Grecian fable, of fountains running wine,
In sight of all the people, the bloody deed was done.
Ten 5 bare sway.
1 Fo'rum: a large square in Rome where public meetings were held, and judicial and commercial business transacted. It was surrounded by courts of justice, temples, and many other magnificent public buildings. 2 See Horatius, p. 14.
8 Furies; goddesses with snakes for hair. They took vengeance on those who shed blood without a cause.
4 Circe, the daughter of the Sun, was said to have the power by her magic of turning men into swine. See Homer's "Odyssey."
5 Ten the ten magistrates who were chosen to rule the city of Rome, and to draw up a body of laws in 450. They behaved in the most tyrannical manner, and refused to resign when their term of office had expired.
Of all the wicked Ten still the names are held ac
And of all the wicked Ten Appius Claudius1 was the
He stalked along the Forum like King Tarquin2 in his
Twelve axes waited on him, six marching on a side;
The townsmen shrank to right and left, and eyed askance with fear
His lowering brow, his curling mouth, which always seemed to sneer:
That brow of hate, that mouth of scorn, marks all the kindred still;
For never was there Claudius yet but wished the Commons ill:
Nor lacks he fit attendance; for close behind his
With outstretched chin and crouching pace, the client 5 Marcus steals,
His loins girt up to run with speed, be the errand what
And the smile flickering on his cheek, for aught his
lord may say.
Such varlets pimp and jest for hire among the lying Greeks:
Such varlets still are paid to hoot when brave Licinius9
1 Ap'pius Clau'dius.
2 Tarquin: see Horatius, p. 1.
8 Each of the Ten was attended by twelve men ("lictors ") armed with rods and axes.
5 Client: a dependent.
4 Askance sideways.
6 Aught anything.
8 Pimp: to minister to the base passions of another.
9 Licin'ius: one of the tribunes of the people.
7 Varlets: menials
Where'er ye shed the honey, the buzzing flies will
Where'er ye fling the carrion, the raven's croak is
Where'er down Tiber garbage floats, the greedy pike ye
And wheresoe'er such lord is found, such client still will be.
Just then, as through one cloudless chink in a black
Shines out the dewy morning-star, a fair young girl
With her small tablets 1 in her hand, and her satchel on
Home she went bounding from the school, nor dreamed of shame or harm;
And past those dreaded axes she innocently ran,
With bright, frank brow that had not learned to blush at gaze of man ;
And up the Sacred Street2 she turned, and, as she danced along,
She warbled gayly to herself lines of the good old song. How for a sport the princes came spurring from the
And found Lucrece, combing the fleece, under the midnight lamp.
1 Tablets: small boards covered with a coat of wax, on which Roman school children wrote or ciphered with a pointed instrument.
2 Sacred Street: a celebrated street in Rome, on which stood the Temple of Peace. The Sacred Street led to the Forum.
8 Lucrece a noble Roman matron who was foully wronged by Sextus, and who stabbed herself to the heart in consequence.
The maiden sang as sings the lark, when up he darts
From his nest in the green April corn, to meet the morning light;
And Appius heard her sweet young voice, and saw her sweet young face,
And loved her with the accursed love of his accursed
And all along the Forum, and up the Sacred Street, His vulture eye pursued the trip of those small glancing feet.
Over the Alban mountains 2 the light of morning
From all the roofs of the Seven Hills 3 curled the thin wreaths of smoke:
The city gates were opened; the Forum all alive
With buyers and with sellers was humming like a hive: Blithely on brass and timber the craftsman's stroke was
And blithely o'er her panniers 5 the market-girl was singing,
And blithely young Virginia came smiling from her
Ah! woe for young Virginia, the sweetest maid in Rome!
With her small tablets in her hand, and her satchel on
1 The Claudian family was noted for its oppression of the people.
2 Alban mountains: the mountains southeast of Rome; usually spoken
of in the singular as Mount Alban.
8 Rome was built on seven hills.
4 Craftsman: artisan or mechanic.
6 Panniers : large, open baskets for vegetables and fruit.