Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

The Three stood calm and silent,

And look'd upon the foes,
And a great shout of laughter

From all the vanguard rose :
And forth three chiefs came spurring

Before that mighty mass ;
To earth they sprang, their swords they drew,
And lifted high their shields, and flew

To win the narrow pass:

Aunus, from green Tifernum ,

Lord of the Hill of Vines;
And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves

Sicken in Ilva's 2 mines;
And Picus, long to Clusium
Vassal in peace

and

war,
Who led to fight his Umbrian powers
From that grey crag where, girt with towers,
The fortress of Nequinum 3 lowers

O’er the pale waves of Nar.

Stout Lartius hurled down Aunus

Into the stream beneath :
Herminius struck at Seius,

And clove him to the teeth:
At Picus brave Horatius

Darted one fiery thrust;
And the proud Umbrian's gilded arms
Clash'd in the bloody dust.

| A town in Umbria, on the Tiber, now Città di Castello.

. Elba, famous for its mines of copper, and subsequently of iron, with which it supplied the Romans.

* Nequinum-modern Narni—an ancient Umbrian city, situ. ated on a lofty hill, commands the valley of the Nar. It was the birthplace of the Emperor Nero and of Pope John XVIII. The ruins of the magnificent bridge, built by Augustus, is its great object of interest.

But all Etruria's noblest

Felt their hearts sink to see On the earth the bloody corpses,

In the path the dauntless Three: 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.

Was none who would be foremost

To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “Forward!”

And those before cried « Back!”
And backward now and forward

Wavers the deep array;
And on the tossing sea of steel,
To and fro the standards reel;
And the victorious trumpet-peal

Dies fitfully away.

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 pass’d, beneath their feet They felt the timbers crack.

!

But when they turn'd their faces,

And on the farther shore
Saw brave Horatius stand alone,

They would have cross'd once more.

But with a crash like thunder

Fell every loosen'd beam,
And, like a dam, the mighty wreck

Lay right athwart the stream:
And a long shout of triumph

Rose from the walls of Rome,
As to the highest turret-tops

Was splash'd the yellow 1 foam.

And, like a horse unbroken,

When first he feels the rein,
The furious river struggled hard,

And toss'd his tawny mane;
And burst the curb, and bounded,

Rejoicing to be free;
And whirling down, in fierce career,
Battlement, and plank, and pier,

Rush'd headlong to the sea.

Alone stood brave Horatius,

But constant still in mind;
Thrice thirty thousand foes before,

And the broad flood behind.
“ Down with him!” cried false Sextus,

With a smile on his pale face.

| The waters of the Tiber, from Perugia to the sea, are muddy and yellowish, a peculiarity which is expressed by the term flavus by the Roman poets. The current, as it enters the Mediterranean, retains its colour for a considerable distance from the shore, and contrasts with the generally blue tinge of the sea-water, with which it does not mix for some miles.

“ Now yield thee,” cried Lars ? Porsena,

“ Now yield thee to our grace.” Round turnd he, as not deigning

Those craven ranks to see; Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,

To Sextus nought spake he; But he saw on Palatinus

The white porch of his home; And he spake to the noble river

That rolls by the towers of Rome:-

“ Oh, Tiber! father Tiber!

To whom the Romans pray,
A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,

Take thou in charge this day!”.
So he spake, and speaking sheath'd

The good sword by his side, And, with his harness on his back,

Plung'd headlong in the tide.

No sound of joy or sorrow

Was heard from either bank; But friends and foes in dumb surprise, With parted lips and straining eyes,

Stood gazing when he sank;
And when above the surges

They saw his crest appear,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
And ev’n the ranks of Tuscany

Could scarce forbear to cheer.

But fiercely ran the current,

Swoln high by months of rain; And fast his blood was flowing,

And he was sore in pain;

[blocks in formation]

And heavy with his armour,

And spent with changing blows: And oft they thought him sinking

But still again he rose.

Never, I ween, did swimmer,

In such an evil case,
Struggle through such a raging flood

Safe to the landing place:
But his limbs were borne up bravely

By the brave heart within,
And our good father Tiber

Bare bravely up his chin.

*

“ Heaven help him!” quoth Lars Porsena,

“ And bring him safe to shore, For such a gallant feat of arms

Was never seen before."

And now he feels the bottom;

Now on dry earth he stands ;
Now round him throng the Fathers

To press his gory hands;
And soon with shouts and clapping,

And noise of weeping loud,
He enters through the river gate,

Borne by the joyous crowd.

They gave him of the corn land,

That was of public right, As much as two strong oxen

Could plough from morn till night :
And they made a molten image,

And set it up on high,
And there it stands unto this day

To witness if I lie.

« VorigeDoorgaan »