« PreviousContinue »
“ Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may ;
Will hold the foe in play.
May well be stopped by three.
And keep the bridge with me ?"
A Ramnian proud was he:
And keep the bridge with thee.”
Of Tatian blood was he:
And keep the bridge with thee."
As thou say'st, so let it be.”
Forth went the dauntless Three.
Spared neither land nor gold,
In the brave days of old. 3 Romulus divided the Romans into three tribes, called Rhamnenses, Tatienses, and Lucerenses.
Then none was for a party ;
Then all were for the state ;
And the poor man loved the great :
Then spoils were fairly sold : The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.
Now while the Three were tightening
Their harness on their backs,
To take in hand an axe ;
Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
below. Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
Right glorious to behold,
Of a broad sea of gold.
A peal of warlike glee,
Where stood the dauntless Three.
And looked upon the foes,
From all the vanguard rose :
Before that deep array,
To win the narrow way;
Aunus, from green Tifernum,
Lord of the Hill of Vines;
Sicken in Ilva's mines ;
Vassal in peace and war, Who led to fight his Umbrian powers From that grey crag where, girt with towers, The fortress of Nequinum 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 :
Darted one fiery thrust;
Clashed in the bloody dust.
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 :
And those before cried "Back !”
But meanwhile axe and lever
Have manfully been plied ;
Above the boiling tide.
Loud cried the Fathers all. Back, Lartius ! back, Herminius!
Back, ere the ruin fall !” Back darted Spurius Lartius,
Herminius darted back :
They felt the timbers crack.
And on the farther shore
They would have crossed once more. But with a crash like thunder
Fell every loosened beam,
Lay right athwart the stream:
Rose from the walls of Rome, As to the highest turret-tops
Was splashed the yellow foam. And, like a horse unbroken,
When first he feels the rein, The furious river struggled hard,
And tossed his tawny mane,
And burst the curb, and bounded,
Rejoicing to be free,
Rushed headlong to the sea.
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. “Now yield thee,” cried Lars * Porsenay
“ Now yield thee to our grace." Round turned 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,
Take thou in charge this day!"
The good sword by his side,
Plunged headlong in the tide.
Was heard from either bank; But friends and foes in dumb surprise, With parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank;
4 Etruscan for “mighty chief.”