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But all Etruria's noblest
Felt their hearts sink to see
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 !”
Wavers the deep array;
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 passed, beneath their feet
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;
Rejoicing to be free;
Rushed 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, “Now yield thee,” cried Lars Porsena,
“Now yield thee to our grace."
Round turned he, as not deigning
Those craven ranks to see; Nought spoke 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, And, with his harness on his back,
Plunged 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 where he sank; And when above the surges
They saw his crest appear, All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry, And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain: And fast his blood was flowing;
And he was sore in pain, 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,
Safe to the landing place;
By the brave heart within,
Bare bravely up his chin.
“ Curse on him!” quoth false Sextus ;
“Will not the villain drown? But for this stay, ere close of day,
We should have sacked the town!” “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;
To press his gory hands,
And noise of weeping loud,
Borne by the joyous crowd.
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.
It stands in the Comitium,
Plain for all folk to see;
Halting upon one knee;
In letters all of gold,
In the brave days of old.
MACAULAY'S LAYS OF ROME.
SONG OF THE HUGUENOTS.
MONCONTOUR. Oh, weep for Moncontour! Oh, weep for the hour When the children of darkness and evil had power; When the horsemen of Valois triumphantly trod On the bosoms that bled for their rights and their God.
Oh, weep for Moncontour! Oh, weep for the slain,
One look, one last look, to the cots and the towers,