Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

41.

But now no sound of laughter

Was heard amongst the foes. A wild and wrathful clamour

From all the vanguard rose. Six spears' lengths from the entrance

Halted that mighty mass, And for a space no man came forth

To win the narrow pass.

42.

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.

43.
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 litter

Stand savagely at bay: But will ye dare to follow, If Astur clears the way ?”

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

To see the red blood flow.

48. But at his 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.

49. 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.

50.
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.

51.
Yet one man for one moment

Strode ont before the crowd ;
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."

52.
Thrice looked he on the city:

Thrice looked he on 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.

[blocks in formation]

53. 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!"

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

THE BATTLE OF THE LAKE REGILLUS.

Tus following poem is supposed to have Porsena nothing seems to be borrowed from ceen produced ninety years after the lay of foreign sources. The villany of Sextus, the Horatius. Some persons mentioned in the lay suicide of his victim, the revolution, the death of Horatius make their appearance again, and of the sons of Brutus, the defence of the bridge, some appellations and epithets used in the lay Mucius burning his hand,* Clælia swimming of Horatius have been purposely repeated; for, through Tiber, seem to be all strictly Roman. in an age of ballad-poetry, it scarcely ever But when we have done with the Tuscan war, fails to happen, that certain phrases come to and enter upon the war with the Latines, we be appropriated to certain men and things, are again struck by the Greek air of the story, and are regularly applied to those men and The Battle of the Lake Regillus is in all rethings by every minstrel. Thus we find both spects a Homeric battle, except that the comin the Homeric poems and in Hesiod, Bin 'Hex batants ride astride on their horses, instead of kantin, rigiKAÚTGS 'Auomuíus, diantopus 'Agrupórtns, driving chariots. The mass of fighting inen is iTTiras Ohen, 'Exérns irexnüxbuoto. Thus, too, in hardly mentioned. The leaders single each our own national songs, Douglas is almost other out, and engage hand to hand. The great always the doughty Douglas: England is object of the warriors on both sides is, as in merry England: all the gold is red; and all the Iliad, to obtain possession of the spoils and the ladies are gay.

bodies of the slain; and several circumstances The principal distinction between the lay of | are related which forcibly remind us of the Horatius and the lay of the Lake Regillus is, great slaughter round the corpses of Sarpedon that the former is meant to be purely Roman, and Patroclus. while the latter, though national in its general But there is one circumstance which de. spirit, has a slight tincture of Greek learning serves especial notice. Both the war of Troy and of Greek superstition. The story of the and the war of Regillus were caused by the Tarquins, as it has come down to us, appears licentious passions of young princes, who were to have been compiled from the works of seve- therefore peculiarly bound not to be sparing of ral popular poets; and one, at least, of those their own persons in the day of battle. Now poets appears to have visited the Greek colo- the conduct of Sextus at Regillus, as described nies in Italy, if not Greece itsell, and to have by Livy, so exactly resembles that of Paris, as had some acquaintance with the works of Ho- described at the beginning of the third book of mer and Herodotus. Many of the most strik- the Iliad, that it is difficult to believe the reing adventures of the house of Tarquin, till semblance accidental. Paris appears before Lucretia makes her appearance, have a Greek the Trojan ranks, defying the bravest Greek to character. The Tarquins themselves are re-encounter him: presented as Corinthian nobles of the great house of the Bacchiadæ, driven from their

Τρωσιν μεν προμάχιζεν 'Αλέξανδρος θεοειδής, country by the tyranny of that Cypselus, the

........ 'Apyciwy #porali(ero návras dpiorous,

αντίβιον μαχίσασθαι εν αινη δηϊοτήτι. tale of whose strange escape Herodotus has related with incomparable simplicity and liveli. Livy introduces Sextus in a similar manner: ness. Livy and Dionysius tell us that, when “Ferocem juvenem Tarquinium, ostentantem Tarquin the Proud was asked what was the se in primâ exsulum acie." Menelaus rushes best mode of governing a conquered city, he to meet Paris. A Roman noble, eager for replied only by beating down with his staff all vengeance, spurs his horse, towards Sextus. the tallest poppies in his garden.f This is ex. Both the guilty princes are instantly terror

reference has already been made, relates of the counsel given to Periander, the son of Cypse

Τον δ' ώς oύν ένόησεν Αλέξανδρος θεοειδής, lus. The stratagem by which the town of

εν προμάχοισι φανέντα, κατεπλήγη φίλον ήτορ, Gabii is brought under the power of the Tar

άψ δ' έτάρων είς έθνος εχάζετο κήρ αλεσίνων.. quins is, again, obviously copied from Herodo- la Tarominine" savs Livy "retro in

Herodo- "Tarquinius," says Livy, “retro in agmen tus. The embassy of the young Tarquins to

suorum infenso cessit hosti.” If this be a the oracle at Delphi is just such a story as fortuitous coincidence, it is one of the most ex. would be told by a poet whose head was full

traordinary in iiterature. . of the Greek mythology; and the ambiguous

In the following poem, therefore, images answer returned by Apollo is in the exact |

and incidents have been borrowed, not merely style of the prophecies which, according to He

le without scruple, but on principle, from the in rodotus, lured Cresus to destruction. Then

comparable battle-pieces of Homer. the character of the narrative changes. From the first mention of. Lucretia to the retreat of

• M. de Pouilly attempted, a hundred and twenty

years ago, to prove that the story of Mucius was of •Herodotus, v. 92. Livy, 1. 34. Dionysius, ili. 46. Greek origin : but he was signally confuted by the Abbo + Livy, 1. 54. Dionysius, iv. 56.

Ballier. See the Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscrla. Herodotus, iii. 154. Livy, i. 33.

I tions, vi. 97. 66.

« PreviousContinue »