Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

“Herminius! I have sought thee
Through many a bloody day.
One of us two, Herminius
Shall never more go home.
I will lay on for Tusculum,
And lay thou on for Rome!”
28.*
All round them paused the battle,
While met in mortal fray
The Roman and the Tusculan,
The horses black and gray.
Herminius smote Mamilius
Through breastplate and throughbreart,
And fast flowed out the purple blood
Over the purple vest.
Mamilius smote Herminius
Through headpiece and through head, a
And side by side those chiefs of pride
Together fell down dead.
Down fell they dead together
In a great lake of gore;
And still stood all who saw them fall
While men might count a score.

29.

Fast, fast, with heels wild spurning,
The dark-gray charger fled;
He burst through ranks of fighting men,
He sprang o'er heaps of dead.
His bridle far out-streaming,
His flanks all blood and foam,
He sought the southern mountains,
The mountains of his home.
The pass was steep and rugged,
The wolves they howled and whiued;
But he ran like a whirlwind up the pass,
And he left the wolves behind.
Through many a startled hamlet
Thundered his flying feet:
He rushed through the gate of Tusculum,
He rushed up the long white street;
e rushed by tower and temple,
And paused not from his race
Till he stood before his master's door
In the stately market-place.
And straightway round him gathered
A pale and trembling crowd,
And when they knew him cries of rage
Brake forth, and wailing loud:
And women rent their tresses
For their great prince's fall:
And old men girt on their old swords,
And went to man the wall. . .

30. But, like a graven image, Black Auster kept his place, And ever wistfully he looked : Into his master's face. The raven-mane that daily, *. With pats and fond caresses, The young Herminia washed and combed, And twined in even tresses, And decked with coloured ribands From her own gay attire, Hung sadly o'er her father's corpse In carnage and in mire. Forth with a shout sprang Titus, And seized black Auster's rein,

. Then Aulus sware a fearful oath,

And ran at him amain. 3. A

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

And Ardea wavered on the left, e -
And Cora on the right.
“Rome to the charge 1" cried Aulus;
“The foe begins to yield!
Charge for the hearth of Vesta!
Charge for the Golden Shield!
Let no man stop to plunder,
But slay, and slay, and slay :
The gods who live forever
Are on our side to-day.”

36.

Then the fierce trumpet-flourish From earth to heaven arose,

The kites know well the long stern swel.

That bids the Romans close. Then the good sword of Aulus Was lifted up to slay: Then, like a crag down Apennine, Rushed Auster through the fray. But under those strange horsemen Still thicker lay the slain; And after those strange horses Black Auster toiled in vain. Behind them Rome's long battle Came rolling on the foe, Ensigns dancing wild above, Blades all in line below. So comes the Po in flood-time Upon the Celtic plain: So comes the squall, blacker than night, Upon the Adrian main. Now, by our Sire Quirinus, It was a goodly sight To see the thirty standards Swept down the tide of flight. So flies the spray of Adria When the black squall doth blow ; So corn-sheaves in the flood-time Spin down the whirling Po. False Sextus to the mountains Turned first his horse's head: And fast fled Ferentinum, And fast Circeium fled. The horsemen of Nomentum Spurred hard out of the fray; The footmen of Velitra Threw shield and spear away. And underfoot was trampled, Amidst the mud and gore, The banner of proud Tusculum, That never stooped before: And down went Flavius Faustus, Who led his stately ranks From where the apple blossoms wave On Anio's echoing banks, And Tullus of Arpinum, Chief of the Volscian aids, And Metius with the long fair curls, * The love of Anxur's maids, And the white head of Vulso The great Arician seer And Nepos of Laurentum, The hunter of the deer And in the back false Sextus Felt the good Roman steel, And wriggling in the dust he died, Like a worm beneath the wheels And fliers and pursuers * * Were mingled in a mass; . . . . ... so "? --

And far away the battle
Went roaring through the pass.

37.

Sempronius Atratinus
Sate in the Eastern Gate.
Beside him were three Fathers,
Each in his chair of state;
Fabius, whose nine stout grandsons
That day were in the field,
And Manlius, eldest of the Twelve
Who keep the Golden Shield;
And Sergius, the High Pontiff,
For wisdom far renowned;
In all Etruria's colleges
Was no such Pontiff found.
And all around the portal,
And high above the wall,
Stood a great throng of people,
But sad and silent all; -
Young lads, and stooping elders
That might not bear the mail,
Matrons with lips that quivered,
And maids with faces pale.
Since the first gleam of daylight,
Sempronius had net ceas
To listen for the rushing
Of horsc-hoofs from the east.
The mist of eve was rising,
The sun was hastening down,
When he was aware of a princely pair
Fast pricking towards the town.
So like they were, man never
Saw twins so like before;
Red with gore their armour was,
Their steeds were red with gore. o

38.

g “Hail to the great Asylum ! Hail to the hill-tops seven? Hail to the fire that burns for aye, And the shield that fell from heaven! This day, by Lake Regillus, Under the Porcian height, All in the lands of Tusculum Was fought a glorious fight. o To-morrow your Dictator Shall bring in triumph home The spoils of thirty cities To deck the shrines of Rome!”

39.

Then burst from that great concourse
A shout that shook the towers,

And some ran north, and some ran south,
Crying, “The day is ours!”

But on rode these strange horsemen,
With slow and lordly pace;

And none who saw their bearing Durst ask their name or race. On rode they to the Forum, While laurel-boughs and flowers, From housetops and from windows, . Fell on their crests in showers. When they drew nigh to Vesta, They vaulted down amain, And washed their horses in the well * That springs by Westa's fane. And straight again they mounted, And rode to Westa's door; Then, like a blast, away they passed, And no man saw them more.

40.

And all the people trembled,
And pale grew every cheek;
And Sergius the High Pontiff
Alone found voice to speak:
“The Gods who live forever
Have fought for Rome to-day!
These be the Great Twin Brethren
To whom the Dorians pray.
Back comes the Chief in triumph,
Who, in the hour of fight,
Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
In harness on his right.
Safe comes the ship to haven,
Through billows and through gales
If once the Great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails.
Wherefore they washed their horses
In Westa's holy well,
Wherefore they rode to Vesta's door,
I know, but may not tell.
Here, hard by Vesta's temple,
Build we a stately dome
Unto the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome.
And when the months returning
Bring back this day of fight,
The proud Ides of Quintilis,
Marked evermore with white,
Unto the Great Twin Brethren
Let all the people throng,
With chaplets and with offerings,
With music and with song;
And let the doors and windows
Be hung with garlands all,
And let the Knights be summoned
To Mars without the wall:
Thence let them ride in purple
With joyous trumpet-sound,
Each mounted on his war-horse,
And each with olive crowned;
And pass in solemn order
Before the sacred dome,
Where dwell the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome.”

VIRGINIA. * *

A collection consisting exclusively of warsongs would give an imperfect, or rather an erroneous notion of the spirit of the old Latin ballads. The Patricians, during about a century and a half after the expulsion of the kings, held all the high military commands. A Plebeian, even though, like Lucius Siccius, he were distinguished by his valour and knowledge of war, could serve only in subordinate posts. A minstrel, therefore, who wished to celebrate the early triumphs of his country, could hardly take any but Patricians for his heroes. The warriors who are mentioned in the two preceding lays, Horatius, Lartius, Herminius, Aulus Posthumius, AEbutius Elva, Sempronius Atratinus, Valerius Poplicola, were all members of the dominant order; and a poet who was singing their praises, whatever his own political opinions might be, would naturally abstain from insulting the class to which they belonged, and from reflecting on the system which had placed such men at the head of the legions of the commonwealth.

But there was a class of compositions in which the great families were by no means so courteously treated. No parts of early Roman history are richer with poetical colouring than those which relate to the long contest between the privileged houses and the commonalty. The population of Rome was, from a very early period, divided into hereditary castes, which, indeed, readily united to repel foreign enemies, but which regarded each other, during many years, with bitter animosity. Between those castes there was a barrier hardly less strong than that which, at Venice, parted the mem. bers of the Great Council from their country. men. In some respects indeed, the line which separated an Icilius or a Duilius from a Posthumius or a Fabius was even more deeply marked than that which separated the rower of a gondola from a Contarini or a Morosini. At Venice the distinction was merely civil. At Rome it was both civil and religious. Among the grievances under which the Plebeians suffered, three were felt as peculiarly severe. They were excluded from the highest magistracies; they were excluded from all share in the public lands; and they were ground down to the dust by partial and barbarous legislation touching pecuniary contracts. The ruling class in Rome was a moneyed class; and it made and administered the laws with a view solely to its own interest. Thus the relation between lender and borrower was mixed up with the relation between sovereign and subject. The great men held a large portion of the community in dependence by means of advances at enormous usury. The law of debt, framed by creditors, and for the protection of cr-ditors, was the most horrible that has ever been known among men. The liberty, and even the life, of the insolvent were at the mercy

of the Patrician money-lenders. Children often became slaves in consequence of the misfor tunes of their parents. The debtor was imprisoned, not in a public jail under the care of impartial public functionaries, but in a private workhouse belonging to the creditor. Frightful stories were told respecting these dungeons. It was said that torture and brutal violation were common; that tight stocks, heavy chains, scanty measures of food, were used to punish wretches guilty of nothing but poverty; and that brave soldiers, whose breasts were covered-with honourable scars, were often marked still more deeply on the back by the scourges of high-born usurers. The Plebeians were, however, not wholly without constitutional rights. From an early period they had been admitted to some share of political power. They were enrolled in the centuries, and were allowed a share, considerable though not proportioned to their numerical strength, in the disposal of those high dignities from which they were themselves excluded. Thus their position bore some resemblance to that of the Irish Catholics during the interval between the year 1792 and the year 1829. The Plebeians had also the privilege of annually appointing officers, named Tribunes, who had no active share in the government of the Commonwealth, but who, by degrees, acquired a power which made them formidable even to the ablest and most resolute Consuls and Dictators. The person of the Tribune was inviola ble; and, though he could directly effect little, he could obstruct every thing. During more than a century after the institution of the Tribuneship, the Commons struggled manfully for the removal of grievances under which they laboured; and, in spite of many, checks and reverses, succeeded in wringing concession after concession from the stubborn aristocracy. At length, in the year of the city 378, both parties mustered their whole strength for their last and most desperate conflict... The popular and active Tribune, Caius Licinius, proposed the three memorable laws which are called by his name, and which were intended to redress the three great evils of which the Plebeians complained. He was supported, with eminent ability and firmness, by his colleague, Lucius Sextius. The struggle appears to have been the fiercest that ever in any community terminated without an appeal to arms. If such a contest had raged in any Greek city, the streets would have run with blood. But, even in the paroxysms of faction, the Roman retained his gravity, his respect for law, and his tenderness for the lives of his fellow-citizens. Year after year Licinius and Sextius were re-elected Tribunes. Year after year, if the narrative which has come down to us is to be trusted, they continued to exert, to the full extent, their power of stopping the whole machine of government. No curule magistrates could be chosen; no military muster could be held. We know too little of the state of Rome in those days to be able to conjecture how, during that long anarchy, the peace was kept, and ordinary justice administered between man and man. The animosity of both parties rose to the greatest height. The excitement, we may well suppose, would have been peculiarly intense at the annual election of Tribunes. On such occasions there can be little doubt that the great families did all that could be done, by threats and caresses, to break the union of the Plebeians. That union, however, proved indissoluble. At length the good cause triumphed. The Licinian laws were carried. Lucius Sextius was the first Plebeian Consul, Caius Licinius the third. The results of this great change were singularly happy and glorious. Two centuries of prosperity, harmony, and victory followed the reconciliation of the orders. Men who remembered Rome engaged in waging petty wars almost within sight of the Capitol lived to see her the mistress of Italy. While the disabilities of the Plebeians conjinued, she was scarcely able to maintain her ground against the Wolscians and Hernicans. When those disabilities were removed, she rapidly became more than a match for Carthage and Macedon. During the great Licinian contest the Plebeian poets were, doubtless, not silent. Even in modern times songs have been by no means without influence on public affairs; and we may therefore infer, that, in a society where printing was unknown, and where books were rare, a pathetic or - humorous party-ballad must have produced effects such as we can but faintly conceive. It is certain that satirical poems were common at Rome from a very early period. The rustics who lived at a distance from the seat of government, and took little part in the strife of factions, gave vent to their petty local animosities in coarse Fescennine verse. The lampoons of the city were doubtless of a higher order; and their sting was early felt by the nobility. For in the Twelve Tables, long before the time of the Licinian laws, a severe punishment was denounced against the citizen who should compose or recite verses reflecting on another." Satire is, indeed, the only sort of composition in which the Latin poets, whose works have come down to us, were not mere imitators of foreign models; and it is therefore the only sort of composition in which they had never been rivalled. It was not, like their tragedy, their comedy, their epic and lyric poetry, a hot-house plant which, in return for assiduous and skilful culture, yielded only scanty and sickly fruits. It was hardy, and full of sap ; and in all the various juices which it yielded might be distinguished the flavour of the Ausonian soil. “Satire,” said Quintilian, with just pride, “is all our own.” It sprang, in * Cicero justly infers from this law that there had been early Latin poets whose works had been lost before his time. “Quamguamid quidem etian xii tabulae declarant; condi jam tum solitunt esse carmen, quod

me liceret fieri ad alterius injuriam lege sanxerunt.”Tusc. iv. o.

truth, naturally from the constitution of the Roman government and from the spirit of the Roman people; and, though it submitted to metrical rules derived from Greece, it retained to the last its essentially Roman character. Lucilius was the earliest satirist whose works were held in esteem under the Caesars. But, many years before Lucilius was born, Naevius had been flung into a dungeon, and guarded there with circumstances of unusual rigour till the Tribunes interfered in his behalf, on account of the bitter lines in which he had attacked the great Caecilian family.” The genius and spirit of the Roman satirists survived the liberties of their country, and were not extinguished by the cruel despotism of the Julian and Flavian emperors. The great poet who told the story of Domitian's turbot was the legitimate successor of those forgotten minstrels whose songs animated the factions of the infant Republic. Those minstrels, as Niebuhr has remarked, appear to have generally taken the popular side. We can hardly be mistaken in supposing that, at the great crisis of the civil conflict, they employed themselves inversifying all the most powerful and virulent speeches of the Tribunes, and in heaping abuse on the chiefs of the aristocracy. Every personal defect, every domestic scandal, every tradition dishonourable to a noble house, would be sought out, brought into notice, and exaggerated. The illustrious head of the aristocratical party, Marcus Furius Camillus, might perhaps be, in some measure, protected by his venerable age and by the memory of his great services to the state. But Appius Claudius Crassus enjoyed no such immunity. He was descended from a long line of ancestors distinguished by their haughty demeanour, and by the inflexibility with which they had withstood all the demands of the Plebeian order. While the political conduct and the deportment of the Claudian nobles drew upon them the fiercest public hatred, they were wanting, if any credit is due to the early history of Rome, in a class of qualities which, in a military Commonwealth, is sufficient to cover a multitude of cffences. Several of them appear to have been eloquent, versed in civil business, and learned after the fashion of their age; but in war they were not distinguished by skill or valour. Some of them, as if conscious where their weakness lay, had, when filling the highest magistracies, taken internal administration as their department of public business, and left the military com mand to their colleagues.f One of them has, been intrusted with an army, and had failed ignominiously. None of them had been honoured with a triumph. None of them had achieved any martial exploit, such as those by which Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Titus Quinctius Capitolinus, Aulus Cornelius Cossus, and, above all, the great Camillus, had extorted the reluctant esteem of the multitude. During the Licinian conflict, Appius Claudius Crassus signalized himself by the ability and severity with which he harangued against the twe

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »