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HORATIUS

By LORD MACAULAY

NOTE. This spirited poem by Lord Macaulay is founded on one of the most popular Roman legends. While the story is based on facts, we can by no means be certain that all of the details are historical.

According to Roman legendary history, the Tarquins, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, were among the early kings of Rome. The reign of the former was glorious, but that of the latter was most unjust and tyrannical. Finally the unscrupulousness of the king and his son reached such a point that it became unendurable to the people, who in 509 B. C. rose in rebellion and drove the entire family from Rome. Tarquinius Superbus appealed to Lars Porsena, the powerful king of Clusium for aid and the story of the expedition against Rome is told in this poem.

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ARS PORSENA of Clusium1

By the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin

Should suffer wrong no more.
By the Nine Gods he swore it,

And named a trysting day,

And bade his messengers ride forth

East and west and south and north,

To summon his array.

1. Clusium was a powerful town in Etruria.

2. According to the religion of the Etruscans there were nine great gods. An oath by them was considered the most binding oath that a man could take.

East and west and south and north

The messengers ride fast,

And tower and town and cottage

Have heard the trumpet's blast. Shame on the false Etruscan

Who lingers in his home, When Porsena of Clusium

Is on the march for Rome.

The horsemen and the footmen
Are pouring in amain

From many a stately market-place;
From many a fruitful plain.
From many a lonely hamlet,

Which, hid by beech and pine,

Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest
Of purple Apennine;

There be thirty chosen prophets,
The wisest of the land,
Who alway by Lars Porsena

Both morn and evening stand:
Evening and morn the Thirty

Have turned the verses o'er,
Traced from the right on linen white3
By mighty seers of yore.

And with one voice the Thirty
Have their glad answer given:
"Go forth, go forth, Lars Porsena;
Go forth, beloved of Heaven:

3. This line shows us that the writing of the Etruscans was done backwards, as we should consider it; that is, they wrote from right to left instead of from left to right.

Go, and return in glory

To Clusium's royal dome;
And hang round Nurscia's1 altars
The golden shields of Rome."

And now hath every city

Sent up her tale of men:
The foot are fourscore thousand,
The horse are thousand ten.
Before the gates of Sutrium
Is met the great array.
A proud man was Lars Porsena
Upon the trysting day.

For all the Etruscan armies
Were ranged beneath his eye,
And many a banished Roman,
And many a stout ally;
And with a mighty following
To join the muster came
The Tusculan Mamilius,
Prince of the Latian' name.

But by the yellow Tiber

Was tumult and affright:

From all the spacious champaign

4. Nurscia was a city of the Sabines.

5. Tale here means number.

8

6. Sutrium was an Etruscan town twenty-nine miles from Rome. 7. The Latins were an Italian race who, even before the dawn of history, dwelt on the plains south of the Tiber. Rome was supposed to be a colony of Alba Longa, the chief Latin city, but the Latin peoples were in the fourth century brought into complete subjection to Rome.

8. Champaign, or campagna, means any open, level tract of country. The name is specifically applied to the extensive plains about Rome.

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