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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.
ARS PORSENA of Clusium1
By the Nine Gods he swore
Should suffer wrong no more.
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
From many a stately market-place;
Which, hid by beech and pine,
Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest
There be thirty chosen prophets,
Both morn and evening stand:
Have turned the verses o'er,
And with one voice the Thirty
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 now hath every city
Sent up her tale of men:
For all the Etruscan armies
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.
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.