HORATIUS AT THE BRIDGE

Retold in modern English 

by Adrienne Potter 

May be printed for classroom use

Copyright@2004 by Adrienne Potter

All rights reserved

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From the original "Horatius" by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) originally published in 1842 (click to see original) 

Kids were playing in the fields and summer air was blowing.

Mothers did their cooking as the afternoon was slowing.

The fathers of the city were all settled in a meeting,

While closer to this scene of peace a messenger was speeding.

Leaving dusty roads behind, the horse and he were sweating--

Riding on with urgent  news the council would be dreading.

He rushed into the city as the kids and people scattered--

Until he reached the council chambers every second mattered.

 

The guardsmen saw him coming and they opened wide the doors.

He leaped down from his horse and hurried to the council floors.

Then every eye was on him and his words were full of pity:

"The army of Lars Porcena is headed towards the city!"

--"We'll sound the call to arms!" they said. "There isn't time!" he cried.

"For every city in his way that tried to fight has died!--

With twice five thousand men on horse and forty thousand walking--

They're gaining on us every moment as we stand here talking!"

 

"The city is surrounded by the waters of the Tiber. 

That mighty bridge across her must be cut at every fiber.

They will not cross the river as the rains have left it flooding.

Three warriors can guard the entrance way while we are cutting."

--"You speak the truth," the fathers said, "but which brave men will dare

To face the fifty thousand who will soon be swarming there?"

--"I will!" replied Horatius as he stood upon his feet. 

"Ten battles have I finished and I've never seen defeat."

 

Spurius Lartius then jumped up and said, "Then I go too! 

What better way to spend my final hours than with you?"

Then Herminius stepped forward saying, "I would lose my mind,

If you two went to battle and I had to stay behind."

Then every man was on his feet and messengers went flying.

Soon the city knew the reason for the trumpets crying.

Five hundred men were at the bridge beside the city fathers,

Destroying what took years to build to save their wives and daughters.

 

Dust clouds on the skyline now announced the grim arrival.

Every man worked faster now for this work meant survival.

The farmers from the valley and the peasants from the plains

Had taken refuge in the city with their flocks and grains.

Deserted was the countryside Lars Porcena would find,

Except for three men standing with a mighty bridge behind.

One hundred thousand warriors and fifty thousand steeds

Were marching to the city now with Porcena in the lead.

 

His eyes surveyed the scene ahead, the river and the bridge,

And then they stopped at those lone soldiers standing at the edge.

"What mighty joke do we have here?" he shouted out with laughter.

"So they've left three men here to guard the city that we're after!"

He sent his first three captains up to clear the bridge and cross,

But Spirius and Herminius  made those three a loss.

"Well, well, we have some warriors," mocked Porcena to his crowd.

"Who dares to teach some manners to these men?" he shouted loud.

 

Three more men rode forward next and blood and dust went flying,

But when the air had settled the enemy lay dying.

"Let me show how I'll destroy them," cried his second in command,

And he rode towards Horatius with his sword and mace in hand.

The Roman moved like lightening with muscles of an ox,

The Tuscan had the strength of ten and wiles of a fox.

He flung the mace right at him but Horatius raised his shield,

And used his sword so fiercely that it made the Tuscan yield.

 

Then the Tuscan sword flashed and Horatius' thigh was bleeding.

He dropped his shield.  A cheer went up!  The Tuscan was defeating!

Horatius knew the danger but he leaped right at the foe,

And split his helmet clean in two, so heavy was the blow.

Horatius and his henchmen then faced them all in silence.

"Who dares now to cross the bridge?" He asked them in defiance.

The workmen and the fathers were now shouting from the wall,

"Come back! Come back, Horatius!  See!  The bridge is soon to fall!"

 

The timbers of the mighty bridge had now begun to crack,

Spurius and Herminius were quickly running back.

The bridge's heavy pillars were now trembling and shaking.

They gasped for breath and as they ran they felt the floor boards quaking.

And finally in a burst of speed they leaped towards the bank,

And turned to watch the splash of foam as giant pillars sank,

And it was in that moment that their hearts within them died,

As they saw lone Horatius standing on the other side.

 

So dizzy from the awful blows and weak from loss of blood--

In front of him the enemy; behind, a raging flood.

Throwing down his sword and shield and giving Porcena a nod,

He dove into the water whispering a prayer to God.

One hundred thousand Tuscan men and all the sons of Rome

Stand watching as the red-plumed helmet bobs amid the foam.

One more stroke and one more kick, but now he is gone under!

Seconds pass and will he rise again the fathers wonder?

 

The water rushes onward in an every growing roar

And then reveals the red-plumed helmet moving to the shore.

Now the water's at his chest and Spurius is running.

Herminius shouts through the waves, "Stay there now, we're coming!"

As they're wading to the bank the three of them are hearing

Romans here and Tuscans there combined in mighty cheering.

The mighty Roman warriors are borne into the fray.

Defeated by the Tiber floods, Lars Porcena rides away.  The End.

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HORATIUS (The original poem) by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

A LAY MADE ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE CITY CCCLX.

1     Lars Porsena of Clusium
2         By the Nine Gods he swore
3     That the great house of Tarquin
4         Should suffer wrong no more.
5     By the Nine Gods he swore it,
6         And named a trysting day,
7     And bade his messengers ride forth,
8     East and west and south and north,
9         To summon his array.

2

10   East and west and south and north
11       The messengers ride fast,
12   And tower and town and cottage
13       Have heard the trumpet's blast.
14   Shame on the false Etruscan
15       Who lingers in his home,
16   When Porsena of Clusium
17       Is on the march for Rome.

3

18   The horsemen and the footmen
19       Are pouring in amain
20   From many a stately market-place;
21       From many a fruitful plain;
22   From many a lonely hamlet,
23       Which, hid by beech and pine,
24   Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest
25       Of purple Apennine;


4

26   From lordly Volaterrę,
27       Where scowls the far-famed hold
28   Piled by the hands of giants
29       For godlike kings of old;
30   From seagirt Populonia,
31       Whose sentinels descry
32   Sardinia's snowy mountain-tops
33       Fringing the southern sky;

5

34   From the proud mart of Pisę,
35       Queen of the western waves,
36   Where ride Massilia's triremes
37       Heavy with fair-haired slaves;
38   From where sweet Clanis wanders
39       Through corn and vines and flowers;
40   From where Cortona lifts to heaven
41       Her diadem of towers.

6

42   Tall are the oaks whose acorns
43       Drop in dark Auser's rill;
44   Fat are the stags that champ the boughs
45       Of the Ciminian hill;
46   Beyond all streams Clitumnus
47       Is to the herdsman dear,
48   Best of all pools the fowler loves
49       The great Volsinian mere.

7

50   But now no stroke of woodman
51       Is heard by Auser's rill;
52   No hunter tracks the stag's green path
53       Up the Ciminian hill;
54   Unwatched along Clitumnus
55       Grazes the milk-white steer;
56   Unharmed the water fowl may dip
57       In the Volsinian mere.

8

58   The harvests of Arretium,
59       This year, old men shall reap;
60   This year, young boys in Umbro
61       Shall plunge the struggling sheep;
62   And in the vats of Luna,
63       This year, the must shall foam
64   Round the white feet of laughing girls,
65       Whose sires have marched to Rome.

9

66   There be thirty chosen prophets,
67       The wisest of the land,
68   Who alway by Lars Porsena
69       Both morn and evening stand:
70   Evening and morn the Thirty
71       Have turned the verses o'er,
72   Traced from the right on linen white
73       By mighty seers of yore.

10

74   And with one voice the Thirty
75       Have their glad answer given:
76   "Go forth, go forth, Lars Porsena;
77       Go forth, beloved of Heaven;
78   Go, and return in glory
79       To Clusium's royal dome;
80   And hang round Nurscia's altars
81       The golden shields of Rome."

11

82   And now hath every city
83       Sent up her tale of men;
84   The foot are fourscore thousand,
85       The horse are thousands ten.
86   Before the gates of Sutrium
87       Is met the great array.
88   A proud man was Lars Porsena
89       Upon the trysting day.

12

90   For all the Etruscan armies
91       Were ranged beneath his eye,
92   And many a banished Roman,
93       And many a stout ally;
94   And with a mighty following
95       To join the muster came
96   The Tusculan Mamilius,
97       Prince of the Latian name.

13

98   But by the yellow Tiber
99       Was tumult and affright:
100   From all the spacious champaign
101       To Rome men took their flight.
102   A mile around the city,
103       The throng stopped up the ways;
104   A fearful sight it was to see
105       Through two long nights and days.

14

106   For aged folk on crutches,
107       And women great with child,
108   And mothers sobbing over babes
109       That clung to them and smiled,
110   And sick men borne in litters
111       High on the necks of slaves,
112   And troops of sun-burned husbandmen
113       With reaping-hooks and staves,

15

114   And droves of mules and asses
115       Laden with skins of wine,
116   And endless flocks of goats and sheep,
117       And endless herds of kine,
118   And endless trains of waggons
119       That creaked beneath the weight
120   Of corn-sacks and of household goods,
121       Choked every roaring gate.

16

122   Now, from the rock Tarpeian,
123       Could the wan burghers spy
124   The line of blazing villages
125       Red in the midnight sky.
126   The Fathers of the City,
127       They sat all night and day,
128   For every hour some horseman came
129       With tidings of dismay.

17

130   To eastward and to westward
131       Have spread the Tuscan bands;
132   Nor house, nor fence, nor dovecote,
133       In Crustumerium stands.
134   Verbenna down to Ostia
135       Hath wasted all the plain;
136   Astur hath stormed Janiculum,
137       And the stout guards are slain.

18

138   I wis, in all the Senate,
139       There was no heart so bold,
140   But sore it ached, and fast it beat,
141       When that ill news was told.
142   Forthwith up rose the Consul,
143       Up rose the Fathers all;
144   In haste they girded up their gowns,
145       And hied them to the wall.

19

146   They held a council standing,
147       Before the River-gate;
148   Short time was there, ye well may guess,
149       For musing or debate.
150   Out spake the Consul roundly:
151       "The bridge must straight go down;
152   For, since Janiculum is lost,
153       Nought else can save the town."

20

154   Just then a scout came flying,
155       All wild with haste and fear:
156   "To arms! to arms! Sir Consul;
157       Lars Porsena is here."
158   On the low hills to westward
159       The Consul fixed his eye,
160   And saw the swarthy storm of dust
161       Rise fast along the sky.

21

162   And nearer fast and nearer
163       Doth the red whirlwind come;
164   And louder still and still more loud,
165   From underneath that rolling cloud,
166   Is heard the trumpet's war-note proud,
167       The trampling, and the hum.
168   And plainly and more plainly
169       Now through the gloom appears,
170   Far to left and far to right,
171   In broken gleams of dark-blue light,
172   The long array of helmets bright,
173       The long array of spears.

22

174   And plainly and more plainly,
175       Above that glimmering line,
176   Now might ye see the banners
177       Of twelve fair cities shine;
178   But the banner of proud Clusium
179       Was highest of them all,
180   The terror of the Umbrian,
181       The terror of the Gaul.

23

182   And plainly and more plainly
183       Now might the burghers know,
184   By port and vest, by horse and crest,
185       Each warlike Lucumo.
186   There Cilnius of Arretium
187       On his fleet roan was seen;
188   And Astur of the four-fold shield,
189   Girt with the brand none else may wield,
190   Tolumnius with the belt of gold,
191   And dark Verbenna from the hold
192       By reedy Thrasymene.

24

193   Fast by the royal standard,
194       O'erlooking all the war,
195   Lars Porsena of Clusium
196       Sat in his ivory car.
197   By the right wheel rode Mamilius,
198       Prince of the Latian name;
199   And by the left false Sextus,
200       That wrought the deed of shame.

25

201   But when the face of Sextus
202       Was seen among the foes,
203   A yell that rent the firmament
204       From all the town arose.
205   On the house-tops was no woman
206       But spat towards him and hissed;
207   No child but screamed out curses,
208       And shook its little flst.

26

209   But the Consul's brow was sad,
210       And the Consul's speech was low,
211   And darkly looked he at the wall,
212       And darkly at the foe.
213   "Their van will be upon us
214       Before the bridge goes down;
215   And if they once may win the bridge,
216       What hope to save the town?"

27

217   Then out spake brave Horatius,
218       The Captain of the gate:
219   "To every man upon this earth
220       Death cometh soon or late.
221   And how can man die better
222       Than facing fearful odds,
223   For the ashes of his fathers,
224       And the temples of his Gods,

28

225   "And for the tender mother
226       Who dandled him to rest,
227   And for the wife who nurses
228       His baby at her breast,
229   And for the holy maidens
230       Who feed the eternal flame,
231   To save them from false Sextus
232       That wrought the deed of shame?

29

233   "Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
234       With all the speed ye may;
235   I, with two more to help me,
236       Will hold the foe in play.
237   In yon strait path a thousand
238       May well be stopped by three.
239   Now who will stand on either hand,
240       And keep the bridge with me?"

30

241   Then out spake Spurius Lartius;
242       A Ramnian proud was he:
243   "Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,
244       And keep the bridge with thee."
245   And out spake strong Herminius;
246       Of Titian blood was he:
247   "I will abide on thy left side,
248       And keep the bridge with thee."

31

249   "Horatius," quoth the Consul,
250       "As thou sayest, so let it be."
251   And straight against that great array
252       Forth went the dauntless Three.
253   For Romans in Rome's quarrel
254       Spared neither land nor gold,
255   Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
256       In the brave days of old.

32

257   Then none was for a party;
258       Then all were for the state;
259   Then the great man helped the poor,
260       And the poor man loved the great:
261   Then lands were fairly portioned;
262       Then spoils were fairly sold:
263   The Romans were like brothers
264       In the brave days of old.

33

265   Now Roman is to Roman
266       More hateful than a foe,
267   And the Tribunes beard the high,
268       And the Fathers grind the low.
269   As we wax hot in faction,
270       In battle we wax cold:
271   Wherefore men fight not as they fought
272       In the brave days of old.

34

273   Now while the Three were tightening
274       Their harness on their backs,
275   The Consul was the foremost man
276       To take in hand an axe:
277   And Fathers mixed with Commons
278       Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
279   And smote upon the planks above,
280       And loosed the props below.

35

281   Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
282       Right glorious to behold,
283   Came flashing back the noonday light,
284   Rank behind rank, like surges bright
285       Of a broad sea of gold.
286   Four hundred trumpets sounded
287       A peal of warlike glee,
288   As that great host, with measured tread,
289   And spears advanced, and ensigns spread,
290   Rolled slowly towards the bridge's head,
291       Where stood the dauntless Three.

36

292   The Three stood calm and silent
293       And looked upon the foes,
294   And a great shout of laughter
295       From all the vanguard rose:
296   And forth three chiefs came spurring
297       Before that mighty mass;
298   To earth they sprang, their swords they drew,
299   And lifted high their shields, and flew
300       To win the narrow pass;

37

301   Aunus from green Tifernum,
302       Lord of the Hill of Vines;
303   And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves
304       Sicken in Ilva's mines;
305   And Picus, long to Clusium
306       Vassal in peace and war,
307   Who led to fight his Umbrian powers
308   From that grey crag where, girt with towers,
309   The fortress of Nequinum towers
310       O'er the pale waves of Nar.

38

311   Stout Lartius hurled down Aunus
312       Into the stream beneath:
313   Herminius struck at Seius,
314       And clove him to the teeth:
315   At Picus brave Horatius
316       Darted one fiery thrust;
317   And the proud Umbrian's gilded arms
318       Clashed in the bloody dust.

39

319   Then Ocnus of Falerii
320       Rushed on the Roman Three;
321   And Lausulus of Urgo,
322       The rover of the sea;
323   And Aruns of Volsinium,
324       Who slew the great wild boar,
325   The great wild boar that had his den
326   Amidst the reeds of Cosa's fen,
327   And wasted fields, and slaughtered men,
328   Along Albinia's shore.

40

329   Herminius smote down Aruns:
330       Lartius laid Ocnus low:
331   Right to the heart of Lausulus
332       Horatius sent a blow.
333   "Lie there," he cried, "fell pirate!
334       No more, aghast and pale,
335   From Ostia's walls the crowd shall mark
336   The track of thy destroying bark.
337   No more Campania's hinds shall fly
338   To woods and caverns when they spy
339       Thy thrice accursed sail."

41

340   But now no sound of laughter
341       Was heard amongst the foes.
342   A wild and wrathful clamour
343       From all the vanguard rose.
344   Six spears' lengths from the entrance
345       Halted that mighty mass,
deep array 346   And for a space no man came forth
347       To win the narrow pass.

way 42

348   But hark! the cry is Astur:
349       And lo! the ranks divide;
350   And the great Lord of Luna
351       Comes with his stately stride.
352   Upon his ample shoulders
353       Clangs loud the four-fold shield,
354   And in his hand he shakes the brand
355       Which none but he can wield.

43

356   He smiled on those bold Romans
357       A smile serene and high;
358   He eyed the flinching Tuscans,
359       And scorn was in his eye.
360   Quoth he, "The she-wolf's litter
361       Stand savagely at bay:
362   But will ye dare to follow,
363       If Astur clears the way?"

44

364   Then, whirling up his broadsword
365       With both hands to the height,
366   He rushed against Horatius,
367       And smote with all his might.
368   With shield and blade Horatius
369       Right deftly turned the blow.
370   The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh;
371   It missed his helm, but gashed his thigh:
372   The Tuscans raised a joyful cry
373       To see the red blood flow.

45

374   He reeled, and on Herminius
375       He leaned one breathing-space;
376   Then, like a wild cat mad with wounds,
377       Sprang right at Astur's face.
378   Through teeth, and skull, and helmet,
379       So fierce a thrust he sped,
380   The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
381       Behind the Tuscan's head.

46

382   And the great Lord of Luna
383       Fell at that deadly stroke,
384   As falls on Mount Alvernus
385       A thunder-smitten oak.
386   Far o'er the crashing forest
387       The giant arms lie spread;
388   And the pale augurs, muttering low,
389       Gaze on the blasted head.

47

390   On Astur's throat Horatius
391       Right firmly pressed his heel,
392   And thrice and four times tugged amain,
393       Ere he wrenched out the steel.
394   "And see," he cried, "the welcome,
395       Fair guests, that waits you here!
396   What noble Lucumo comes next
397       To taste our Roman cheer?"

48

398   But at his haughty challenge
399       A sullen murmur ran,
400   Mingled of wrath, and shame, and dread,
401       Along that glittering van.
402   There lacked not men of prowess,
403       Nor men of lordly race;
404   For all Etruria's noblest
405       Were round the fatal place.

49

406   But all Etruria's noblest
407       Felt their hearts sink to see
408   On the earth the bloody corpses,
409       In the path the dauntless Three:
410   And, from the ghastly entrance
411       Where those bold Romans stood,
412   All shrank, like boys who unaware,
413   Ranging the woods to start a hare,
414   Come to the mouth of the dark lair
415   Where, growling low, a fierce old bear
416       Lies amidst bones and blood.

50

417   Was none who would be foremost
418       To lead such dire attack:
419   But those behind cried "Forward!"
420   And those before cried "Back!"
421   And backward now and forward
422       Wavers the deep array;
423   And on the tossing sea of steel,
424   To and fro the standards reel;
425   And the victorious trumpet-peal
426       Dies fitfully away.

51

427   Yet one man for one moment
428       Strode out before the crowd;
429   Well known was he to all the Three,
430       And they gave him greeting loud.
431   "Now welcome, welcome, Sextus!
432       Now welcome to thy home!
433   Why dost thou stay, and turn away?
434       Here lies the road to Rome."

52

435   Thrice looked he at the city;
436       Thrice looked he at the dead;
437   And thrice came on in fury,
438       And thrice turned back in dread:
439   And, white with fear and hatred,
440       Scowled at the narrow way
441   Where, wallowing in a pool of blood,
442       The bravest Tuscans lay.

53

443   But meanwhile axe and lever
444       Have manfully been plied;
445   And now the bridge hangs tottering
446       Above the boiling tide.
447   "Come back, come back, Horatius!"
448       Loud cried the Fathers all.
449   "Back, Lartius! back, Herminius!
450       Back, ere the ruin fall!"

54

451   Back darted Spurius Lartius;
452       Herminius darted back:
453   And, as they passed, beneath their feet
454       They felt the timbers crack.
455   But when they turned their faces,
456       And on the farther shore
457   Saw brave Horatius stand alone,
458       They would have crossed once more.

55

459   But with a crash like thunder
460       Fell every loosened beam,
461   And, like a dam, the mighty wreck
462       Lay right athwart the stream:
463   And a long shout of triumph
464       Rose from the walls of Rome,
465   As to the highest turret-tops
466       Was splashed the yellow foam.

56

467   And, like a horse unbroken
468       When first he feels the rein,
469   The furious river struggled hard,
470       And tossed his tawny mane;
471   And burst the curb and bounded,
472       Rejoicing to be free;
473   And whirling down, in fierce career,
474   Battlement, and plank, and pier,
475       Rushed headlong to the sea.

57

476   Alone stood brave Horatius,
477       But constant still in mind;
478   Thrice thirty thousand foes before,
479       And the broad flood behind.
480   "Down with him!" cried false Sextus,
481       With a smile on his pale face.
482   "Now yield thee," cried Lars Porsena,
483       "Now yield thee to our grace."

58

484   Round turned he, as not deigning
485       Those craven ranks to see;
486   Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,
487       To Sextus nought spake he;
488   But he saw on Palatinus
489       The white porch of his home;
490   And he spake to the noble river
491       That rolls by the towers of Rome.

59

492   "Oh, Tiber! father Tiber!
493       To whom the Romans pray,
494   A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
495       Take thou in charge this day!"
496   So he spake, and speaking sheathed
497       The good sword by his side,
498   And, with his harness on his back,
499       Plunged headlong in the tide.

60

500   No sound of joy or sorrow
501       Was heard from either bank;
502   But friends and foes in dumb surprise,
503   With parted lips and straining eyes,
504       Stood gazing where he sank;
505   And when above the surges
506       They saw his crest appear,
507   All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
508   And even the ranks of Tuscany
509       Could scarce forbear to cheer.

61

510   But fiercely ran the current,
511       Swollen high by months of rain:
512   And fast his blood was flowing;
513       And he was sore in pain,
514   And heavy with his armour,
515       And spent with changing blows:
516   And oft they thought him sinking,
517       But still again he rose.

62

518   Never, I ween, did swimmer,
519       In such an evil case,
520   Struggle through such a raging flood
521       Safe to the landing place:
522   But his limbs were borne up bravely
523       By the brave heart within,
524   And our good father Tiber
525       Bare bravely up his chin.

63

526   "Curse on him!" quoth false Sextus;
527       "Will not the villain drown?
528   But for this stay, ere close of day
529       We should have sacked the town!"
530   "Heaven help him!" quoth Lars Porsena,
531       "And bring him safe to shore;
532   For such a gallant feat of arms
533       Was never seen before."

64

534   And now he feels the bottom;
535       Now on dry earth he stands;
536   Now round him throng the Fathers
537       To press his gory hands;
538   And now with shouts and clapping,
539       And noise of weeping loud,
540   He enters through the River-gate,
541       Borne by the joyous crowd.

65

542   They gave him of the corn-land,
543       That was of public right,
544   As much as two strong oxen
545       Could plough from morn till night;
546   And they made a molten image,
547       And set it up on high,
548   And there it stands unto this day
549       To witness if I lie.

66

550   It stands in the Comitium,
551       Plain for all folk to see;
552   Horatius in his harness,
553       Halting upon one knee:
554   And underneath is written,
555       In letters all of gold,
556   How valiantly he kept the bridge
557       In the brave days of old.

67

558   And still his name sounds stirring
559       Unto the men of Rome,
560   As the trumpet-blast that cries to them
561       To charge the Volscian home;
562   And wives still pray to Juno
563       For boys with hearts as bold
564   As his who kept the bridge so well
565       In the brave days of old.

68

566   And in the nights of winter,
567       When the cold north winds blow,
568   And the long howling of the wolves
569       Is heard amidst the snow;
570   When round the lonely cottage
571       Roars loud the tempest's din,
572   And the good logs of Algidus
573       Roar louder yet within;

69

574   When the oldest cask is opened,
575       And the largest lamp is lit,
576   When the chesnuts glow in the embers,
577       And the kid turns on the spit;
578   When young and old in circle
579       Around the firebrands close;
580   When the girls are weaving baskets,
581       And the lads are shaping bows;

70

582   When the goodman mends his armour,
583       And trims his helmet's plume;
584   When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
585       Goes flashing through the loom;
586   With weeping and with laughter
587       Still is the story told,
588   How well Horatius kept the bridge
589       In the brave days of old.

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Explanation of  Names and Places:

Line No. /Name

1.
Clusium: ancient town in Etruria, present-day Chiusi in the region of Tuscany and (part of) Umbria.
2.
the Nine Gods: those of the Etruscans were "Juno, Minerva, and Tinia (the three chief); to which add Vulcan, Mars, Saturn, Hercules, Summanus, and Vedius" ( "The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" by E. Cobham Brewer [1894], [Bibliomania, Maytech Publishing Ltd.]
3.
Tarquin: the fifth and sixth Etruscan kings of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus and Tarquinius Superbus, the second of whom was expelled from Rome for tyranny.
6.
trysting: meeting.
25.
Apennine: the Apennines are a chain of mountains up and down the length of Italy.
26.
Volaterrę: ancient town in Etruria, present-day Volterra.
30.
Populonia: ancient town in Etruria, now the ruins of Poplonia near Piombino.
32.
Sardinia: island off the coast of Italy near Corsica.
34.
Pisę: ancient town of Etruria, now Pisa.
36.
Massilia's triremes: the old galleys of the seaport in Gallia Narbonensis, present-day Marseilles.
38.
Clanis: river in Etruria flowing into the Tiber, now the Chiana.
40.
Cortona: ancient town in Etruria.
43.
Auser: tributary stream of the river Arno in Etruria.
45.
Ciminian: the area around Lake Ciminus in Etruria, present-day Lago di Vico.
46.
Clitumnus: small river in Umbria, present-day Clitunno.
49.
Volsinian: of the Volsci, the people of Latium.
58.
Arretium: a large town in Etruria, present-day Arezzo.
60.
Umbro: unidentified.
62.
Luna: an ancient city in Etruria, present-day Luni.
80.
Nurscia: a Sabine city, present-day Norcia.
86.
Sutrium: an ancient town in Etruria, now Sutri.
96.
Tusculan: of the Etrusci, the people of Etruria, also called Tusci, Tuscans, and Etruscans.
97.
Latian: the region around Rome, present-day Campagna di Roma.
100.
champaign: countryside, i.e., the Campagnia di Roma.
122.
the rock Tarpeian: on Capitoline Hill in Rome, from which criminals were hurled to their deaths.
123.
wan burghers: pale citizens.
133.
Crustumerium: ancient town in the Sabine lands, present-day Monte Rotondo.
134.
Verbenna: unidentified.
Ostia: seaport in Latium.
136.
Janiculum: one of the hills of Rome.
180.
Umbrian: inhabitant of Umbria, a central district in the Apennines.
181.
the Gaul: inhabitant of present-day France.
185.
Lucumo: a name for Etruscan noblemen and priests.
186.
Thrasymene: present-day Lake Trasimeno or the Lake of Perugia.
242.
Ramnian: ancient Latin tribe whose warriors were instituted by Romulus himself.
246.
Titian: the name of a Roman people.
297.
mighty mass: 1842 (revised later to read "deep array").
300.
pass: 1842 (revised later to read "way").
301.
Tifernum: possibly the Umbrian town on the Tiber near present-day Cetta di Castello.
304.
Ilva: the present-day island of Elba.
309.
Nequinum: an Umbrian city, present-day Narnia.
310.
Nar: a river flowing into the Tiber from the Apennines, present-day Nera.
319.
Falerii: the capital of the Falisci, an Etrurian people.
321.
Urgo: unidentified.
323.
Volsinium: ancient town in Etruria, present-day Bolsena.
328.
Albinia: the region of the Albinius, a Roman people.
337
Campania: a province in central Italy.
345.
mighty mass: 1842 (revised later to read "deep array").
347.
pass: 1842 (revised later to read "way").
360.
she-wolf's litter: the twin boys Romulus and Remus, thrown into the Tiber by their usurping uncle Amulius, were saved and suckled by a female wolf and went on to restore their father Numitor to the throne and found the city of Rome.
384.
Mount Alvernus: unidentified.
388.
pale augurs: whitefaced prophesiers.
401.
van: vanguard.
488.
Palatinus: the first of the seven hills of Rome to be built on.
525.
Macaulay annotates this line as follows:
"Our ladye bare upp her chinne."
            Ballad of Childe Waters.
"Never heavier man and horse
Stemmed a midnight torrent's force;
*       *       *       *       *
Yet, through good heart and our Lady's grace,
At length he gained the landing place."
            Lay of the Last Minstrel, I.
550.
Comitium: the public place in Rome, near the Forum, where citizens gathered to vote.
562.
Juno: the goddess of women.
572.
Algidus: a mountain near Rome, presentday
572.
Algidus: a mountain near Rome, presentday Monte Compatri

Thomas Macaulay's source of information:

Found in Livy's history of Rome, II.ix-x, is as follows:
"IX. Next Publius Valerius (for the second time) and Titus Lucretius were made consuls. By this time the Tarquinii had sought refuge with Lars Porsinna, king of Clusium. There they mingled advice and entreaty, now imploring him not to permit them, Etruseans by birth and of the same blood and the same name as himself, to suffer the privations of exile, and again even warning him not to allow the growing custom of expelling kings to go unpunished. Liberty was sweet enough in itself. Unless the energy with which nations sought to obtain it were matched by the efforts which kings put forth to defend their power, the highest would be reduced to the level of the lowest; there would be nothing lofty, nothing that stood out above the rest of the state; there was the end of monarchy, the noblest institution known to gods or men. Porsinna, believing that it was not only a safe thing for the Etruscans that there should be a king at Rome, but an Honour to have that king of Etruscan stock, invaded Roman territory with a hostile army. Never before had such fear seized the senate, so powerful was Clusium in those days, and so great Porsinna's fame. And they feared not only the enemy but their own citizens, lest the plebs should be terror-stricken and, admitting the princes into the City, should even submit to enslavement, for the sake of peace. Hence the senate at this time granted many favours to the plebs. The question of subsistence received special attention, and some were sent to the Volsci and others to Cumae to buy up corn. Again, the monopoly of salt, the price of which was very high, was taken out of the hands of individuals and wholly assumed by the government. Imposts and taxes were removed from the plebs that they might be borne by the well-to-do, who were equal to the burden: the poor paid dues enough if they reared children. Thanks to this liberality on the part of the Fathers, the distress which attended the subsequent blockade and famine was powerless to destroy the harmony of the state, which was such that the name of king was not more abhorrent to the highest than to the lowest; nor was there ever a man in after years whose demagogic arts made him so popular as its wise governing at that time made the whole senate.

"X. When the enemy appeared, the Romans all, with one accord, withdrew from their fields into the City, which they surrounded with guards. Some parts appeared to be rendered safe by their walls, others by the barrier formed by the river Tiber. The bridge of piles almost afforded an entrance to the enemy, had it not been for one man, Horatius Cocles; he was the bulwark of defence on which that day depended the fortune of the City of Rome. He chanced to be on guard at the bridge when Janiculum was captured by a sudden attack of the enemy. He saw them as they charged down on the run from Janiculum, while his own people behaved like a frightened mob, throwing away their arms and quitting their ranks. Catching hold first of one and then of another, blocking their way and conjuring them to listen, he called on gods and men to witness that if they forsook their post it was vain to flee; once they had left a passage in their rear by the bridge, there would soon be more of the enemy on the Palatine and the Capitol than on Janiculum. He therefore warned and commanded them to break down the bridge with steel, with fire, with any instrument at their disposal; and promised that he would himself receive the onset of the enemy, so far as it could be withstood by a single body. Then, striding to the head of the bridge, conspicuous amongst the fugitives who were clearly seen to be shirking the fight, he covered himself with his sword and buckler and made ready to do battle at close quarters, confounding the Etruscans with amazement at his audacity. Yet were there two who were prevented by shame from leaving him. These were Spurius Larcius and Titus Herminius, both famous for their birth and their deeds. With these he endured the peril of the first rush and the stormiest moment of the battle. But after a while he forced even these two to leave him and save themselves, for there was scarcely anything left of the bridge, and those who were cutting it down called to them to come back. Then, darting glances of defiance around at the Etruscan nobles, he now challenged them in turn to fight, now railed at them collectively as slaves of haughty kings, who, heedless of their own liberty, were come to overthrow the liberty of others. They hesitated for a moment, each looking to his neigbbour to begin the fight. Then shame made them attack, and with a shout they cast their javelins from every side against their solitary foe. But he caught them all upon his shield, and, resolute as ever, bestrode the bridge and held his ground; and now they were trying to dislodge him by a charge, when the crash of the falling bridge and the cheer which burst from the throats of the Romans, exulting in the completion of their task, checked them in mid-career with a sudden dismay. Then Cocles cried, "O Father Tiberinus, I solemnly invoke thee; receive these arms and this soldier with propitious stream!" So praying, all armed as he was, he leaped down into the river, and under a shower of missiles swam across unhurt to his fellows, having given a proof of valour which was destined to obtain more fame than credence with posterity. The state was grateful for so brave a deed: a statue of Cocles was set up in the comitium, and he was given as much land as he could plough around in one day. Private citizens showed their gratitude in a striking fashion, in the midst of his official honours, for notwithstanding their great distress everybody made him some gift proportionate to his means, though he robbed himself of his own ration" (Livy, I, translated by B. O. Foster [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967]: 245-49; PA 6452 A2 Robarts Library).

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