« PreviousContinue »
left school. Niebuhr seems also to have forgotten that Martial has fellow culprits to keep him in countenance. Horace has committed the same decided blunder; for he gives us, as a pure iambic line,
“ Minacis aut Etrusca Porsenæ manus. Silius Italicus has repeatedly offended in the same way, as
when he says,
“Cernitur effugiens ardentem Porsena dextram ;"
“Clusinum vulgus, cum, Porsena magne, jubebas.” A modern writer may be content to err in such company.
Niebuhr's supposition that each of the three defenders of the bridge was the representative of one of the three patrician tribes is both ingenious and probable, and has been adopted in the following poem.
A LAY MADE ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE CITY OCCLX.
By the Nine Gods he swore
Should suffer wrong no more.
And named a trysting day,
The messengers ride fast,
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.
Are pouring in amain
From many a fruitful plain;
Which, hid by beach and pine,
4. From lordly Volaterræ,
Where scowls the far-famed hold Piled by the hands of giants
For god-like kings of old; From seagirt Populonia, Whose
sentinels descry Sardinia's snowy mountain-tops Fringing the southern sky;
5. From the proud mart of Pisæ,
Queen of the western waves, Where ride Massilia's triremes
Heavy with fair-haired slaves; From where sweet Clanis wanders
Through corn, and vines, and flowers; From where Cortona lifts to heaven
Her diadem of towers.
Tall are the oaks whose acorns
Drop in dark Auser's rill;
Of the Ciminian hill;
Is to the herdsman dear;
The great Volsinian mere.
7. But now no stroke of woodman
Is heard by Auser's rill; No hunter tracks the stag's green path
Up the Ciminian hill; Unwatched along Clitumnus
Grazes the milk-white steer; Unharmed the water-fowl may dip
In the Volsinian mere.
8. The harvests of Arretium This year
old men shall reap; This year young boys in Umbro
Shall plunge the struggling sheep; And in the vats of Luna,
This year, the must shall foam Round the white feet of laughing girls,
Whose sires have marched to Rome.
9. 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 white
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;
To Clusium's royal dome,
The golden shields of Rome.”
11. And now hath every city
Sent up her tale of men :
The horse are thousands ten.
Is met the great array,
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
To Rome men took their flight. A mile around the city,
The throng stopped up the ways: A fearful sight it was to see
Through two long nights and days.
14. For aged folk on crutches,
And women great with child, And mothers sobbing over babes
That clung to them and smiled, And sick men borne in litters
High on the necks of slaves, And troops of sun-burned husbandmen
With reaping-hooks and staves.
And droves of mules and asses
Laden with skins of wine, And endless flocks of goats and sheep,
And endless herds of kine, And endless trains of wagons
That creaked beneath their weight Of corn-sacks and of household goods,
Choked every roaring gate.
16. Now, from the rock Tarpeian,
Could the wan burghers spy The line of blazing villages
Red in the midnight sky. The Fathers of the City,
They sat all night and day, For every
hour some horseman came With tidings of dismay.
17. To eastward and to westward
Have spread the Tuscan bands; Nor house, nor fence, nor dovecote,
In Crustumerium stands. Verbenna down to Ostia
Hath wasted all the plain ; Astur hath stormed Janiculum,
And the stout guards are slain.
There was no heart so bold,
When that ill news was told.
Uprose the Fathers all; In haste they girded up
gowns, And hied them to the wall.