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He eyed the flinching Tuscans,

And scorn was in his eye. Quoth he, “ The she-wolf's litter

Stand savagely at bay;
But will ye dare to follow,

If Astur clears the way ?”
Then, whirling up his broadsword

With both hands to the height,
He rushed against Horatius,

And smote with all his might. With shield and blade Horatius

Right deftly turned the blow. The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh: It missed his helm, but gashed his thigh; The Tuscans raised a joyful cry

To see the red blood flow.

He reeled, and on Herminius

He leaned one breathing-space:
Then, like a wild-cat mad with wounds,

Sprang right at Astur's face;
Through teeth, and skull, and helmet,

So fierce a thrust he sped,
The good sword stood a hand-breadth out

Behind the Tuscan's head.

And the great Lord of Luna

Fell at that deadly stroke, As falls on Mount Alvernus

A thunder-smitten oak.
Far o'er the crashing forest

The giant arms lie spread ;
And the pale augurs, muttering low,

Gaze on the blasted head.

On Astur's throat Horatius

Right firmly pressed his heel,
And thrice and four times tugged amain,

Ere he wrenched out the steel.
“ And see,” he cried, “the welcome,

Fair guests, that waits you here ! What noble Lucumo comes next

To taste our Roman cheer ? »

But at his haughty challenge

A sullen murmur ran,

Mingled of wrath, and shame, and dread,

Along that glittering van. There lacked not men of prowess,

Nor men of lordly race ; For all Etruria's noblest

Were round the fatal place. But all Etruria's noblest

Felt their hearts sink to see On the earth the bloody corpses,

In the path the dauntless Three :
And from the ghastly entrance

Where those bold Romans stood,
All shrank, like boys who unaware,
Ranging the woods to start a hare,
Come to the mouth of the dark lair
Where, growling low, a fierce old bear

Lies amidst bones and blood.

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Was none who would be foremost

To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “ Forward!”

And those before cried “ Back!”
And backward now and forward

Wavers the deep array ;
And on the tossing sea of steel,
To and fro the standards reel;
And the victorious trumpet-peal

Dies fitfully away.
Yet one man for one moment

Stood out before the crowd ;
Well known was he to all the Three,

And they gave him greeting loud : “Now welcome, welcome, Sextus !

Now welcome to thy home!
Why dost thou stay, and turn away?

Here lies the road to Rome.”

Thrice looked he at the city i

Thrice looked he at the dead ; And thrice came on in fury,

And thrice turned back in dread ;
And, white with fear and hatred,

Scowled at the narrow way
Where, wallowing in a pool of blood,

The bravest Tuscans lay.

But meanwhile ax and lever

Have manfully been plied ;
And now the bridge hangs tottering

Above the boiling tide. “Come back, come back, Horatius!”

Loud cried the Fathers all. “Back, Lartius! back, Herminius !

Back, ere the ruin fall ! ” Back darted Spurius Lartius;

Herminius darted back:
And as they passed, beneath their feet

They felt the timbers crack.
But when they turned their faces,

And on the farther shore
Saw brave Horatius stand alone,

They would have crossed once more. But with a crash like thunder

Fell every loosened beam,
And like a dam, the mighty wreck

Lay right athwart the stream:
And a long shout of triumph

Rose from the walls of Rome, As to the highest turret-tops

Was splashed the yellow foam. And like a horse unbroken

When first he feels the rein, The furious river struggled hard,

And tossed his tawny mane,
And burst the curb, and bounded,

Rejoicing to be free,
And whirling down, in fierce career,
Battlement and plank and pier,

Rushed headlong to the sea.
Alone stood brave Horatius,

But constant still in mind; Thrice thirty thousand foes before,

And the broad flood behind. “Down with him!” cried false Sextus,

With a smile on his pale face. "Now yield thee," cried Lars Porsena,

“Now yield thee to our grace." Round turned he, as not deigning

Those craven ranks to see;

Naught spake he to Lars Porsena,

To Sextus nanght spake he: But he saw on Palatinus

The white porch of his home; And he spake to the noble river

That rolls by the towers of Rome. “ O Tiber! father Tiber!

To whom the Romans pray;
A Roman's life, a Roman's arms

Take thou in charge this day!”
So he spake, and speaking sheathed

The good sword by his side,
And with his harness on his back,

Plunged headlong in the tide.
No sound of joy or sorrow

Was heard from either bank ; But friends and foes, in dumb surprise, With parted lips and straining eyes,

Stood gazing where he sank;
And when above the surges

They saw his crest appear,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
And even the ranks of Tuscany

Could scarce forbear to cheer.
But fiercely ran the current,

Swollen high by months of rain : And fast his blood was flowing;

And he was sore in pain, And heavy with his armor,

And spent with changing blows; And oft they thought him sinking,

But still again he rose.
Never, I ween, did swimmer,

In such an evil case,
Struggle through such a raging flood

Safe to the landing-place;
But his limbs were borne up bravely

By the brave heart within, And our good father Tiber

Bore bravely up his chin. “Curse on him!” quoth false Sextus;

“ Will not the villain drown? But for this stay, ere close of day

We should have sacked the town ! ” “Heaven help him!” quoth Lars Porsena,

“ And bring him safe to shore; For such a gallant feat of arms

Was never seen before." And now he feels the bottom;

Now on dry earth he stands;
And round him throng the Fathers

To press his gory hands;
And now, with shouts and clapping,

And noise of weeping loud,
He enters through the River-Gate,

Borne by the joyous crowd.
They gave him of the corn-land,

That was of public right, As much as two strong oxen

Could plow from morn till night;
And they made a molten image,

And set it up on high,
And there it stands unto this day

To witness if I lie.
It stands in the Comitium,

Plain for all folk to see,
Horatius in his harness,

Halting upon one knee;
And underneath is written,

In letters all of gold,
How valiantly he kept the bridge

In the brave days of old.
And still his name sounds stirring

Unto the men of Rome,
As the trumpet-blast that cries to them

To charge the Volscian home;
And wives still pray to Juno

For boys with hearts as bold
As his who kept the bridge so well

In the brave days of old.
And in the nights of winter,

When the cold north winds blow, And the long howling of the wolves

Is heard amidst the snow; When round the lonely cottage

Roars loud the tempest's din,

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