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Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the gate:
"To every man upon this earth death cometh, soon or late.
Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, with all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me, will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?" Then out spake Spurius Lartius, a Ramnian proud was he, Lo, I will stand at thy right hand, and keep the bridge with thee."
And out spake strong Herminius, — of Titian blood was he,
"I will abide on thy left side, and keep the bridge with thee."
Horatius," quoth the Consul, "as thou sayest, so let it be."
And straight against that great array, forth went the dauntless Three.
Soon 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,
The bravest shrank like boys who rouse an old bear in the wood.
But meanwhile axe 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 further 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 battlement, and plank, and pier, whirled 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 Porsěna, now yield thee to our grace.
Round turned he, as not deigning those craven ranks to see;
Naught spake he to Lars Porséna, to Sextus naught 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, stood gazing where he sank;
And when above the surges they saw his crest appear,
Rome shouted, and e'en 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 bare 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 Porséna, "and bring him safe to
For such a gallant feat of arms was never seen before."
And now he feels the bottom; now on dry earth he stands;
Now 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.
27. THE EXECUTION OF MONTROSE, 1645. — Aytoun.
There is no ingredient of fiction in the historical incidents recorded in the following ballad. The perfect serenity of Montrose, the "Great Marquis," as he was called, in the hour of trial and death, the courage and magnanimity which he displayed to the last, -have been dwelt upon, with admiration, by writers of every class. The following has been slightly abridged from the original.
COME hither, Evan Cameron; come, stand beside my knee,
I hear the river roaring down towards the wintry sea.
There's shouting on the mountain-side, there's war within the blast:
Old faces look upon me, old forms go trooping past.
I hear the pibroch wailing amidst the din of fight,
And my dim spirit wakes again, upon the verge of night.
"T was I that led the Highland host through wild Lochaber's snows,
What time the plaided clans came down to battle with Montrose.
I've told thee how the Southrons fell beneath the broad claymore,
And how we smote the Campbell clan by Inverlochy's shore.
I've told thee how we swept Dundee, and tamed the Lindsays' pride;
But never have I told thee yet how the Great Marquis died.
A traitor sold him to his foes;
- O, deed of deathless shame!
I charge thee, boy, if e'er thou meet with one of Assynt's name,
Be it upon the mountain's side, or yet within the glen,
Stand he in martial gear alone, or backed by arméd men,
Face him, as thou wouldst face the man who wronged thy sire'"
Remember of what blood thou art, and strike the caitiff down!
They brought him to the Watergate, hard bound with hempen span,
As though they held a lion there, and not a 'fenceless man.
But when he came, though pale and wan, he looked so great and high,
So noble was his manly front, so calm his steadfast eye,
The rabble rout forbore to shout, and each man held his breath;
For well they knew the hero's soul was face to face with death.
Had I been there, with sword in hand, and fifty Camerons by,
That day, through high Dunedin's streets, had pealed the slogan-cry.
Not all their troops of trampling horse, nor might of mailed men,
Not all the rebels in the South, had borne us backwards then!
Once more his foot on Highland heath had trod as free as air,
Or I, and all who bore my name, been laid around him there!
It might not be. They placed him next within the solemn hall,
Where once the Scottish kings were throned amidst their nobles all.
But there was dust of vulgar feet on that polluted floor,
And perjured traitors filled the place where good men sate before.
With savage glee came Warriston, to read the murderous doom;
And then uprose the great Montrose in the middle of the room.
"Now, by my faith as belted knight, and by the name I bear,
And by the bright Saint Andrew's cross that waves above us there, -
Yea, by a greater, mightier oath, and O, that such should be!
By that dark stream of royal blood that lies 'twixt you and me,
I have not sought in battle-field a wreath of such renown,
Nor hoped I on my dying day to win the martyr's crown!
"There is a chamber far away where sleep the good and brave, But a better place ye 've named for me than by my fathers' grave. For truth and right, 'gainst treason's might, this hand hath always
And ye raise it up for a witness still in the eye of earth and Heaven.
Then nail my head on yonder tower, give every town a limb,
And God who made shall gather them: I go from you to Him!”
The morning dawned full darkly; like a bridegroom from his room,
Came the hero from his prison to the scaffold and the doom.
There was glory on his forehead, there was lustre in his eye,
And he never walked to battle more proudly than to die;
There was color in his visage, though the cheeks of all were wan,
And they marvelled as they saw him pass, that great and goodly man!
Then radiant and serene he stood, and cast his cloak away
For he had ta'en his latest look of earth and sun and day.
He mounted up the scaffold, and he turned him to the crowd;
But they dared not trust the people, - so he might not speak aloud.
But he looked upon the Heavens, and they were clear and blue,
And in the liquid ether the eye of God shone through:
A beam of light fell o'er him, like a glory round the shriven,
And he climbed the lofty ladder as it were the path to Heaven.
Then came a flash from out the cloud, and a stunning thunder-roll;
And no man dared to look aloft; fear was on every soul.
There was another heavy sound, a hush, and then a groan;
And darkness swept across the sky, — the work of death was done!
28. PEACE AND WAR.
How beautiful this night! the balmiest sigh
Which vernal zephyrs breathe in evening's ear
Were discord to the speaking quietude
That wraps this moveless scene. Heaven's ebon vault,
Studded with stars unutterably bright,
Through which the moon's unclouded grandeur rolls,
Seems like a canopy which love has spread
Above the sleeping world. Yon gentle hills,
Robed in a garment of untrodden snow;
Yon darksome rocks, whence icicles depend,
So stainless that their white and glittering spires
Tinge not the moon's pure beam; yon castled steep,
Whose banner hangeth o'er the time-worn tower
So idly that rapt fancy deemeth it
A metaphor of
all form a scene
Where musing solitude might love to lift
Her soul above this sphere of earthliness;
Where silence undisturbed might watch alone,
So cold, so bright, so still!
- Percy Bysshe Shelley. Born, 1792; died, 1828.
Ah! whence yon glare
That fires the arch of Heaven? that dark red smoke
Blotting the silver moon? The stars are quenched
In darkness, and the pure and spangling snow
Gleams faintly through the gloom that gathers round!
Hark to that roar, whose swift and deafening peals
In countless echoes through the mountains ring,
Startling pale midnight on her starry throne!
Now swells the intermingling din; the jar,
Frequent and frightful, of the bursting bomb;
The falling beam, the shriek, the groan, the shout.
The ceaseless clangor, and the rush of men
Inebriate with rage! - Loud and more loud
The discord grows; till pale Death shuts the scene,
And o'er the conqueror and the conquered draws
His cold and bloody shroud!
The sulphurous smoke
Before the icy wind slow rolls away,
And the bright beams of frosty morning dance
Along the spangling snow. There tracks of blood,
Even to the forest's depth, and scattered arms,
And lifeless warriors, whose hard lineaments
Death's self could change not, mark the dreadful path
Of the out-sallying victors: far behind
Black ashes note where their proud city stood.
Within yon forest is a gloomy glen;
Each tree which guards its darkness from the day
Waves o'er a warrior's tomb !
29 AMERICA TO GREAT BRITAIN. — Washington Allston. Born, 1779; died, 1843.
ALL hail thou noble land,
Our fathers' native soil!
O, stretch thy mighty hand,
Gigantic grown by toil,
O'er the vast Atlantic wave to our shore;
For thou, with magic might,
Canst reach to where the light
Of Phoebus travels bright,
The world o'er!
The Genius of our clime,
From his pine-embattled steep,
Shall hail the great sublime;
While the Tritons of the deep
With their conchs the kindred league shall proclaim.
Then let the world combine!
O'er the main our naval line,
Like the milky way, shall shine
Bright in fame!
Though ages long have passed
Since our fathers left their home,
Their pilot in the blast,
O'er untravelled seas to roam,
Yet lives the blood of England in our veins!
And shall we not proclaim
That blood of honest fame,
Which no tyranny can tame
By its chains?