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A LAY MADE ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE CITY CCCLX.
The foundation of Rome is estimated to have been about 753 years before Christ. According to legendary history, there was a dynasty of Etruscan kings, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus, that ruled Rome successively; but the tyranny of the house became so hateful that the people finally banished the Tarquinian family and set up a republic, governed by two magistrates called consuls, chosen annually. This was in the year 244. The Tarquinian family attempted to return to power, first by intrigue and then by open war, making an alliance with Porsena, who ruled over Etruria. The ballad that follows narrates the exploit of Horatius when the city was defending itself ; but it is supposed to have been made a hundred and twenty years after the war which it celebrates, and just before the taking of Rome by the Gauls. “ The author,” says Macaulay,
seems to have been an honest citizen, proud of the military glory of his country, sick of the disputes of factions, and much given to pining after good old times which had never really existed.”
By the Nine Gods he swore
Should suffer wrong no more.
And named a trysting day, 1. Lars in the Etruscan tongue signified chieftain. Clusium is the modern Chiusi.
2. The Romans had a tradition that there were nine great Etruscan gods.
And bade his messengers ride forth,
To summon his array.
The messengers ride fast,
Have heard the trumpet's blast.
Who lingers in his home, When Porsena of Clusium
Is on the march for Rome.
The horsemen and the footmen
Are pouring in amain 20 From many a stately market-place,
From many a fruitful plain ; From many a lonely hamlet,
Which, hid by beech and pine, Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest
Of purple Apennine ;
4 From lordly Volaterræ,
Where scowls the far-famed hold
26. Volaterræ, modern Volterra.
27. “The situation of the Etruscan towns is one of the most striking characteristics of Tuscan scenery. Many of them occupy surfaces of table-land surrounded by a series of gullies not visible from a distance. The traveller thus may be a whole day reaching a place which in the morning may have seemed to him but a little way off.” — Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria.
Piled by the hands of giants
For godlike kings of old;
Whose sentinels descry
Fringing the southern sky;
Queen of the western waves,
Heavy with fair-haired slaves;
Through corn and vines and flowers;
Her diadem of towers.
Drop in dark Auser's rill;
Of the Ciminian hill;
Is to the herdsman dear;
The great Volsinian mere. 34. Pisce, now Pisa.
36. Massilia, the ancient Marseilles, which originally was a Greek colony and a great commercial centre.
37. The fair-haired slaves were doubtless slaves from Gaul, bought and sold by the Greek merchants.
38. Clanis, the modern la Chicana.
7 50 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 waterfowl may dip
In the Volsinian mere.
8 The harvests of Arretium, This year,
теар, 60 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:
58. Arretium, now Arezzo.
60. Umbro, the river Ombrone. All this region was occupied by the Etruscans, and, since the men had gone to fight Rome, only the old and very young would be left to carry on the work of the country.
66. The Etruscan religion was one of sorcery, and their prophets were augurs who sought to know the will of the gods by various outward signs; such as the flight of birds, the direction of lightning, and the mystic writings of the prophets before them.
70 Evening and morn the Thirty
Have turned the verses o'er,
By mighty seers of yore.
Have their glad answer given :
Go forth, beloved of Heaven:
To Clusium's royal dome;
The golden shields of Rome.”
72. The Etruscan writing was from right to left. 83. Tale of men. Compare Milton's lines in L'Allegro,
“ And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn, in the dale." The tally which we keep is a kindred word. 86. Sutrium is Sutri to-day.