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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.

Was none who would be foremost

To lead such dire attacks ;
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.

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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 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 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; Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,

To Sextus nought 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 :

Oh 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 parting 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 Howing ;

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

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 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 ;
Now round him thronged 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 plough from morn till night ;

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