HORATIUS. A LAY MADE ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE CITY CCCLX.
According to legend, Tarquinius Superbus, or Tarquin the Proud, the last of the early kings of Rome, was driven out of the city, partly on account of his own tyranny, and partly because of the misdeeds of his son Sextus Tarquin. The immediate cause of the expulsion of the Tarquins was "the deed of shame," committed by Sextus against Lucretia, the wife of one of the Roman governors. After two unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne, Tarquinius Superbus sought the aid of the Etruscans and Latins, and under the leadership of Lars Porsena, the head of the Etruscan League, the combined forces marched upon Rome. It was then that the incident recorded in the story of Horatius is supposed to have taken place. After the defence of the bridge by Horatius, Lars Porsena laid siege to the city and at last reduced it to submission. He did not, however, insist upon the reinstatement of the Tarquins. A fourth and last attempt was made by Tarquin the Proud to regain the throne, by the aid of his Latin allies, under Mamilius of Tusculum. The story of this expedition forms the subject of The Battle of Lake Regulus.I
Lars Porsena of Clusium By the Nine Gods he swore That the great house of Tarquin Should suffer wrong no more. By the Nine Gods he swore it, 5 And named a trysting day, And bade his messengers ride forth, East and west and south and north, To summon his array.II
East and west and south and north 10 The messengers ride fast, And tower and town and cottage Have heard the trumpet's blast. Shame on the false Etruscan, Who lingers in his home, 15 When Porsena of Clusium Is on the march to Rome.III
The horsemen and the footmen Are pouring in amain From many a stately market-place, 20 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; 25IV
From lordly Volaterrae, Where scowls the far-famed hold Piled by the hands of giants For godlike kings of old; From seagirt Populonia, 30 Whose sentinels descry Sardinia's snowy mountain-tops Fringing the southern sky;V
From the proud mart of Pisse, Queen of the western waves, 35 Where ride Massilia's triremes Heavy with fair-haired slaves, From where sweet Olanis wanders Through corn and vines and flowers, From where Cortona lifts to heaven 40 Her diadem of towers.VI
Tall are the oaks whose acorns Drop in dark Auser's rill; Fat are the stags that champ the boughs Of the Ciminian hill; 45 Beyond all streams Clitumnus Is to the herdsman dear; Best of all pools the fowler loves The great Volsinian mere.VII
But now no stroke of woodman 50 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; 55 Unharmed the waterfowl may dip In the Volsinian mere....