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The Battle of the Lake Regillus

by Thomas Babbington Macaulay

The following poem is supposed to have been produced about ninety years after the lay of Horatius. Some persons mentioned in the lay of Horatius make their appearance again, and some appellations and epithets used in the lay of Horatius have been purposely repeated: for, in an age of ballad-poetry, it scarcely ever fails to happen, that certain phrases come to be appropriated to certain men and things, and are regularly applied to those men and things by every minstrel. Thus we find, both in the Homeric poems and in Hesiod, [several examples of common phrases, in Greek]. Thus, too, in our own national songs, Douglas is almost always the doughty Douglas; England is merry England; all the gold is red; and all the ladies are gay.

The principal distinction between the lay of Horatius and the lay of the Lake Regillus is that the former is meant to be purely Roman, while the latter, though national in its general spirit, has a slight tincture of Greek learning and of Greek superstition. The story of the Tarquins, as it has come down to us, appears to have been compiled from the works of several popular poets; and one, at least, of those poets appears to have visited the Greek colonies in Italy, if not Greece itself, and to have had some acquaintance with the works of Homer and Herodotus. Many of the most striking adventures of the House of Tarquin, before Lucretia makes her appearance, have a Greek character. The Tarquins themselves are represented as Corinthian nobles of the great House of the Bacchiadæ, driven from their country by the tyranny of that Cypselus, the tale of whose strange escape Herodotus has related with incomparable simplicity and liveliness. Livy and Dionysius tell us that, when Tarquin the Proud was asked what was the best mode of governing a conquered city, he replied only by beating down with his staff all the tallest poppies in his garden. This is exactly what Herodotus, in the passage to which reference has already been made, relates of the counsel given to Periander, the son of Cypselus. The stratagem by which the town of Gabii is brought under the power of the Tarquins is, again, obviously copied from Herodotus. The embassy of the young Tarquins to the oracle at Delphi is just such a story as would be told by a poet whose head was full of the Greek mythology; and the ambiguous answer returned by Apollo is in the exact style of the prophecies which, according to Herodotus, lured Croesus to destruction. Then the character of the narrative changes. From the first mention of Lucretia to the retreat of Porsena nothing seems to be borrowed from foreign sources. The villainy of Sextus, the suicide of his victim, the revolution, the death of the sons of Brutus, the defence of the bridge, Musius burning his hand, Cloelia swimming through Tiber, seem to be all strictly Roman. But when we have done with the Tuscan wars, and enter upon the war with the Latines, we are again struck by the Greek air of the story. The Battle of the Lake Regillus is in all respects a Homeric battle, except that the combatants ride astride on their horses, instead of driving chariots. The mass of fighting men is hardly mentioned. The leaders single each other out, and engage hand to hand. The great object of the warriors on both sides is, as in the Iliad, to obtain possession of the spoils and bodies of the slain; and several circumstances are related which forcibly remind us of the great slaughter round the corpses of Sarpedon and Patroclus.

But there is one circumstance which deserves especial notice. Both the war of Troy and the war of Regillus were caused by the licentious passions of young princes, who were therefore peculiarly bound not to be sparing of their own persons on the day of battle. Now the conduct of Sextus at Regillus, as described by Livy, so exactly resembles that of Paris, as described at the beginning of the third book of the Iliad, that it is difficult to believe the resemblance accidental. Paris appears before the Trojan ranks, defying the bravest Greek to encounter him:—

       3 lines from the Iliad, in Greek, probably those
       translated by Pope as: the van, before the sons of fame
       Whom Troy sent forth, the beauteous Paris came:

Livy introduces Sextus in a similar manner: "Ferocem juvenem Tarquinium, ostentantem se in prima exsulum acie." Menelaus rushes to meet Paris. A Roman noble, eager for vengeance, spurs his horse towards Sextus. Both the guilty princes are instantly terror-stricken:—

       3 more lines in Greek, Pope's translation being:
       ...[Menelaus] approaching near,
       The beauteous champion views with marks of fear,
       Smit with a conscious sense, retires behind,
       And shuns the fate he well deserv'd to find.

"Tarquinius," says Livy, "retro in agmen suorum infenso cessit hosti." If this be a fortuitous coincidence, it is also one of the most extraordinary in literature.

In the following poem, therefore, images and incidents have been borrowed, not merely without scruple, but on principle, from the incomparable battle-pieces of Homer.

The popular belief at Rome, from an early period, seems to have been that the event of the great day of Regillus was decided by supernatural agency. Castor and Pollux, it was said, had fought armed and mounted, at the head of the legions of the commonwealth, and had afterwards carried the news of the victory with incredible speed to the city. The well in the Forum at which they had alighted was pointed out. Near the well rose their ancient temple. A great festival was kept to their honor on the Ides of Quintilis, supposed to be the anniversary of the battle; and on that day sumptuous sacrifices were offered to them at the public charge. One spot on the margin of Lake Regillus was regarded during many ages with superstitious awe. A mark, resembling in shape a horse's hoof, was discernible in the volcanic rock; and this mark was believed to have been made by one of the celestial chargers.

How the legend originated cannot now be ascertained; but we may easily imagine several ways in which it might have originated; nor is it at all necessary to suppose, with Julius Frontinus, that two young men were dressed up by the Dictator to personate the sons of Leda. It is probable that Livy is correct when he says that the Roman general, in the hour of peril, vowed a temple to Castor. If so, nothing could be more natural than that the multitude should ascribe the victory to the favor of the Twin Gods. When such was the prevailing sentiment, any man who chose to declare that, in the midst of the confusion and slaughter, he had seen two godlike forms on white horses scattering the Latines, would find ready credence. We know, indeed, that in modern times a very similar story actually found credence among a people much more civilized than the Romans of the fifth century before Christ. A chaplain of Cortes, writing about thirty years after the conquest of Mexico, in an age of printing presses, libraries, universities, scholars, logicians, jurists, and statesmen, had the face to assert that, in one engagement against the Indians, St. James had appeared on a gray horse at the head of the Castilian adventurers. Many of those adventurers were living when this lie was printed. One of them, honest Bernal Diaz, wrote an account of the expedition. He had the evidence of his own senses against the legend; but he seems to have distrusted even the evidence of his own senses. He says that he was in the battle, and that he saw a gray horse with a man on his back, but that the man was, to his thinking, Francesco de Morla, and not the ever-blessed apostle St. James. "Nevertheless," Bernal adds, "it may be that the person on the gray horse was the glorious apostle St. James, and that I, sinner that I am, was unworthy to see him." The Romans of the age of Cincinatus were probably quite as credulous as the Spanish subjects of Charles the Fifth. It is therefore conceivable that the appearance of Castor and Pollux may be become an article of faith before the generation which had fought at Regillus had passed away. Nor could anything be more natural than that the poets of the next age should embellish this story, and make the celestial horsemen bear the tidings of victory to Rome.

Many years after the temple of the Twin Gods had been built in the Forum, an important addition was made to the ceremonial by which the state annually testified its gratitude for their protection. Quintus Fabius and Publius Decius were elected Censors at a momentous crisis. It had become absolutely necessary that the classification of the citizens should be revised. On that classification depended the distribution of political power. Party spirit ran high; and the republic seemed to be in danger of falling under the dominion either of a narrow oligarchy or of an ignorant and headstrong rabble. Under such circumstances, the most illustrious patrician and the most illustrious plebeian of the age were entrusted with the office of arbitrating between the angry factions; and they performed their arduous task to the satisfaction of all honest and reasonable men.

One of their reforms was the remodelling of the equestrian order; and, having effected this reform, they determined to give to their work a sanction derived from religion. In the chivalrous societies of modern times,—societies which have much more than may at first sight appear in common with with the equestrian order of Rome,—it has been usual to invoke the special protection of some Saint, and to observe his day with peculiar solemnity. Thus the Companions of the Garter wear the image of St. George depending from their collars, and meet, on great occasions, in St. George's Chapel. Thus, when Louis the Fourteenth instituted a new order of chivalry for the rewarding of military merit, he commended it to the favor of his own glorified ancestor and patron, and decreed that all the members of the fraternity should meet at the royal palace on the feast of St. Louis, should attend the king to chapel, should hear mass, and should subsequently hold their great annual assembly. There is a considerable resemblance between this rule of the order of St. Louis and the rule which Fabius and Decius made respecting the Roman knights. It was ordained that a grand muster and inspection of the equestrian body should be part of the ceremonial performed, on the anniversary of the battle of Regillus, in honor of Castor and Pollux, the two equestrian gods. All the knights, clad in purple and crowned with olive, were to meet at a temple of Mars in the suburbs. Thence they were to ride in state to the Forum, where the temple of the Twins stood. This pageant was, during several centuries, considered as one of the most splendid sights of Rome. In the time of Dionysius the cavalcade sometimes consisted of five thousand horsemen, all persons of fair repute and easy fortune.

There can be no doubt that the Censors who instituted this august ceremony acted in concert with the Pontiffs to whom, by the constitution of Rome, the superintendence of the public worship belonged; and it is probable that those high religious functionaries were, as usual, fortunate enough to find in their books or traditions some warrant for the innovation.

The following poem is supposed to have been made for this great occasion. Songs, we know, were chanted at religious festivals of Rome from an early period, indeed from so early a period that some of the sacred verses were popularly ascribed to Numa, and were utterly unintelligible in the age of Augustus. In the Second Punic War a great feast was held in honor of Juno, and a song was sung in her praise. This song was extant when Livy wrote; and, though exceedingly rugged and uncouth, seemed to him not wholly destitute of merit. A song, as we learn from Horace, was part of the established ritual at the great Secular Jubilee. It is therefore likely that the Censors and Pontiffs, when they had resolved to add a grand procession of knights to the other solemnities annually performed on the Ides of Quintilis, would call in the aid of a poet. Such a poet would naturally take for his subject the battle of Regillus, the appearance of the Twin Gods, and the institution of their festival. He would find abundant materials in the ballads of his predecessors; and he would make free use of the scanty stock of Greek learning which he had himself acquired. He would probably introduce some wise and holy Pontiff enjoining the magnificent ceremonial which, after a long interval, had at length been adopted. If the poem succeeded, many persons would commit it to memory. Parts of it would be sung to the pipe at banquets. It would be peculiarly interesting to the great Posthumian House, which numbered among its many images that of the Dictator Aulus, the hero of Regillus. The orator who, in the following generation, pronounced the funeral panegyric over the remains of Lucius Posthumius Megellus, thrice Consul, would borrow largely from the lay; and thus some passages, much disfigured, would probably find their way into the chronicles which were afterwards in the hands of Dionysius and Livy.

Antiquaries differ widely as to the situation of the field of battle. The opinion of those who suppose that the armies met near Cornufelle, between Frascati and the Monte Porzio, is at least plausible, and has been followed in the poem.

As to the details of the battle, it has not been thought desirable to adhere minutely to the accounts which have come down to us. Those accounts, indeed, differ widely from each other, and, in all probability, differ as widely from the ancient poem from which they were originally derived.

It is unnecessary to point out the obvious imitations of the Iliad, which have been purposely introduced.

                      The Battle of the Lake Regillus
A Lay Sung at the Feast of Castor and Pollux on the Ides of
Quintilis in the year of the City CCCCLI.
     Ho, trumpets, sound a war-note!
          Ho, lictors, clear the way!
     The Knights will ride, in all their pride,
          Along the streets to-day.
     To-day the doors and windows
          Are hung with garlands all,
     From Castor in the Forum,
          To Mars without the wall.
     Each Knight is robed in purple,
          With olive each is crowned;
     A gallant war-horse under each
          Paws haughtily the ground.
     While flows the Yellow River,
          While stands the Sacred Hill,
     The proud Ides of Quintilis
          Shall have such honor still.
     Gay are the Martian Kalends,
          December's Nones are gay,
     But the proud Ides, when the squadron rides,
          Shall be Rome's whitest day.
     Unto the Great Twin Brethren
          We keep this solemn feast.
     Swift, swift, the Great Twin Brethren
          Came spurring from the east.
     They came o'er wild Parthenius
          Tossing in waves of pine,
     O'er Cirrha's dome, o'er Adria's foam,
          O'er purple Apennine,
     From where with flutes and dances
          Their ancient mansion rings,
     In lordly Lacedæmon,
          The City of two kings,
     To where, by Lake Regillus,
          Under the Porcian height,
     All in the lands of Tusculum,
          Was fought the glorious fight.
     Now on the place of slaughter
          Are cots and sheepfolds seen,
     And rows of vines, and fields of wheat,
          And apple-orchards green;
     The swine crush the big acorns
          That fall from Corne's oaks.
     Upon the turf by the Fair Fount
          The reaper's pottage smokes.
     The fisher baits his angle;
          The hunter twangs his bow;
     Little they think on those strong limbs
          That moulder deep below.
     Little they think how sternly
          That day the trumpets pealed;
     How in the slippery swamp of blood
          Warrior and war-horse reeled;
     How wolves came with fierce gallops,
          And crows on eager wings,
     To tear the flesh of captains,
          And peck the eyes of kings;
     How thick the dead lay scattered
          Under the Porcian height;
     How through the gates of Tusculum
          Raved the wild stream of flight;
     And how the Lake Regillus
          Bubbled with crimson foam,
     What time the Thirty Cities
          Came forth to war with Rome.
     But Roman, when thou standest
          Upon that holy ground,
     Look thou with heed on the dark rock
          That girds the dark lake round.
     So shalt thou see a hoof-mark
          Stamped deep into the flint:
     It was not hoof of mortal steed
          That made so strange a dint:
     There to the Great Twin Brethren
          Vow thou thy vows, and pray
     That they, in tempest and in flight,
          Will keep thy head alway.
     Since last the Great Twin Brethren
          Of mortal eyes were seen,
     Have years gone by an hundred
          And fourscore and thirteen.
     That summer a Virginius
          Was Consul first in place;
     The second was stout Aulus,
          Of the Posthumian race.
     The Herald of the Latines
          From Gabii came in state:
     The Herald of the Latines
          Passed through Rome's Eastern Gate:
     The Herald of the Latines
          Did in our Forum stand;
     And there he did his office,
          A sceptre in his hand.
     "Hear, Senators and people
          Of the good town of Rome,
     The Thirty Cities charge you
          To bring the Tarquins home:
     And if ye still be stubborn
          To work the Tarquins wrong,
     The Thirty Cities warn you,
          Look your walls be strong."
     Then spake the Consul Aulus,
          He spake a bitter jest:
     "Once the jays sent a message
          Unto the eagle's nest:—
     Now yield thou up thine eyrie
          Unto the carrion-kite,
     Or come forth valiantly, and face
          The jays in deadly fight.—
     Forth looked in wrath the eagle;
          And carrion-kite and jay,
     Soon as they saw his beak and claw,
          Fled screaming far away."
     The Herald of the Latines
          Hath hied him back in state:
     The Fathers of the City
          Are met in high debate.
     Then spake the elder Consul,
          And ancient man and wise:
     "Now harken, Conscript Fathers,
          To that which I advise.
     In seasons of great peril
          'Tis good that one bear sway;
     Then choose we a Dictator,
          Whom all men shall obey.
     Camerium knows how deeply
          The sword of Aulus bites,
     And all our city calls him
          The man of seventy fights.
     Then let him be Dictator
          For six months and no more,
     And have a Master of the Knights,
          And axes twenty-four."
     So Aulus was Dictator,
          The man of seventy fights;
     He made Æbutius Elva
          His Master of the Knights.
     On the third morn thereafter,
          At downing of the day,
     Did Aulus and Æbutius
          Set forth with their array.
     Sempronius Atratinus
          Was left in charge at home
     With boys, and with gray-headed men,
          To keep the walls of Rome.
     Hard by the Lake Regillus
          Our camp was pitched at night:
     Eastward a mile the Latines lay,
          Under the Porcian height.
     Far over hill and valley
          Their mighty host was spread;
     And with their thousand watch-fires
          The midnight sky was red.
     Up rose the golden morning
          Over the Porcian height,
     The proud Ides of Quintilis
          Marked evermore in white.
     Not without secret trouble
          Our bravest saw the foe;
     For girt by threescore thousand spears,
          The thirty standards rose.
     From every warlike city
          That boasts the Latian name,
     Fordoomed to dogs and vultures,
          That gallant army came;
     From Setia's purple vineyards,
          From Norba's ancient wall,
     From the white streets of Tusculum,
          The proudust town of all;
     From where the Witch's Fortress
          O'er hangs the dark-blue seas;
     From the still glassy lake that sleeps
          Beneath Aricia's trees—
     Those trees in whose dim shadow
          The ghastly priest doth reign,
     The priest who slew the slayer,
          And shall himself be slain;
     From the drear banks of Ufens,
          Where flights of marsh-fowl play,
     And buffaloes lie wallowing
          Through the hot summer's day;
     From the gigantic watch-towers,
          No work of earthly men,
     Whence Cora's sentinels o'erlook
          The never-ending fen;
     From the Laurentian jungle,
          The wild hog's reedy home;
     From the green steeps whence Anio leaps
          In floods of snow-white foam.
     Aricia, Cora, Norba,
          Velitræ, with the might
     Of Setia and of Tusculum,
          Were marshalled on the right:
     The leader was Mamilius,
          Prince of the Latian name;
     Upon his head a helmet
          Of red gold shone like flame:
     High on a gallant charger
          Of dark-gray hue he rode;
     Over his gilded armor
          A vest of purple flowed,
     Woven in the land of sunrise
          By Syria's dark-browed daughters,
     And by the sails of Carthage brought
          Far o'er the southern waters.
     Lavinium and Laurentum
          Had on the left their post,
     With all the banners of the marsh,
          And banners of the coast.
     Their leader was false Sextus,
          That wrought the deed of shame:
     With restless pace and haggard face
          To his last field he came.
     Men said he saw strange visions
          Which none beside might see;
     And that strange sounds were in his ears
          Which none might hear but he.
     A woman fair and stately,
          But pale as are the dead,
     Oft through the watches of the night
          Sat spinning by his bed.
     And as she plied the distaff,
          In a sweet voice and low,
     She sang of great old houses,
          And fights fought long ago.
     So spun she, and so sang she,
          Until the east was gray.
     Then pointed to her bleeding breast,
          And shrieked, and fled away.
     But in the centre thickest
          Were ranged the shields of foes,
     And from the centre loudest
          The cry of battle rose.
     There Tibur marched and Pedum
          Beneath proud Tarquin's rule,
     And Ferentinum of the rock,
          And Gabii of the pool.
     There rode the Volscian succors:
          There, in the dark stern ring,
     The Roman exiles gathered close
          Around the ancient king.
     Though white as Mount Soracte,
          When winter nights are long,
     His beard flowed down o'er mail and belt,
          His heart and hand were strong:
     Under his hoary eyebrows
          Still flashed forth quenchless rage:
     And, if the lance shook in his gripe,
          'Twas more with hate than age.
     Close at his side was Titus
          On an Apulian steed,
     Titus, the youngest Tarquin,
          Too good for such a breed.
     Now on each side the leaders
          Gave signal for the charge;
     And on each side the footmen
          Strode on with lance and targe;
     And on each side the horsemen
          Struck their spurs deep in gore,
     And front to front the armies
          Met with a mighty roar:
     And under that great battle
          The earth with blood was red;
     And, like the Pomptine fog at morn,
          The dust hung overhead;
     And louder still and louder
          Rose from the darkened field
     The braying of the war-horns,
          The clang of sword and shield,
     The rush of squadrons sweeping
          Like whirlwinds o'er the plain,
     The shouting of the slayers,
          And screeching of the slain.
     False Sextus rode out foremost,
          His look was high and bold;
     His corslet was of bison's hide,
          Plated with steel and gold.
     As glares the famished eagle
          From the Digentian rock
     On a choice lamb that bounds alone
          Before Bandusia's flock,
     Herminius glared on Sextus,
          And came with eagle speed,
     Herminius on black Auster,
          Brave champion on brave steed;
     In his right hand the broadsword
          That kept the bridge so well,
     And on his helm the crown he won
          When proud Fidenæ fell.
     Woe to the maid whose lover
          Shall cross his path to-day!
     False Sextus saw, and trembled,
          And turned, and fled away.
     As turns, as flies, the woodman
          In the Calabrian brake,
     When through the reeds gleams the round eye
          Of that fell speckled snake;
     So turned, so fled, false Sextus,
          And hid him in the rear,
     Behind the dark Lavinian ranks,
          Bristling with crest and spear.
     But far to the north Æbutius,
          The Master of the Knights,
     Gave Tubero of Norba
          To feed the Porcian kites.
     Next under those red horse-hoofs
          Flaccus of Setia lay;
     Better had he been pruning
          Among his elms that day.
     Mamilus saw the slaughter,
          And tossed his golden crest,
     And towards the Master of the Knights
          Through the thick battle pressed.
     Æbutius smote Mamilius
          So fiercely on the shield
     That the great lord of Tusculum
          Well-nigh rolled on the field.
     Mamilius smote Æbutius,
          With a good aim and true,
     Just where the next and shoulder join,
          And pierced him through and through;
     And brave Æbutius Elva
          Fell swooning to the ground:
     But a thick wall of bucklers
          Encompassed him around.
     His clients from the battle
          Bare him some little space,
     And filled a helm from the dark lake,
          And bathed his brow and face;
     And when at last he opened
          His swimming eyes to light,
     Men say, the earliest words he spake
          Was, "Friends, how goes the fight?".
     But meanwhile in the centre
          Great deeds of arms were wrought;
     There Aulus the Dictator
          And there Valerius fought.
     Aulus with his good broadsword
          A bloody passage cleared
     To where, amidst the thickest foes,
          He saw the long white beard.
     Flat lighted that good broadsword
          Upon proud Tarquin's head.
     He dropped the lance: he dropped the reins:
          He fell as fall the dead.
     Down Aulus springs to slay him,
          With eyes like coals of fire;
     But faster Titus hath sprung down,
          And hath bestrode his sire.
     Latian captains, Roman knights,
          Fast down to earth they spring,
     And hand to hand they fight on foot
          Around the ancient king.
     First Titus gave tall Cæso
          A death wound in the face;
     Tall Cæso was the bravest man
          Of the brave Fabian race:
     Aulus slew Rex of Gabii,
          The priest of Juno's shrine;
     Valerius smote down Julius,
          Of Rome's great Julian line;
     Julius, who left his mansion,
          High on the Velian hill,
     And through all turns of weal and woe
          Followed proud Tarquin still.
     Now right across proud Tarquin
          A corpse was Julius laid;
     And Titus groaned with rage and grief,
          And at Valerius made.
     Valerius struck at Titus,
          And lopped off half his crest;
     But Titus stabbed Valerius
          A span deep in the breast.
     Like a mast snapped by the tempest,
          Valerius reeled and fell.
     Ah! woe is me for the good house
          That loves the people well!
     Then shouted loud the Latines;
          And with one rush they bore
     The struggling Romans backward
          Three lances' length and more:
     And up they took proud Tarquin,
          And laid him on a shield,
     And four strong yeomen bare him,
          Still senseless, from the field.
     But fiercer grew the fighting
          Around Valerius dead;
     For Titus dragged him by the foot
          And Aulus by the head.
     "On, Latines, on!" quoth Titus,
          "See how the rebels fly!"
     "Romans, stand firm!" quoth Aulus,
          "And win this fight or die!
     They must not give Valerius
          To raven and to kite;
     For aye Valerius loathed the wrong,
          And aye upheld the right:
     And for your wives and babies
          In the front rank he fell.
     Now play the men for the good house
          That loves the people well!"
     Then tenfold round the body
          The roar of battle rose,
     Like the roar of a burning forest,
          When a strong north wind blows,
     Now backward, and now forward,
          Rocked furiously the fray,
     Till none could see Valerius,
          And none wist where he lay.
     For shivered arms and ensigns
          Were heaped there in a mound,
     And corpses stiff, and dying men
          That writhed and gnawed the ground;
     And wounded horses kicking,
          And snorting purple foam:
     Right well did such a couch befit
          A Consular of Rome.
     But north looked the Dictator;
          North looked he long and hard,
     And spake to Caius Cossus,
          The Captain of his Guard;
     "Caius, of all the Romans
          Thou hast the keenest sight,
     Say, what through yonder storm of dust
          Comes from the Latian right;"
     Then answered Caius Cossus:
          "I see an evil sight;
     The banner of proud Tusculum
          Comes from the Latian right;
     I see the pluméd horsemen;
          And far before the rest
     I see the dark-gray charger,
          I see the purple vest;
     I see the golden helmet
          That shines far off like flame;
     So ever rides Mamilius,
          Prince of the Latian name."
     "Now hearken, Caius Cossus:
          Spring on thy horse's back;
     Ride as the wolves of Apennine
          Were all upon thy track;
     Haste to our southward battle:
          And never draw thy rein
     Until thou find Herminius,
          And bid hime come amain."
     So Aulus spake, and turned him
          Again to that fierce strife;
     And Caius Cossus mounted,
          And rode for death and life.
     Loud clanged beneath his horse-hoofs
          The helmets of the dead,
     And many a curdling pool of blood
          Splashed him heel to head.
     So came he far to southward,
          Where fought the Roman host,
     Against the banners of the marsh
          And banners of the coast.
     Like corn before the sickle
          The stout Laninians fell,
     Beneath the edge of the true sword
          That kept the bridge so well.
     "Herminius! Aulus greets thee;
          He bids thee come with speed,
     To help our central battle,
          For sore is there our need;
     There wars the youngest Tarquin,
          And there the Crest of Flame,
     The Tusculan Mamilius,
          Prince of the Latian name.
     Valerius hath fallen fighting
          In front of our array;
     And Aulus of the seventy fields
          Alone upholds the day."
     Herminius beat his bosom:
          But never a word he spake.
     He clapped his hand on Auster's mane,
          He gave the reins a shake.
     Away, away, went Auster,
          Like an arrow from the bow:
     Black Auster was the fleetest steed
          From Aufidus to Po.
     Right glad were all the Romans
          Who, in that hour of dread,
     Against great odds bare up the war
          Around Valerius dead,
     When from the south the cheering
          Rose with a mighty swell;
     "Herminius comes, Herminius,
          Who kept the bridge so well!"
     Mamilius spied Herminius,
          And dashed across the way.
     "Herminius! I have sought thee
          Through many a bloody day.
     One of us two, Herminius,
          Shall never more go home.
     I will lay on for Tusculum,
          And lay thou on for Rome!"
     All round them paused the battle,
          While met in mortal fray
     The Roman and the Tusculan,
          The horses black and gray.
     Herminius smote Mamilius
          Through breast-plate and through breast,
     And fast flowed out the purple blood
          Over the purple vest.
     Mamilius smote Herminius
          Through head-piece and through head,
     And side by side those chiefs of pride,
          Together fell down dead.
     Down fell they dead together
          In a great lake of gore;
     And still stood all who saw them fall
          While men might count a score.
     Fast, fast, with heels wild spurning,
          The dark-gray charger fled:
     He burst through ranks of fighting men,
          He sprang o'er heaps of dead.
     His bridle far out-streaming,
          His flanks all blood and foam,
     He sought the southern mountains,
          The mountains of his home.
     The pass was steep and rugged,
          The wolves they howled and whined;
     But he ran like a whirlwind up the pass,
          And he left the wolves behind.
     Through many a startled hamlet
          Thundered his flying feet;
     He rushed through the gate of Tusculum,
          He rushed up the long white street;
     He rushed by tower and temple,
          And paused not from his race
     Till he stood before his master's door
          In the stately market-place.
     And straightway round him gathered
          A pale and trembling crowd,
     And when they knew him, cries of rage
          Brake forth, and wailing loud:
     And women rent their tresses
          For their great prince's fall;
     And old men girt on their old swords,
          And went to man the wall.
     But, like a graven image,
          Black Auster kept his place,
     And ever wistfully he looked
          Into his master's face.
     The raven-mane that daily,
          With pats and fond caresses,
     The young Herminia washed and combed,
          And twined in even tresses,
     And decked with colored ribbons
          From her own gay attire,
     Hung sadly o'er her father's corpse
          In carnage and in mire.
     Forth with a shout sprang Titus,
          And seized black Auster's rein.
     Then Aulus sware a fearful oath,
          And ran at him amain.
     "The furies of thy brother
          With me and mine abide,
     If one of your accursed house
          Upon black Auster ride!"
     As on a Alpine watch-tower
          From heaven comes down the flame,
     Full on the neck of Titus
          The blade of Aulus came:
     And out the red blood spouted,
          In a wide arch and tall,
     As spouts a fountain in the court
          Of some rich Capuan's hall.
     The knees of all the Latines
          Were loosened with dismay,
     When dead, on dead Herminius,
          The bravest Tarquin lay.
     And Aulus the Dictator
          Stroked Auster's raven mane,
     With heed he looked unto the girths,
          With heed unto the rein.
     "Now bear me well, black Auster,
          Into yon thick array;
     And thou and I will have revenge
          For thy good lord this day."
     So spake he; and was buckling
          Tighter black Auster's band,
     When he was aware of a princely pair
          That rode at his right hand.
     So like they were, no mortal
          Might one from other know:
     White as snow their armor was:
          Their steeds were white as snow.
     Never on earthly anvil
          Did such rare armor gleam;
     And never did such gallant steeds
          Drink of an earthly stream.
     And all who saw them trembled,
          And pale grew every cheek;
     And Aulus the Dictator
          Scarce gathered voice to speak.
     "Say by what name men call you?
          What city is your home?
     And wherefore ride ye in such guise
          Before the ranks of Rome?"
     "By many names men call us;
          In many lands we dwell:
     Well Samothracia knows us;
          Cyrene knows us well.
     Our house in gay Tarentum
          Is hung each morn with flowers:
     High o'er the masts of Syracuse
          Our marble portal towers;
     But by the proud Eurotas
          Is our dear native home;
     And for the right we come to fight
          Before the ranks of Rome."
     So answered those strange horsemen,
          And each couched low his spear;
     And forthwith all the ranks of Rome
          Were bold, and of good cheer:
     And on the thirty armies
          Came wonder and affright,
     And Ardea wavered on the left,
          And Cora on the right.
     "Rome to the charge!" cried Aulus;
          "The foe begins to yield!
     Charge for the hearth of Vesta!
          Charge for the Golden Shield!
     Let no man stop to plunder,
          But slay, and slay, and slay;
     The gods who live forever
          Are on our side to-day."
     Then the fierce trumpet-flourish
          From earth to heaven arose,
     The kites know well the long stern swell
          That bids the Romans close.
     Then the good sword of Aulus
          Was lifted up to slay;
     Then, like a crag down Apennine,
          Rushed Auster through the fray.
     But under those strange horsemen
          Still thicker lay the slain;
     And after those strange horses
          Black Auster toiled in vain.
     Behind them Rome's long battle
          Came rolling on the foe,
     Ensigns dancing wild above,
          Blades all in line below.
     So comes the Po in flood-time
          Upon the Celtic plain;
     So comes the squall, blacker than night,
          Upon the Adrian main.
     Now, by our Sire Quirinus,
          It was a goodly sight
     To see the thirty standards
          Swept down the tide of flight.
     So flies the spray of Adria
          When the black squall doth blow
     So corn-sheaves in the flood-time
          Spin down the whirling Po.
     False Sextus to the mountains
          Turned first his horse's head;
     And fast fled Ferentinum,
          And fast Lanuvium fled.
     The horsemen of Nomentus
          Spurred hard out of the fray;
     The footmen of Velitræ
          Threw shield and spear away.
     And underfoot was trampled,
          Amidst the mud and gore,
     The banner of proud Tusculum,
          That never stooped before:
     And down went Flavius Faustus,
          Who led his stately ranks
     From where the apple blossoms wave
          On Anio's echoing banks,
     And Tullus of Arpinum,
          Chief of the Volscian aids,
     And Metius with the long fair curls,
          The love of Anxur's maids,
     And the white head of Vulso,
          The great Arician seer,
     And Nepos of Laurentum
          The hunter of the deer;
     And in the back false Sextus
          Felt the good Roman steel,
     And wriggling in the dust he died,
          Like a worm beneath the wheel:
     And fliers and pursuers
          Were mingled in a mass;
     And far away the battle
          Went roaring through the pass.
     Semponius Atratinus
          Sat in the Eastern Gate,
     Beside him were three Fathers,
          Each in his chair of state;
     Fabius, whose nine stout grandsons
          That day were in the field,
     And Manlius, eldest of the Twelve
          Who keep the Golden Shield;
     And Sergius, the High Pontiff,
          For wisdom far renowned;
     In all Etruria's colleges
          Was no such Pontiff found.
     And all around the portal,
          And high above the wall,
     Stood a great throng of people,
          But sad and silent all;
     Young lads and stooping elders
          That might not bear the mail,
     Matrons with lips that quivered,
          And maids with faces pale.
     Since the first gleam of daylight,
          Sempronius had not ceased
     To listen for the rushing
          Of horse-hoofs from the east.
     The mist of eve was rising,
          The sun was hastening down,
     When he was aware of a princely pair
          Fast pricking towards the town.
     So like they were, man never
          Saw twins so like before;
     Red with gore their armor was,
          Their steeds were red with gore.
     "Hail to the great Asylum!
          Hail to the hill-tops seven!
     Hail to the fire that burns for aye,
          And the shield that fell from heaven!
     This day, by Lake Regillus,
          Under the Porcian height,
     All in the lands of Tusculum
          Was fought a glorious fight.
     Tomorrow your Dictator
          Shall bring in triumph home
     The spoils of thirty cities
          To deck the shrines of Rome!"
     Then burst from that great concourse
          A shout that shook the towers,
     And some ran north, and some ran south,
          Crying, "The day is ours!"
     But on rode these strange horsemen,
          With slow and lordly pace;
     And none who saw their bearing
          Durst ask their name or race.
     On rode they to the Forum,
          While laurel-boughs and flowers,
     From house-tops and from windows,
          Fell on their crests in showers.
     When they drew nigh to Vesta,
          They vaulted down amain,
     And washed their horses in the well
          That springs by Vesta's fane.
     And straight again they mounted,
          And rode to Vesta's door;
     Then, like a blast, away they passed,
          And no man saw them more.
     And all the people trembled,
          And pale grew every cheek;
     And Sergius the High Pontiff
          Alone found voice to speak:
     "The gods who live forever
          Have fought for Rome to-day!
     These be the Great Twin Brethren
          To whom the Dorians pray.
     Back comes the chief in triumph,
          Who, in the hour of fight,
     Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
          In harness on his right.
     Safe comes the ship to haven,
          Through billows and through gales,
     If once the Great Twin Brethren
          Sit shining on the sails.
     Wherefore they washed their horses
          In Vesta's holy well,
     Wherefore they rode to Vesta's door,
          I know, but may not tell.
     Here, hard by Vesta's temple,
          Build we a stately dome
     Unto the Great Twin Brethren
          Who fought so well for Rome.
     And when the months returning
          Bring back this day of fight,
     The proud Ides of Quintilis,
          Marked evermore with white,
     Unto the Great Twin Brethren
          Let all the people throng,
     With chaplets and with offerings,
          With music and with song;
     And let the doors and windows
          Be hung with garlands all,
     And let the knights be summoned
          To Mars without the wall:
     Thence let them ride in purple
          With joyous trumpet-sound,
     Each mounted on his war-horse,
          And each with olive crowned;
     And pass in solemn order
          Before the sacred dome,
     Where dwell the Great Twin Brethren
          Who fought so well for Rome."