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.
I. 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. II. 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 Lacedaemon, 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. III. 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. IV. 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. V. 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. VI. '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.' VII. 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.' VIII. 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.' IX. So Aulus was Dictator, The man of seventy fights; He made Aebutius Elva His Master of the Knights. On the third morn thereafter, At downing of the day, Did Aulus and Aebutius 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. X. 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. XI. Aricia, Cora, Norba, Velitr欠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. XII. 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. XIII. But in the centre thickest Were ranged the shields of foes, And from the centre loudest The cry of batle 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. XIV. 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. XV. 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 Fidenae 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. XVI. But far to the north Aebutius, 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. Aebutius smote Mamilius So fiercely on the shield That the great lord of Tusculum Well-nigh rolled on the field. Mamilius smote Aebutius, With a good aim and true, Just where the next and shoulder join, And pierced him through and through; And brave Aebutius 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?'. XVII. 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 Caeso A death wound in the face; Tall Caeso 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. XVIII. 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!.' XIX. 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. XX. 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;' XXI. Then answered Caius Cossus: 'I see an evil sight; The banner of proud Tusculum Comes from the Latian right; I see the plum餠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.' XXII. '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.' XXIII. 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. XXIV. 'Herminius! Aulus greets thee; He bids thee come with speed, To help our central bettle, 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.' XXV. 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. XXVI. 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!' XXVII. 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! XXVIII. 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. XXIX. 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-streming, 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. XXX. 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. XXXI. 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.' XXXII. 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. XXXIII. 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?' XXXIV. '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.' XXXV. 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.' XXXVI. 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 Velitrae 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. XXXVII. 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. XXXVIII. '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 he spoils of thirty cities To deck the shrines of Rome!' XXXIX. 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. XL. 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.'
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