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than three hundred thousand persons could be seated in the Circus Maximus !
But to return to the Coliseum: we went up under the conduct of a guide upon the walls and terraces, or embankments which supported the ranges of seats. The seats have long since disappeared; and grass overgrows the spots where the pride, and power, and wealth, and beauty of Rome sat down to its barbarous entertainments. What thronging life was here then !--what voices, what greetings, what hurrying footsteps up the staircases of the eighty arches of entrance! And now, as we picked our way carefully through the decayed passages, or cautiously ascended some mouldering flight of steps, or stood by the lonely walls--ourselves silent, and, for a wonder, the guide silent too—there was no sound here but of the bat; and none came from without but the roll of a distant carriage, or the convent bell from the summit of the neighbouring Esquiline.
It is scarcely possible to describe the effect of moonlight upon this ruin. Through a hundred rents in the broken walls, through a hundred lonely arches and blackened passage-ways, it streamed in, pure, bright, soft, lambent, and yet distinct and clear, as if it came there at once to reveal, and cheer, and pity the mighty desolation. But if the Coliseum is a mournful and desolate spectacle as seen from within, without, and especially on the side which is in best preservation, it is glorious. We passed around it; and, as we looked upward, the moon shining through its arches, from the opposite side it appeared as if it were the coronet of the heavens, so vast was it, or like a glorious crown upon the brow of night.
I feel that I do not and can not describe this mighty ruin. I can only say that I came away paralyzed, and as passive as a child. A soldier stretched out his hand for a gratuity, as we passed the guard; and when my companion said I did wrong to give, I told him that I should have given my cloak if the man had asked it. Would you break any spell that worldly feeling or selfish sorrow may have spread over your mind, go and see the Coliseum by moonlight.
The early history of Rome, as recorded by Livy and other Latin writers, was probably compiled from legendary poems that had been transmitted from generation to generation, and often rehearsed at the banquets of the great. The historian Macaulay has aimed at reconstructing some of these poetic legends, which he has given to the world under the title of “ Lays of Ancient Rome.” As a specimen of these beautiful and stirring poems, the “ Story of Horatius” is here given.
It is stated by all the Latin historians, that, a few years after the expulsion of the Tarquins for their despotism and crimes, the neighbouring Etruscans, to which nation they belonged, endeavoured to restore the tyrants to power, and came against Rome with an overwhelming force. The Romans, repulsed at first, fled across a wooden bridge over the Tiber, when the Roman Consul ordered the bridge to be destroyed, to prevent the enemy from entering the city.
The continuation of the legend is supposed to be narrated by one of the Roman minstrels, at a period one hundred years later than the events recorded :
But the Consul's brow was sad,
And the Consul's speech was low, And darkly looked he at the wall,
And darkly at the foe. Their van will be upon us
For Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
In the brave days of old.
Before the bridge goes down;
What hope to save the town?”
Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the state;
And the poor man loved the great;
Then spoils were fairly sold:
In the brave days of old.
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The captain of the gate:
Death cometh soon or late;
Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods!
Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may; I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play. In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three; Now, who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?”
Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
Right glorious to behold,
Of a broad sea of gold.
A peal of warlike glee,
Where stood the dauntless three.
Then out spake Spurius Lartius,
A Ramnian proud was he: "Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,
And keep the bridge with thee.” And out spake strong Herminius,-
Of Titian blood was he: “I will abide on thy left side,
And keep the bridge with thee.” “Horatius,” quoth the Consul,
As thou say'st, so let it be.”
Fort): went the dauntless three.
The three stood calm and silent,
And looked upon the foes,
From all the vanguard rose :
Before that mighty mass ;
To win the narrow pass.
[But the scorn and laughter of the Etruscans were soon changed to wrath and curses, for their chiefs were quickly laid
low in the dust at the feet of the daunt- regained the opposite bank in safety. less three."]
Horatius remained facing the foe until the
last timber had fallen, when, weighed But now no sound of laughter
down with armour as he was, he "plunged Was heard among the foes. A wild and wrathful clamour
headlong in the tide."] From all the vanguard rose.
No sound of joy or sorrow Six spears' length from the entrance
Was heard from either bank; Halted that mighty mass,
But friends and foes, in dumb surprise, And for a space no man came forth
With parted lips and straining eyes, To win the narrow pass.
Stood gazing where he sank:
And when beneath the surges But hark! the cry is Astur:
They saw his crest appear, And lo! the ranks divide,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry, And the great Lord of Luna
And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain : Which none but he can wield.
And fast his blood was flowing;
And he was sore in pain, [The proud Astur advances with a smile
And heavy with his armour, of contempt for the three Romans, and turns a look of scorn upon the flinching And oft they thought him sinking,
And spent with changing blows:
But still again he rose.
Curse on him!” quoth false Sextus,
“Will not the villain drown? And smote with all his might.
But for this stay, ere close of day With shield and blade Horatius
We should have sacked the town!” Right deftly turned the blow.
Heaven help him!” quoth Lars Porsenna, The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh; And bring him safe to shore; It missed his helm, but gashed his thigh : For such a gallant feat of arms The Tuscans raised a joyful cry
Was never seen before." To see the red blood flow.
And now he feels the bottom; He reeled, and on Herminius
Now on dry earth he stands;
Now round hinı throng the fathers,
And now with shouts and clapping,
He enters through the river-gate,
Borne by the joyous crowd Behind the Tuscan's head !
[Then follows an account of the rewards And the great Lord of Luna
which a grateful people bestowed upon the Fell at that deadly stroke,
hero. The minstrel thus concludes the As falls on Mount Alvernus
legend :-) A thunder-smitten oak. Far o'er the crashing forest
When the good man mends his armour, The giant arms lie spread;
And trims his helmet's plume; And the pale augurs, muttering low, When the good wife's shuttle merrily Gaze on the blasted head.
Goes flashing through the loom;
With weeping and with laughter (In the meantime the axes had been Still is the story told, busily plied; and while the bridge was How well Horatius kept the bridge tottering to its fall, Lartius and Herminius In the brave days of old.