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He stalked along the Forum like King Tarquin in his

pride : Twelve axes waited on him, six marching on a side; The townsmen shrank to right and left, and eyed

askance with fear His lowering brow, his curling mouth, which alway

seemed to sneer : That brow of hate, that mouth of scorn, marks all the

kindred still ; For never was there Claudius yet but wished the

Commons ill : Nor lacks he fit attendance; for close behind his

heels, With outstretched chin and crouching pace, the client

Marcus steals, His loins girt up to run with speed, be the errand what And the smile flickering on his cheek, for aught his

lord may say. Just then, as through one cloudless chink in a black

stormy sky Shines out the dewy morning-star, a fair young girl

came by, With her small tablets in her hand, and her satchel on

it may,

her arm,

Home she went bounding from the school, nor dreamed

of shame or harm; And past those dreaded axes she innocently ran, With bright, frank brow that had not learned to blush

at gaze of man; And up

the sacred street she turned, and, as she danced

along, She warbled gaily to herself lines of the good old

song, How for a sport the princes came spurring from the

camp, And found Lucrece, combing the fleece, under the mid

night lamp

The maiden sang as sings the lark, when up he darts

his flight, From his nest in the green April corn, to meet the

morning light; And Appius heard her sweet young voice, and saw her

sweet young face, And loved her with the accursed love of his accursed

race, And all along the Forum, and up

the sacred street, His vulture eye pursued the trip of those small glancing


Over the Alban mountains the light of morning

broke; From all the roofs of the Seven Hills curled the thin

wreaths of smoke : The city gates were opened, the Forum all alive, With buyers and with sellers, was humming like a

hive: Blithely on brass and timber the craftsman's stroke was

ringing, And blithely o'er her panniers the market girl was

singing, And blithely young Virginia came smiling from her

home; Ah! woe for young Virginia, the sweetest maid in

Rome! With her small tablets in her hand, and her satchel on

her arm,

For she went bounding to the school, nor dreamed of

shame or harm. She crossed the Forum shining with stalls in alleys

gay, And just had reached the very spot whereon I stand

this day, When up the varlet Marcus came; not such as when

erewhile He crouched behind his patron's heels with the true

client smile:

He came with lowering forehead, swollen features, and

clenched fist, And strode across Virginia's path, and caught her by

the wrist, Hard strove the frighted maiden, and screamed with

look aghast; And at her scream from right and left the folk came

running fast; The money-changer Crispus, with his thin silver hairs, And Hanno from the stately booth glittering with Punic

wares, And the strong smith, Muræna, grasping a half-forged

brand, And Volero the flesher, his cleaver in his hand, All came in wrath and wonder; for all knew that fair And, as she passed them twice a day, all kissed their

hands and smiled; And the strong smith, Muræna, gave Marcus such a

blow, The caitiff reeled three paces back, and let the maiden

go. Yet ere the varlet Marcus again might seize the



Who clung tight to Murana's skirt, and sobbed, and

shrieked for aid, Forth through the throng of gazers the young Icilius

pressed, And stamped his foot, and rent his gown, and smote


his breast, And sprang upon that column, by many a minstrei

sung, Whereon three mouldering helmets, three rusting

swords are hung, And beckoned to the people, and in bold voice and

clear Poured thick and fast the burning words which tyrants

quake to hear.

“Now, by your children's cradles, now by your father's

graves, Be men to-day, Quirites, or be for ever slaves ! For this did Servius give us laws ? For this did

Lucrece bleed ? For this was the great vengeance wrought on Tarquin's

evil seed ? For this did those false sons make red the axes of their

sire ? For this did Scævola's right hand hiss in the Tuscan

fire ? Shall the vile fox-earth awe the race that stormed the

lion's den? Shall we, who could not brook one lord, crouch to the

wicked Ten? Oh! for that ancient spirit which curbed the Senate's

will; Oh! for the tents which in old time whitened the

Sacred Hill. In those brave days our fathers stood firmly side by

side; They faced the Marcian fury; they tamed the Fabian

pride; They drove the fiercest Quinctius an outcast forth from

Rome; They sent the laughtiest Claudius with shivered fasces

home. But what their care bequeathed us our madness kung

away : All the ripe fruit of threescore years was blighted in a

day. Exult, ye proud Patricians! The hard-fought fight is

o'er. We strove for honours—'twas in vain : for freedom

'tis no more. No crier to the polling summons the eager throng; No tribune breathes the word of might that guards the

weak from wrong.

Our very hearts, that were so high, sink down beneath

your will.

Riches, and lands, and power, and state-ye have them:

-keep them still. Still keep the holy fillets; still keep the purple gown, The axes, and the curule chair, the car and laurel


Still press us for your cohorts, and, when the fight is

done, Still fill your garners from the soil which our good

swords have won. Still, like a spreading ulcer, which leech-craft may not

cure, Let your foul usance eat away the substance of the

poor. Still let your haggard debtors bear all their fathers

bore: Still let your dens of torment be noisome as of yore; No fire when Tiber freezes; no air in dog-star heat; And store of rods for free-born backs, and holes for

free-born feet. Heap heavier still the fetters; bar closer still the

grate; Patient as sheep we yield us up unto your cruel hate. But, by the shades beneath us, and by the gods above, Add not unto your cruel hate your yet more cruel

love! Ilave ye not graceful ladies, whose spotless lineage

springs From consuls, and high pontiffs, and ancient Alban

kings? Ladies, who deign not on our paths to set their tender

feet, Who from their cars look down with scorn upon the

wondering street, Who in Corinthian mirrors, their own proud smiles be

hold, And breathe of Capuan odours, and shine with Spanish


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