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shrank, like boys who unaware, ranging the woods to start a hare, come to the mouth of the dark lair, where, growling low, a fierce old bear lies amidst bones and blood.
Was none who would be foremost to lead such dire attack; but those behind cried “ Forward !” and those before cried “ Back !” And backward now and forward wavers the deep array; and, on the tossing sea of steel, to and fro the standards reel; and the victorious trumpet-peal dies fitfully away.
But meanwhile axe and lever have manfully been plied ; and now the bridge hangs tottering above the boiling tide. “Come back, come back, Horatius!" loud cried the Fathers all. “Back, Lartius! back, Herminius! back, ere the ruin falli" Back darted Spurius Lartius; Herminius darted back: and, as they passed, beneath their feet they felt the timbers craek. But when they turned their faces, and on the farther shore saw brave Horatius stand alone, they would have crossed once more. But with a crash like thunder fell every loosened beam, and, like a dam, the mighty wreck lay right athwart the stream: and a long shout of triumph rose from the walls of Rome, as to the highest turret-tops was splashed the yellow foam. And, like a horse unbroken when first he feels the rein, the furious river struggled hard, and tossed his tawny mane, and burst the curb, and bounded, rejoicing to be free; and whirling down, in fierce career, battlement, and plank, and pier, rushed headlong to the sea.
Alone stood brave Horatius, but constant still in mind; thrice thirty thousand foes before and the broad flood behind. “Down with him !” cried false Sextus, with a smile on his pale face: “Now yield thee,” cried Lars Porsena, “now yield thee to our grace.” Round turned he, as not deigning those craven ranks to see; not spake he to_Lars Porsena, to Sextus nought spoke he: but he saw on Palatinus the white porch of his home; and he spake to the noble river that rolls by the towers of Rome. Oh, Tiber! father Tiber! to whom the Romans pray; a Roman's life, a Roman's arms, take thou in charge this day!" So he spake, and speaking sheathed the good sword by his side, and, with his harness on his back, plunged headlong in the tide.
No sound of joy or sorrow was heard from either bank; but friends and foes in dumb surprise, with parted lips and straining eyes, stood gazing where he sank; and when above the surges they saw his crest appear, all Rome sent forth a rapturous cry; and even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer. But fiercely ran the current, swollen high by months of rain: and fast his blood was flowing, and he was sore in pain, and heavy with his armour, and spent with changing blows: and oft they thought him sinking, but still again he rose. Never, I ween, did swimmer, in such an evil case, struggle through such a raging flood safe to the landing place : but his limbs
were borne up bravely by the brave heart within, and our good father Tiber bare bravely up his chin.
Curse on him !" quoth false Sextus; “will not the villain drown? But for this stay, ere close of day we should have sacked the town!” “Heaven help him!" quoth Lars Porsena, "and bring him safe to shore; for such a gallant feat of arms was never seen before.” And now he feels the bottom; now on dry earth he stands; now round him throng the Fathers to press his gory hands; and now with shouts and clapping, and noise of weeping loud, he enters through the river-gate, borne by the joyous crowd.
XXXVIII.—THE SKYLARK.—Shelley. Hail to thee, blithe spirit ! bird thou never wert; that, from heaven, or near it, pourest thy full heart in profuse strains of unpremeditated art. Higher still and higher from the earth thou springest, like a cloud of fire; the blue deep thou wingest, and singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest. In the golden lightening of the sunken sun, o'er which clouds are brightening, thou dost float and run, like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun. The pale purple Even melts around thy flight; like a star of heaven in the broad daylight, thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight. Keen as are the arrows of that silver sphere, whose intense lamp narrows in the white dawn clear, until we hardly see, we feel that it is there. All the earth and air with thy voice is loud; as, when night is bare, from one lonely cloud the moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art, we know not;—what is most like thee?From rainbow-clouds there flow not drops so bright to see, as from thy presence showers a rain of melody!— Like a poet hidden in the light of thought, singing hymns unbidden, till the world is wrought to sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not. Like a high-born maiden in a palace tower, soothing her love-laden soul in secret hour, with music, sweet as love, which overflows her bower. Like a glow-worm golden in a dell of dew, scattering unbeholden its aërial hue among
the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view. Like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, by warm Winds deflowered, till the scent it gives makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves. Sound of vernal showers on the twinkling grass, rain-awakened flowers, all that ever was joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass !
Teach us, sprite or bird, what sweet thoughts are thine: I have never heard praise of love or wine that panted forth a flood of rapture so divine. Chorus hymeneal, or triumphal chant, matched with thine would be all but an empty vaunta thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want. -What objects are the fountains of thy happy strain ? what fields, or waves, or mountains ? what shapes of sky or plain? what love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain ? With thy clear keen joyance languor cannot be: shadow of annoyance never came near thee: thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety. Waking or asleep, thou of death must deem things more true and deep than we mortals dream; or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream ?
We look before and after, and pine for what is not: our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught; our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. Yet, if we could scorn hate, and pride, and fear; if we were things born not to shed a tear; I know not how thy joys we ever should come near. Better than all measures of delightful sound, better than all treasures that in books are found, thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground! Teach me half the gladness that thy brain must know; such harmonious madness from my lips would flow, the world should listen then, as I am listening now.
XXXIX. - HYMN OF THE MORAVIAN NUNS, ON CONSECRATING
PULASKI'S BANNER. —Longfellow. WHEN the dying flame of day through the chancel shot its ray, far the glimmering tapers shed faint light on the cowled head; and the censer burning swung, where before the altar hung that proud banner, which with prayer had been consecrated there. And the Nuns' sweet hymn was heard the while, sung low in the dim, mysterious aisle :
" Take thy banner !--may it wave proudly o'er the good and brave; when the battle's distant wail breaks the Sabbath of our vale,-when the clarion's music thrills to the hearts of these lone hills,—when the spear in conflict shakes, and the strong lance shivering breaks ! Take thy banner!—and beneath the war-clouds' encircling wreath guard it-till our homes are free ;-guard it—God will prosper thee! In the dark and trying hour, in the breaking forth of power, in the rush of steeds and men, His right hand will shield thee then. Take thy banner !—But when night closes round the ghastly fight, if the vanquished warrior bow, spare him! By our holy vow, by our prayers and many tears, by the mercy that endears, spare him—he our love hath shared! spare him—as thou wouldst be spared! Take thy banner!-and if e'er thou shouldst
press the soldier's bier, and the muffled drum should beat to the tread of mournful feet, then this crimson flag shall be martial cloak and shroud for thee!"
And the warrior took that banner proud-and it was his martial cloak and shroud!
XL.---THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS.-Hood. ONE more unfortunate, weary of breath, rashly importunate, gone to her death! Take her up tenderly-lift her with care: fashioned so slenderly, young, and so fair! Look at her garments, clinging like cerements; whilst the wave constantly drips from her clothing: take her up instantly, loving, not loathing. Touch her not scornfully, think of her mournfully, gently and humanly; not of the stains of her:-all that remains of her now is pure womanly. Make no deep scrutiny into her mutiny, rash and undutiful : past all dishonour, Death has left on her only the beautiful. Still, for all slips of hers, one of Eve's
family, wipe those poor lips of hers, oozing so clammily. Loop up her tresses escaped from the comb-her fair auburn tresses ! --whilst wonderment guesses, Where was her home? who was her father? who was her mother? had she a sister? had she a brother? or was there a dearer one still, and a nearer one yet than all other? Alas! for the rarity of Christian charity under the sun! Oh! it was pitiful! near a whole city full, home she had none. Sisterly, brotherly, fatherly, motherly feelings had changed: love, by harsh evidence, thrown from its eminence : even God's providence seeming estranged.
Where the lamps quiver so far in the river, with many a light from window and casement, from garret to basement, she stood with amazement, houseless by night. The bleak wind of March made her tremble and shiver; but not the dark arch, or the black-flowing river: mad from life's history, glad to death's mystery; swift to be hurled any where, any where, out of the world! In she plunged boldly, no matter how coldly the rough river ran :-over the brink of it, picture it, think of it, dissolute Man! lave in it, drink of it, then, if you can!
Take her up tenderly, lift her with care: fashioned so slenderly, young and so fair! Ere her limbs frigidly stiffen too rigidly, decently, kindly, smooth and compose them; and her eyes—close them, staring so blindly! Dreadfully staring, through muddy impurity; as when with the daring last look of despairing fixed on futurity. Perishing gloomily; spurred by contumely, cold inhumanity, burning insanity, into her rest.-Cross her hands humbly, as if praying dumbly, over her breast; owning her weakness, her evil behaviour—and leaving, with meekness, her sins to her Saviour!
XLI.—THE DEATH OF ARTHUR. —Tennyson, So all day long the noise of battle rolled among the mountains by the winter sea; until King Arthur's table, man by man, had fallen in Lyonness about their lord, King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep, the bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, (Sir Bedivere the last of all his knights,) and bore him to a chapel nigh the field—a broken chancel with a broken cross, that stood on a dark strait of barren land: on one side lay the ocean, and on one lay a great water; and the moon was full. Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere :-" The sequel of to-day unsolders all the goodliest fellowship of famous knights whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep they sleep—the men I loved. I think that we shall never more, at any future time, delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, walking about the gardens and the halls of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made,though Merlin sware that I should come again to rule once more; but let what will be, be. I am so deeply smitten through the helm, that without help I cannot last till morn. Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur, which was my pride: for thou rememberest how, in those old days, one summer noon, an arm rose up from out the bosom of the lake, clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, holding the sword-and how Irowed across and took it, and have worn it, like a king: and wheresoever I am sung or told in after time, this also shall be known, but now delay not; take Excalibur, and fling him far into the middle meer: watch what thou seest and lightly bring meword.”
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere :-“It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus, aidless, alone, and smitten through the helm. A little thing may harm a wounded man.