Lays Of Ancient Rome "In The Brave Days Of Old"

Thomas Babington Macaulay

"In The Brave Days Of Old"

Context: "Horatius at the Bridge" is the best-known poem of the volume, Lays of Ancient Rome. "In the brave days of old," when schoolboys had to learn poems to recite on Friday afternoon, it was a favorite. Following Livy and Dionysius, it recounts the brave exploit of Rome's legendary hero, Horatius Cocles, who, with two companions, held the Sublician Bridge that connected Rome with the west, against the Etruscan army of Lars Porsena, until the rest of the defenders of the city could destroy the bridge. Horatius then swam to safety back across the Tiber River. For reward, he was given as much land as he could plough in one day. The poem is imagined to have been composed about 360 B.C., concerning events that happened 120 years earlier. It begins: "Lars Porsena of Clusium/ By the Nine Gods he swore/ That the ancient house of Tarquin/ Should suffer wrong no more." Horatius, the Captain of the Gate, offers to keep the bridge, and Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius volunteer to fight beside him. Stanzas 31 and 32 set the scene:

"Horatius," quoth the Consul,
"As thou sayest, so let it be."
And straight against that great array
Forth went the dauntless three.
For Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
Nor sons nor wife, nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old.
Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great:
The lands were fairly portioned;
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.