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Poesy

In comments to the Horatius/Trump post SteveF mentions a certain pome with which I was heretofore unfamiliar. So I looked it up and MY, but it’s a dandy, albeit long as an afternoon suffering all the tortures of the dentist’s art. A bit more of it, then.

XXVI
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
    Before the bridge goes down;
And if they once may win the bridge,
    What hope to save the town?’

XXVII
Then out spake brave Horatius,
    The Captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his Gods,

XXVIII
‘And for the tender mother
    Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
    His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
    Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
    That wrought the deed of shame?

XXIX
‘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?’

XXX
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.’

XXXI
‘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 son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
    In the brave days of old.

XXXII
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:
Then lands were fairly portioned;
    Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
    In the brave days of old.

XXXIII
Now Roman is to Roman
    More hateful than a foe,
And the Tribunes beard the high,
    And the Fathers grind the low.
As we wax hot in faction,
    In battle we wax cold:
Wherefore men fight not as they fought
    In the brave days of old.

Rings all too familiar in the modern ear, no? Especially those last two stanzas, which encapsulate the current situation in Amerika v2.0 pretty thoroughly. Proving once again that, in art as in life itself, some things really never DO change, and that the same can truly be said of eternally-immutable human nature—the shitlib conceit of malleable, perfectible Progressivist Man notwithstanding.

Much, much more rich, buttery epic-poetic goodness at the link, incredibly enough, which you should read if you’re inclined in that direction, finally clocking out at an eye-bulging Stanza LXX. Pity the poor shoolkids who had to memorize the entire pome way back in the Aulden Thymes, if Pournelle’s claim is to be believed.

Inside baseball side note: Man. A. LIVE, but what a right royal pain in the ass formatting that was! Thanks to the abject failure of the MarsEdit find-and-replace function to do its ONE FUCKING JOB, replacing all the paragraph HTML tags with line-breaks throughout the above excerpt of the pome by hand was a most arduous task indeed. Necessary though, to keep things all clean, tidy, and looking as they should around here. I swear, the things I do for you people…

Ahem. And now, to get cracking on tomorrow’s Substackery.

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1 thought on “Poesy

  1. I recall reading the poem around the 5-6th grade. I do not recall having read it sense. Thanks to Steve and you for putting it up. It is a good one.

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