Horatius at the Bridge

In doing some reading in preparation for a future presentation I am making, I came across a poem that I had yet the privilege of reading. I had briefly heard the name Horatius, but never knew the background or the story behind the poem.  This poem had a profound impact upon the life of Winston Churchill. In fact, Churchill liked it so much, he committed all 70 stanzas to memory.  I was so moved by it that I have taken the liberty of summarizing the back story below and including a shortened version of the poem found at Brett and Kate McKay’s Art of Manliness.

During the 1830’s, Thomas Babingon Macaulay took a number of mythical Roman tales and wrote them into very memorable poetry ballads referred to as “lays.”  His most popular is the famed “Horatius.”

This ballad recounts the legendary courage of an ancient Roman army officer by the name of Publius Horatius Cocles.  In 5 B.C., Rome rebelled against Etruscan rule and threw out their last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, to form a republic.  However, the king refused to leave and recruited another of the Etruscan rulers, Lars Porsena of Clusium, in order to try to overthrow the new Roman government and re-establish himself as king.

In the battle against the two Etruscan armies, the Romans faced defeat and retreated across the bridge over the Tiber River, the last obstacle separating the Roman army and Rome from the Etruscan takeover.  The poem, in its condensed version, picks up the conclusion of this heroic tale.  (The poem in its entirety can be read here.)

“Horatius”
From Lays of Ancient Rome, 1842
By Thomas Babington Macaulay

To eastward and to westward
Have spread the Tuscan bands,
Nor house, nor fence, nor dovecote
In Crustumerium stands.
Verbenna down to Ostia
Hath wasted all the plain;
Astur hath stormed Janiculum,
And the stout guards are slain.

I wis, in all the Senate
There was no heart so bold
But sore it ached, and fast it beat,
When that ill news was told.
Forthwith up rose the Consul,
Up rose the Fathers all;
In haste they girded up their gowns,
And hied them to the wall.

They held a council, standing
Before the River-gate;
Short time was there, ye well may guess,
For musing or debate.
Out spake the Consul roundly:
“The bridge must straight go down;
For, since Janiculum is lost,
Naught else can save the town.”

Just then a scout came flying,
All wild with haste and fear:
“To arms! to arms! Sir Consul, —
Lars Porsena is here.”
On the low hills to westward
The Consul fixed his eye,
And saw the swarthy storm of dust
Rise fast along the sky.

And nearer fast and nearer
Doth the red whirlwind come;
And louder still and still more loud,
From underneath that rolling cloud,
Is heard the trumpet’s war-note proud,
The trampling, and the hum.
And plainly and more plainly
Now through the gloom appears,
Far to left and far to right,
In broken gleams of dark-blue light,
The long array of helmets bright,
The long array of spears.

Fast by the royal standard,
O’erlooking all the war,
Lars Porsena of Clusium
Sat in his ivory car.
By the right wheel rode Mamilius,
Prince of the Latian name;
And by the left false Sextus,
That wrought the deed of shame.

But when the face of Sextus
Was seen among the foes,
A yell that rent the firmament
From all the town arose.
On the house-tops was no woman
But spat towards him and hissed;
No child but screamed out curses,
And shook its little fist.

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?”

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,

“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?

“Haul 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?”

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 Holds the Bridge

“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.

Now while the Three were tightening
Their harness on their backs,
The Consul was the foremost man
To take in hand an axe:
And Fathers mixed with Commons
Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
And smote upon the planks above,
And loosed the props below.

Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
Right glorious to behold,
Come flashing back the noonday light,
Rank behind rank, like surges bright
Of a broad sea of gold.
Four hundred trumpets sounded
A peal of warlike glee,
As that great host, with measured tread,
And spears advanced, and ensigns spread,
Rolled slowly towards the bridge’s head,
Where stood the dauntless Three.

The Three stood calm and silent,
And looked upon the foes,
And a great shout of laughter
From all the vanguard rose:
And forth three chiefs came spurring
Before that deep array;
To earth they sprang, their swords they drew,
And lifted high their shields, and flew
To win the narrow way;

Aunus from green Tifernum,
Lord of the Hill of Vines;
And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves
Sicken in Ilva’s mines;
And Picus, long to Clusium
Vassal in peace and war,
Who led to fight his Umbrian powers
From that gray crag where, girt with towers,
The fortress of Nequinum lowers
O’er the pale waves of Nar.

Stout Lartius hurled down Aunus
Into the stream beneath;
Herminius struck at Seius,
And clove him to the teeth;
At Picus brave Horatius
Darted one fiery thrust;
And the proud Umbrian’s gilded arms
Clashed in the bloody dust.

Then Ocnus of Falerii
Rushed on the Roman Three;
And Lausulus of Urgo,
The rover of the sea;
And Aruns of Volsinium,
Who slew the great wild boar,
The great wild boar that had his den
Amidst the reeds of Cosa’s fen,
And wasted fields, and slaughtered men,
Along Albinia’s shore.

Herminius smote down Aruns:
Lartius laid Ocnus low:
Right to the heart of Lausulus
Horatius sent a blow.
“Lie there,” he cried, “fell pirate!
No more, aghast and pale,
From Ostia’s walls the crowd shall mark
The track of thy destroying bark.
No more Campania’s hinds shall fly
To woods and caverns when they spy
Thy thrice accursed sail.”

But now no sound of laughter
Was heard among the foes.
A wild and wrathful clamor
From all the vanguard rose.
Six spears’ lengths from the entrance
Halted that deep array,
And for a space no man came forth
To win the narrow way.

But all Etruria’s noblest
Felt their hearts sink to see
On the earth the bloody corpses,
In the path the dauntless Three:
And, from the ghastly entrance
Where those bold Romans stood,
All 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.

Yet one man for one moment
Strode out before the crowd;
Well known was he to all the Three,
And they gave him greeting loud.
“Now welcome, welcome, Sextus!
Now welcome to thy home!
Why dost thou stay, and turn away?
Here lies the road to Rome.”

Thrice looked he at the city;
Thrice looked he at the dead;
And thrice came on in fury,
And thrice turned back in dread:
And, white with fear and hatred,
Scowled at the narrow way
Where, wallowing in a pool of blood,
The bravest Tuscans lay.

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 fall!”

Back darted Spurius Lartius;
Herminius darted back:
And, as they passed, beneath their feet
They felt the timbers crack.
But when they turned their faces,
And on the farther shore
Saw brave Horatius stand alone,
They would have crossed once more.

Horatius at the bridge

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;
Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,
To Sextus nought spake 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 armor,
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.

They gave him of the corn-land,
That was of public right,
As much as two strong oxen
Could plough from morn till night;
And they made a molten image,
And set it up on high,
And there is stands unto this day
To witness if I lie.

It stands in the Comitium
Plain for all folk to see;
Horatius in his harness,
Halting upon one knee:
And underneath is written,
In letters all of gold,
How valiantly he kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.

Beginning the Sport of Endurance Riding . . .

Trail Ride White Tanks

The Girls on the Trail in the White Tank Mountains

For many years we have talked about participating with a number of family members and friends in the Sport of Equine Endurance Riding.  My wife, daughter and I have been training for an entry level ride over the last few months. We have been riding 7-10 miles two to three times per week over the last few months getting our horses (and our backsides) prepared for a 25 mile ride in Bumble Bee, Arizona.

We live close enough to the White Tank Mountains that riding the trails is as easy as saddling up and riding out the front driveway.  It has been quite fun and enjoyable.

It has been great to learn the sport from some very good friends and family members.  I’ve come to learn that a happy horse is one that has a job and loves to do it.

Unfortunately, my horse caught a cold and has had a mild cough over the few weeks. We bent the axle on our horse trailer and went through three tires before we were able to diagnose the problem.

We were able to locate a replacement trailer, but not until the last minute.  We decided that my wife and daughter would race this weekend and I would leave my horse home to mend. There was a simple 12.5 mile “Fun Ride” that they figured they would enter, since we arrived late in the evening due to the trailer issues the day before.

Northern Trail Training

The Trail Back Home

So, we loaded up and headed North to Bumble Bee, Arizona.  It really is a beautiful place.  Quite remote, and off the beaten path, but a very beautiful set of trails hidden in the mountains between Crown King and Sunset Point.

Trail Selfie

The Token Helmet Selfie

Oh, did I tell you how much I despise how these helmets make you look?  But, you gotta protect your noggin!!

Anyway, overall, it was a great experience and one that I look forward to again. Hopefully, my horse, Baily, will be feeling better for the next ride.

Bumble Bee Horse Camp

Bumble Bee Horse Camp from Atop Sunset Point

The horse-camp is set just below Sunset point.  You can just make out the trailers and trucks in the camp in the picture. This was taken atop of Sunset Point at the rest stop on the way back home.

Leanna at Bumble Bee Horse Camp

Happy Horseback Riders

As you can see, the girls were very happy about their first experience with Endurance Riding.  I have to say, as well, I have never experience nature in such a wonderful and more natural way than on horse back.  We look forward to many years of fun in the saddle.

Aquaponics . . . Just BIGGER!

I’ve always wanted a Koi Pond, so after experimenting with my small aquaponics system, I’ve decided to go big.  I’m going to try to keep a pictoral record of the construction progress of my full sized aquaponics koi pond.  I’ve been researching this for the last two years and started digging last month . . . little on the digging each week when I have a chance.

Here are the first few pictures of the progress on the Koi Pond:

Koi Pond

The pond is about 10 feet wide and 28 feet long with a maximal dept of about 3 1/2 feet.

Koi Pond & Dogs

My dogs have been helping . . .

Koi Pond East View

The digging is now done.  Next stage is to place the skimmer, waterfall and filtration systems.  I will build some lifted grow beds that will sit along side of the pond to help with filtration . . .

It has been quite the project thus far. More to follow . . .

Aquaponics . . . A Work in Progress & A Great Hobby!

“Aquaponics . . . what in the world is that?”

It is the question that I get all the time when people first see the raised garden grow-beds sitting above two 50 gallon water tanks powered by eight beautiful little Koi.  I’m about two and a half months into my aquaponics gardening experiment.  Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.

Koi in Aquaponics Tank

I installed my aquaponics system in late October and look at the results in just two months:

Adam's Aquaponics Garden

Three different kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, stevia, lemon grass, cilantro, cauliflower, and bell peppers . . . to name a few of the plants that are doing very well.  Here in Arizona, we just got our first below freezing temperatures (it was 30 degrees the last few nights) so I’ve had to cover the plants at night, but they are doing very well.

Koi tank and sump tanks

The 50 gallon trough on the RIGHT holds the Koi and the 50 gallon trough on the left acts as a sump tank keeping the water in the Koi tank balanced.

Pump

A single water pump pulls water from the Koi Tank to the highest grow-bed at the top of the image above.

Modified Venturi Gravity Siphon

Venturi Siphons

Then using simple 1 inch PVC modified Venturi siphons, the water is pulled from each grow bed by gravity back into the Koi tank and sump tanks.  (Yes, those are shotgun shell Christmas lights).  The grow-beds are lined with 45 mil pond liner and filled with “Pea Gravel.”  (No dirt – just water and gravel – amazing!) Water was crystal clear within 48 hours of starting the system.  It really is THAT simple.  (My father is probably rolling over in his grave.)

IMG_1244

I have been amazed at the rapid growth of the vegetables and herbs . . . three times faster than I had imagined.  The only maintenance in the last two months has been feeding the Koi once a day . . .

The Family Puggles

and occasionally topping off the water in the Koi tanks (my dogs prefer to drink the water out of the Koi tank instead of their water bowls).

Adam's Aquaponics

My wife loves the fact that she never has to water the plants, and she has yet to pull a single weed . . . gotta love it when you provide maintenance free food for your family.