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Lays of Ancient Rome (eBook)

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Baron Macaulay was a leading figure in Victorian literature. His essays were quite popular. Macaulay first visited Italy in 1938 after which he reconstructed the lost ballad-poetry of Rome in English form. Lays of Ancient Rome begins with a lengthily preface in which Macaulay discusses the earliest histories of Rome. There follows a section on Horatius. The second topic co Baron Macaulay was a leading figure in Victorian literature. His essays were quite popular. Macaulay first visited Italy in 1938 after which he reconstructed the lost ballad-poetry of Rome in English form. Lays of Ancient Rome begins with a lengthily preface in which Macaulay discusses the earliest histories of Rome. There follows a section on Horatius. The second topic covered is the Battle of Lake Regillus. The final two sections cover Virginia and the Prophecy of Capys. This is an excellent reference work for the study of ancient Rome.


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Baron Macaulay was a leading figure in Victorian literature. His essays were quite popular. Macaulay first visited Italy in 1938 after which he reconstructed the lost ballad-poetry of Rome in English form. Lays of Ancient Rome begins with a lengthily preface in which Macaulay discusses the earliest histories of Rome. There follows a section on Horatius. The second topic co Baron Macaulay was a leading figure in Victorian literature. His essays were quite popular. Macaulay first visited Italy in 1938 after which he reconstructed the lost ballad-poetry of Rome in English form. Lays of Ancient Rome begins with a lengthily preface in which Macaulay discusses the earliest histories of Rome. There follows a section on Horatius. The second topic covered is the Battle of Lake Regillus. The final two sections cover Virginia and the Prophecy of Capys. This is an excellent reference work for the study of ancient Rome.

30 review for Lays of Ancient Rome (eBook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    In Darkest Hour, Winston Churchill recites the following verses from "Horatius" (one of the Lays of Ancient Rome) to his fellow passengers in the London Underground: “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…” The last two lines are spoken by another passenger, Marcus Peters, a young black male—someone from theUnderground: In Darkest Hour, Winston Churchill recites the following verses from "Horatius" (one of the Lays of Ancient Rome) to his fellow passengers in the London Underground: “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…” The last two lines are spoken by another passenger, Marcus Peters, a young black male—someone from the far reaches of the Empire, possibly the Caribbean. When Churchill hesitates, Peters completes the verse, and the result is extraordinarily moving. Was I moved by this? Hard to tell, for I was already weeping. I had begun to weep the moment Churchill began his recitation, for I remembered how my Aunt Alice--a contemporary of Sir Winston's--had often recited the very same passage to me. She was of Irish heritage, daughter of an immigrant from England, and had memorized these verses in a Cincinnati grade school during the final years of the First World War. (Aunt Alice also possessed a foot-high iron statue, of a Roman warrior with upraised sword, which she called "Horatius" and used as a door stop. He is still in service to our family, having guarded my bookshelves for most of the last twenty years.) These poems of courage and patriotism became popular at the height of the British Empire, around the time Victoria was proclaimed "Empress of India," but Macacaulay wrote them much earlier long before he won his fame as an historian, in the years immediately before Victoria was crowned a queen. Macaulay was in his thirties serving as "the legal member" of the Governor-General’s Supreme Council for India. While ministering to the fledgling empire of the British, Macaulay reflected upon the origin of the Roman; he read closely the first five books of Livy, which are filled with the myths and legends preserved from Rome’s earliest days. Scholars of Macaulay’s time believed the theory—since rejected—that Livy based his history on ballads now lost—works of the early empire which praised the city’s ancient origins—and it was reflecting upon these lost ballads that sparked Macaulay’s creativity. What would these old ballads have looked like? How would they have treated their already mythic material? Would their writers’ view of the present have helped them organize the myths of the past? Using the English ballad tradition as a model, the young Macaulay wrote four long narrative poems, each an example of what he imagined might be the ancient Roman style: “Horatius” (Horatius Cocles and his companions defend a bridge against the Etruscans), “The Battle of Lake Regillus” (the Roman’s defeat of the Tarquin’s Latin League due to the intervention of twin gods Castor and Pollux), “Virginia” (the decemvir Appius Claudius’ attack upon the maiden Virginia, and its public consequences), and “The Prophecy of Capys” (old prophet Capys tells the victorious Romulus and Remus of the coming empires’ great victories). The poems themselves are fun, in an old-fashioned bumptious way. They aren’t first-rate poetry, but they are first-rate second-rate poetry, and that’s good enough for me. (“The Raven,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” and “The Highwayman” are all excellent examples of my idea of first-rate second-rate verse.) Just as fun as the poems themselves, though, are the essays that precede them, in which Macaulay discusses the characteristics of the Roman ballad tradition—which is of course his own fabrication—in a way that explains (and excuses) many features of his poems, including the occasional anachronism. One of my favorite features of ancient poetry is its catalogs: the lists of gods, warriors or cities, each labeled with the appropriate epithet or characteristic. Macaulay excels at this sort of poetry. Here is his list of the Latin League towns and territories from “The Battle of Lake Regillus” (including the Rex Nemorensa of Aricia, memorialized by James Frazer in The Golden Bough): From every warlike city That boasts the Latian name, Fordoomed to dogs and vultures, That gallant army came; From Setia's purple vineyards, From Norba's ancient wall, From the white streets of Tusculum, The proudist town of all; From where the Witch's Fortress O'er hangs the dark-blue seas; From the still glassy lake that sleeps Beneath Aricia's trees— Those trees in whose dim shadow The ghastly priest doth reign, The priest who slew the slayer, And shall himself be slain; From the drear banks of Ufens, Where flights of marsh-fowl play, And buffaloes lie wallowing Through the hot summer's day; From the gigantic watch-towers, No work of earthly men, Whence Cora's sentinels o'erlook The never-ending fen; From the Laurentian jungle, The wild hog's reedy home; From the green steeps whence Anio leaps In floods of snow-white foam.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Celebrity Death Match Special: Horatio at the Bridge versus Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery [Late 6th century B.C. A plain before Rome. Enter LARS PORSENA, MAMILIUS, SEXTUS, their various VASSALS and RETAINERS, the ENTIRE TUSCAN ARMY and DR and SCOTT EVIL] DR EVIL: [rubbing hands gleefully] We're almost there. We just cross the bridge, eliminate the token guard force, enter the now undefended city and sack and plunder it to our heart's content. Oh, this is so evil! Why have we stopped? LARS/>[Late Celebrity Death Match Special: Horatio at the Bridge versus Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery [Late 6th century B.C. A plain before Rome. Enter LARS PORSENA, MAMILIUS, SEXTUS, their various VASSALS and RETAINERS, the ENTIRE TUSCAN ARMY and DR and SCOTT EVIL] DR EVIL: [rubbing hands gleefully] We're almost there. We just cross the bridge, eliminate the token guard force, enter the now undefended city and sack and plunder it to our heart's content. Oh, this is so evil! Why have we stopped? LARS PORSENA: Their captain, Horatio, has come out to meet us with two of his stout followers. They challenge us to trial by single combat. DR EVIL: But if there's three of them, it can't be single combat? LARS PORSENA: Triple combat, if you like. I am a general, not a sophistical philosopher. DR EVIL: So what's your plan? LARS PORSENA: I will send against them three of my finest champions, Aunus, Seius and Picus. DR EVIL: And if they don't deliver? LARS PORSENA: I will send three more champions, Aruns, Ocnus and Lausulus. DR EVIL: And if that doesn't work? LARS PORSENA: I will send my greatest champion, Astur of Luna. DR EVIL: All on his own? LARS PORSENA: If the Fates have written it so, he will triumph. DR EVIL: Sounds good to me. SCOTT EVIL: Hold on. I mean, WTF dude? LARS PORSENA: I grasp not thy uncouth words. SCOTT EVIL: Can you translate, Dad? DR EVIL: Quod coïtum, homine? LARS PORSENA: Speak, slave, but be brief. SCOTT EVIL: Thank you. I mean, hey, but this is totally not real. Like, how many archers you got there, Mister Tuscan General? LARS PORSENA: A company of the finest Scythian archers, their breastplates gleaming in the-- SCOTT EVIL: Right. That's, what, one hundred crack archers? Tell me how to say it in Latin, and I'll order them to turn those three mo-fos into pincushions. It'll take less than a minute. [LARS PORSENA and DR EVIL look at each other and shake their heads sadly] DR EVIL: I'm sorry, Scott. You just don't get it, do you?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Informs as it fascinates, Macaulay's Lays is altogether my favorite work of poetry. The words are evocative like no other poet I've read - Macauley manages to spin together action, suspense, gore, horror, and melodrama. Horatius at the Bridge is the highlight of the whole book, although the others are enjoyable too (Capys the least of the bunch): Regillus takes Horatius's Iliadic tone and expands it into a larger epic, Virginia brings to mind a short stage melodrama, and Capys is mostly a historical Informs as it fascinates, Macaulay's Lays is altogether my favorite work of poetry. The words are evocative like no other poet I've read - Macauley manages to spin together action, suspense, gore, horror, and melodrama. Horatius at the Bridge is the highlight of the whole book, although the others are enjoyable too (Capys the least of the bunch): Regillus takes Horatius's Iliadic tone and expands it into a larger epic, Virginia brings to mind a short stage melodrama, and Capys is mostly a historical footnote to bring everything together. My two favorite stanzas (How can a man choose?!) are from Horatius and Regillus, respectively: (view spoiler)["He reeled, and on Herminius / He leaned one breathing-space; / Then, like a wild cat mad with wounds, / Sprang right at Astur's face. / Through teeth, and skull, and helmet / So fierce a thrust he sped, / The good sword stood a hand-breadth out / Behind the Tuscan's head." "Their leader was false Sextus, / That wrought the deed of shame: / With restless pace and haggard face / To his last field he came. / Men said he saw strange visions / Which none beside might see; / And that strange sounds were in his ears / Which none might hear but he. / A woman fair and stately, / But pale as are the dead, / Oft through the watches of the night / Sat spinning by his bed. / And as she plied the distaff, / In a sweet voice and low, / She sang of great old houses, / And fights fought long ago. / So spun she, and so sang she, / Until the east was gray. / Then pointed to her bleeding breast, / And shrieked, and fled away." (hide spoiler)] Which achieve action and horror better than prose of the same sort.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lowe

    OMG THIS IS SUCH A GOOD BOOK OF WISDOM IT'S JUST THESE FOUR POEMS ABOUT THE MAJESTICNESS AND MAJESTY OF ROME AND THE EPIC BATTLES AND HONORABLE PEOPLE #DYING OF ROMAN FEELS

  5. 5 out of 5

    Feliks

    Superb reading. Calls to mind the same heroic model evidenced by Browning, in "Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came" or Tennyson's "Ulysses". Full-throated, muscular, forthright rhapsodizing without frills or adornments. Manly poetry for manly men. Maces, and staves, blows-thrust-aside by glossy shields, camrades leaping forward with arms flashing down to cleave an enemy's helm. Selflessness and sacrifice. Taunts and challenges on the plain of Mars, heralds and ramparts, banners and women's wails. Battles, sie Superb reading. Calls to mind the same heroic model evidenced by Browning, in "Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came" or Tennyson's "Ulysses". Full-throated, muscular, forthright rhapsodizing without frills or adornments. Manly poetry for manly men. Maces, and staves, blows-thrust-aside by glossy shields, camrades leaping forward with arms flashing down to cleave an enemy's helm. Selflessness and sacrifice. Taunts and challenges on the plain of Mars, heralds and ramparts, banners and women's wails. Battles, sieges, trumpets, and crumpled foes on the ground at one's feet. Fans of Tolkien, look ye here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Satyajeet

    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

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anne Beardsley

    Once you've looked up the names and references you don't understand (thank you, O Wikipedia), this book is pure gravy. It's a very Victorian collection of poetry: there is more blood, honor, guts, and glory in a sterner, straighter telling than you would get from a modern author. At the same time, there are entire stanzas that just give you a view of the countryside -- nothing else. And the stories are unforgettable. image: Macualay's emphasis is on telling a thundering good story, a content rather than a style writ Once you've looked up the names and references you don't understand (thank you, O Wikipedia), this book is pure gravy. It's a very Victorian collection of poetry: there is more blood, honor, guts, and glory in a sterner, straighter telling than you would get from a modern author. At the same time, there are entire stanzas that just give you a view of the countryside -- nothing else. And the stories are unforgettable. image: Macualay's emphasis is on telling a thundering good story, a content rather than a style writer. Nevertheless, he's quite the poet. He has a way of making the language not only sing, but clang and shout and laugh when it needs to. Sometimes he conveys a great deal with a few words. Thank you, Mr. Macaulay, for a few days with the ancient Romans. I'll borrow your time machine again someday.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Freitag

    Not a lot is written or read about the very far-off, ancient days of Rome, before Rome became Mistress of the World, the immense politic figure that we remember today. These poems, of heroes and their battles, are just the sort of inspiring thing which captures my imagination. The unabashed vividness, the potency, even the basic beauty of the metre which begs to be read aloud, all mark this collection as a keeper.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    This is a 100-year-old textbook filled with Macaulay's heroic poetry. I enjoyed it very much. It was originally of interest as Winston Churchill memorized the first very long poem in the book. I wish that when I was being force fed poetry in my junior high and high school English classes this had been on the reading list.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    You can see why the Victorians loved these verses by Macaulay, celebrating as they do the very Victorian virtues of Courage and Patriotism. I myself was swept up in some of Macaulay’s Lays, in particular I was moved by the poem “Horatius” whose famous lines pop up in films from time to time (such as Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion” and, more recently, the Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour.”): Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth Deat You can see why the Victorians loved these verses by Macaulay, celebrating as they do the very Victorian virtues of Courage and Patriotism. I myself was swept up in some of Macaulay’s Lays, in particular I was moved by the poem “Horatius” whose famous lines pop up in films from time to time (such as Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion” and, more recently, the Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour.”): 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.” The other poems were more obscure, but still interesting and sprinkled with some memorable lines. Unfortunately, the poems are preceded by boring chunks of prose that are like hot sand at the beach that you want to hurry through so you can get to the waves. I would have likes this much better without the prose bombs (not that Macaulay can’t write prose, I really enjoyed his history of England from the Accession of James the Second).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Al

    I had a Latin teacher in high school who assigned this and at the time, I found it boring because I didn’t understand the history that underlay the poems or the influence of the period in which they were written. This time around, I enjoyed them, especially “Horatius” and “The Battle of Lake Regillus”. The poem, “Ivry” is an interesting look at a battle between the Huguenots and the Catholic League in 1590, and “The Armada” is a thrilling look at the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Not li I had a Latin teacher in high school who assigned this and at the time, I found it boring because I didn’t understand the history that underlay the poems or the influence of the period in which they were written. This time around, I enjoyed them, especially “Horatius” and “The Battle of Lake Regillus”. The poem, “Ivry” is an interesting look at a battle between the Huguenots and the Catholic League in 1590, and “The Armada” is a thrilling look at the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Not light reading, by any stretch, but they reward the reader who will take the time to read them aloud, and they are evocative in the way a good prose story can be. “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,…’”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    XLIII, from Horatius He smiled on those bold Romans A smile serene and high; He eyed the flinching Tuscans, And scorn was in his eye. Quoth he, "The she-wolf's litter Stand savagely at bay: But will ye dare to follow, If Astur clears the way?'' oh my...叫人怎么不喜欢Astur!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lacy

    Gave up on it after about 25% of way through. Accompanying text too hard to follow, too "scholarly", and the lays themselves not that interesting. Just thought I'd try it, after seeing the book in the movie, "Oblivion", starring Tom Cruise.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Book-girl

    "To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late" Horaius was the only story I really liked, but to be fair the only one i really wanted to read to begin with. I've wanted to read of Horaius for so long, I've been quoting him for years, so it was about time that I read it. And it sure was glorious, someting about the old days are really fascinating. It was a very cool lay of brave Horatius and it was everything I wanted it to be :D "Still is the story told, How well Horatius "To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late" Horaius was the only story I really liked, but to be fair the only one i really wanted to read to begin with. I've wanted to read of Horaius for so long, I've been quoting him for years, so it was about time that I read it. And it sure was glorious, someting about the old days are really fascinating. It was a very cool lay of brave Horatius and it was everything I wanted it to be :D "Still is the story told, How well Horatius kept the bridge In the brave days of old. "

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Books like this are what make e-publishing and free kindle books great. I never would have read this, and didn't even know what a "Lay" was, I thought I was down loading something about early city planning in Rome. That said, the author reconstructs and tells a bit of the history of early ballad poetry in preliterate Rome. It was interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    With weeping and with laughter Still is the story told This free Kindle edition does not have Ivry or the Armada. You might as well get a version that includes those, too. Also, there is an 1887 illustrated edition that you might find used; I have not seen it reproduced.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ed Barton

    Roman Poetry Explored The book covers background and translations of early Roman epics. Translated to provide classic poetry in English - including rhyme - this is a decent collection if you’re into such things.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Miller

    I liked the idea of writing poems in different voices celebrating Roman history as historical events from an historical position. Really good fun.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Muaz Dahab

    Fascinating!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    The story of Horatius at the bridge is required reading, in my opinion!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    “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...” 🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

    Not, in fact, a breezy contemporary translation of Catullus, but a collection of self-consciously archaic ballads written in the 19th century by a notable British politician and historian that celbrate incidents in the semi-mythic past of the early Roman Republic. I've been meaning to read Macaulay the historian ever since I read an essay singing his praises in Simon Schama's Scribble, Scribble, Scribble , so, when I ran into this in the stacks at my job, I had to check it out. Apparently, Win Not, in fact, a breezy contemporary translation of Catullus, but a collection of self-consciously archaic ballads written in the 19th century by a notable British politician and historian that celbrate incidents in the semi-mythic past of the early Roman Republic. I've been meaning to read Macaulay the historian ever since I read an essay singing his praises in Simon Schama's Scribble, Scribble, Scribble , so, when I ran into this in the stacks at my job, I had to check it out. Apparently, Winston Churchill as a schoolboy memorized the entirety of the first and best of the four "lays," "Horatius," a passage from which Gary Oldman, portraying Churchill, sonorously intones in the film Darkest Hour. It's not great poetry, but there are some grandly musical passages that are positively thrilling for someone with my still occasionally boyish sensibilities. The poems celebrate stern Republican virtues with varying success. Horatius at the bridge, single-handedly holding off the forces of tyranny, is a heroic ideal I can get behind. Virginius addressing sexual predation on his daughter by killing her, not so much. A lot of fun, but probably only to a specific kind of nerd. I don't think I can really recommend it to the general reader.

  23. 4 out of 5

    W

    “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…” I marked this book because in Darkest Hour Churchill recited this but after two weeks delay, I totally forgot why this book was lying on my bookshelf and just leave it there for another week until I watched DoctorWho once more(must be the thousand of times), I found this same sentence in the epi “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…” I marked this book because in Darkest Hour Churchill recited this but after two weeks delay, I totally forgot why this book was lying on my bookshelf and just leave it there for another week until I watched DoctorWho once more(must be the thousand of times), I found this same sentence in the episode209 The Satan Pit, so I searched and found this book once more, what a miracle!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Justin Neo

    Like many others, Horatius at the Bridge was what drew my initial attention to this book. However, the other lays contain beautiful narrative poetry on politics, heroism and character. A 2000 year old story told, retold and finally captured in poetry by Lord Macaulay still remains relevant and entertaining. The language is clear and easy to follow, and the rhymes make the lays easy to remember. I would say that this is a fantastic book which should be on everyone's must-read list.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ez

    Horatius at the Bridge is one of the greatest story-poems ever! Though it never alludes to it directly, it's dealing with the aftermath of Lucrece's post-rape suicide and the subsequent establishment of the Roman republic, 500 years before the empire. The events are treated as fact by early Roman historians, though there are variations in the tale. Unlike other stories of the era, nothing impossible happens, no gods or goddesses show up. This may have actually happened!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dayna Smith

    Originally published in 1842, this immensely popular book of poems was a favorite of Sir Winston Churchill. He committed them to memory, an effort I would recommend, but at the very least they should be read by everyone. Lovers of mythology, history, and poetry will all find this short book well worth the time. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Crofut

    Part Roman, part British, all imperial and very powerful. The heroes are heroes, the villians, villians. The verse is enjoyable to speak out loud. Very quotable, which is why performers recalled the lines of the now lost epics without a written source.

  28. 4 out of 5

    J. Gowin

    As a collection of poetry its greatness is best shown by its wonderfull quotability.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Plas

    The first of these is the best, but all three are quite good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Udayaditya Dwivedi

    Beautiful poetry .. The way the story is portrayed sends a chill down your spine.loved it.

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