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Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington…
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Lays of Ancient Rome

by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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Showing 4 of 4

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
( )
  iSatyajeet | Nov 21, 2018 |

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
( )
  iSatyajeet | Nov 21, 2018 |
Believe it or not the epigram “Rome was not built in a day”, meaning that some things cannot be done at once, but require time and patience, was not coined by Romans. As a matter of fact it first appeared in England in John Heywood’s “A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of All the Proverbes in the English Tongue” (1546). It was also used in “Don Quixote” (1605) by Miguel de Cervantes. Nowadays modern Romans usually do as they like, and do not expect others do as they do.

The same story of Romulus and Remus is just a story which says that they founded on this day Rome. Read what a famous English historian wrote in his “Lays of Ancient Rome”, a collection of narrative poems, or lays: Thomas Babington Macaulay. Four of these recount heroic episodes from early Roman history with strong dramatic and tragic themes, giving the collection its name. The Lays were composed by Macaulay in his thirties, during his spare time while he was the "legal member" of the Governor-General of India's Supreme Council from 1834 to 1838.

The Roman ballads are preceded by brief introductions, discussing the legends from a scholarly perspective. Macaulay explains that his intention was to write poems resembling those that might have been sung in ancient times.The Lays were first published by Longman in 1842, at the beginning of the Victorian Era. They became immensely popular, and were a regular subject of recitation, then a common pastime. The Lays were standard reading in British public schools for more than a century. Here follows what he says about this legend:

“That what is called the history of the Kings and early Consuls of Rome is to a great extent fabulous, few scholars have, since the time of Beaufort, ventured to deny. It is certain that, more than three hundred and sixty years after the date ordinarily assigned for the foundation of the city, the public records were, with scarcely an exception, destroyed by the Gauls. It is certain that the oldest annals of the commonwealth were compiled more than a century and a half after this destruction of the records.

It is certain, therefore, that the great Latin writers of the Augustan age did not possess those materials, without which a trustworthy account of the infancy of the republic could not possibly be framed. Those writers own, indeed, that the chronicles to which they had access were filled with battles that were never fought, and Consuls that were never inaugurated; and we have abundant proof that, in these chronicles, events of the greatest importance, such as the issue of the war with Porsena and the issue of the war with Brennus, were grossly misrepresented.

Under these circumstances a wise man will look with great suspicion on the legend which has come down to us. He will perhaps be inclined to regard the princes who are said to have founded the civil and religious institutions of Rome, the sons of Mars, and the husband of Egeria, as mere mythological personages, of the same class with Perseus and Ixion. As he draws nearer to the confines of authentic history, he will become less and less hard of belief.

He will admit that the most important parts of the narrative have some foundation in truth. But he will distrust almost all the details, not only because they seldom rest on any solid evidence, but also because he will constantly detect in them, even when they are within the limits of physical possibility, that peculiar character, more easily understood than defined, which distinguishes the creations of the imagination from the realities of the world in which we live.

The early history of Rome is indeed far more poetical than anything else in Latin literature. The loves of the Vestal and the God of War, the cradle laid among the reeds of Tiber, the fig-tree, the she-wolf, the shepherd's cabin, the recognition, the fratricide, the rape of the Sabines, the death of Tarpeia, the fall of Hostus Hostilius, the struggle of Mettus Curtius through the marsh, the women rushing with torn raiment and dishevelled hair between their fathers and their husbands, the nightly meetings of Numa and the Nymph by the well in the sacred grove, the fight of the three Romans and the three Albans, the purchase of the Sibylline books, the crime of Tullia, the simulated madness of Brutus, the ambiguous reply of the Delphian oracle to the Tarquins, the wrongs of Lucretia, the heroic actions of Horatius Cocles, of Scaevola, and of Cloelia, the battle of Regillus won by the aid of Castor and Pollux, the defense of Cremera, the touching story of Coriolanus, the still more touching story of Virginia, the wild legend about the draining of the Alban lake, the combat between Valerius Corvus and the gigantic Gaul, are among the many instances which will at once suggest themselves to every reader.

In the narrative of Livy, who was a man of fine imagination, these stories retain much of their genuine character. Nor could even the tasteless Dionysius distort and mutilate them into mere prose. The poetry shines, in spite of him, through the dreary pedantry of his eleven books. It is discernible in the most tedious and in the most superficial modern works on the early times of Rome. It enlivens the dulness of the Universal History, and gives a charm to the most meagre abridgements of Goldsmith. Even in the age of Plutarch there were discerning men who rejected the popular account of the foundation of Rome, because that account appeared to them to have the air, not of a history, but of a romance or a drama …” ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
I vividly recall my father reciting some of this while we were washing dishes. I have found bits very effective to recite in class, too. ( )
  antiquary | Apr 24, 2009 |
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Vestal, UlyssesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0898759366, Paperback)

These are attempts to reconstruct in English form, the lost ballad-poetry of Rome, out of which its traditional history was thought to have grown. Written after Macaulay's first visit to Italy in 1838, and regarded by him as trifles written in his leisure time. But the public took a much more serious view of the poems, seeing in them a call to patriotism and manly virtue, expressed in stirring and musical language that it was impossible to resist.

Baron Macaulay (of Rothey) was one of the most famous literary figures of the Victorian era. For nearly twenty years he was a major contributor to the 'Edinburgh Review' and his collected essays were widely popular. His Lays of Ancient Rome were published in many best-selling editions; and his various "Histories" attained greater popularity than any other purely historical work in English. He was an able debater and served several terms in Parliament, including a stint in Lord Melbourne's cabinet as Secretary of War. He was raised to the peerage in 1857.

Edited, with notes and introduction, by William J. Rolfe and John C. Rolfe.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"A collection of narrative poems. Four of the poems are based on early Roman history, giving the collection its title. There are also two other poems: Ivry and The Armada, based on more recent historical events" --Provided by publisher.

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