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Lays of Ancient Rome

Thomas Babington Macaulay

Book Overview: 

The Lays of Ancient Rome comprise four narrative poems comprised by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: recalling popular episodes from Roman historical-legends that were strongly moral in tone: exemplifying Roman virtue against Latine perfidy.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Iliad still greater obligations are due; and those obligations have been contracted with the less hesitation, because there is reason to believe that some of the old Latin minstrels really had recourse to that inexhaustible store of poetical images.

It would have been easy to swell this little volume to a very considerable bulk, by appending notes filled with quotations; but to a learned reader such notes are not necessary; for an unlearned reader they would have little interest; and the judgment passed both by the learned and by the unlearned on a work of the imagination will always depend much more on the general character and spirit of such a work than on minute details.


There can be little doubt that among those parts of early Roman history which had a poetical origin was the legend of Horatius Cocles. We have several versions of the story, and these versio. . . Read More

Community Reviews

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

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 a


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 shi

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 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

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

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 vividnes

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, t

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 Regillu

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