Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals/The Eagle



  Nature, what heart may here by thee,
    Most truly brave be styled?
  The tender mother's it must be,
    When struggling for her child!

  A Scottish tale, of serious truth,
    Will make the maxim clear,
  I heard it from a shepherd youth,
    As nature's self sincere.

  On Scotland's wildest, loneliest ground,
    The subject of my tale
  Liv'd, where incumbent mountains frown'd
    High o'er her peaceful vale.

  The heroine of nature, she
    No vain ambition knew,
  Her bairns and goats she nurs'd with glee,
    To love and labour true.

  Her hut within the valley stood,
    Where thin grass grew alone,
  No shade had she from lofty wood.
    But much from towering stone.

  For o'er her vale a mountain's crown,
    In loftiest horror, hung,
  A ravenous Eagle half way down,
    Nurs'd her imperial young.

  Jessy herself, so was she call'd,
    Possess'd an eagle's eye,
  And her quick vision unappall'd
    Had mark'd the nest on high.

  But of a fearless heart, she deem'd
    The royal bird her friend,
  Nor thought its rage, tho' fierce it scream'd,
    Would to her vale descend.

  With plunder borne thro' distant air,
    She saw it stain the rock,
  Yet trusted it would nobly spare
    Her little neighbouring flock.

  Ah Jessy, oft the fancied friend,
    Commits a cruel wrong;
  Weak neighbours seldom should depend
    On kindness from the strong.

  No manly guard hast thou with thee
    A savage foe to scare,
  For thy good man far off to sea
    The distant billows bear.

  That best of guards thou oft has known,
    But of his aid bereft,
  Two little boys with thee alone
    Are all thy treasures left.

  The eldest grew with manly grace,
    His years yet barely seven,
  A stripling of a sweeter face,
    Has never gaz'd on Heaven.

  He was indeed a friend most rare,
    To chear his lonely mother,
  And aid her in her constant care
    His little baby-brother.

  With these to Jessy much endear'd,
    Whom from the world she hid,
  Three nurslings more she fondly rear'd,
    Two lambkins and a kid.

  Most tender playmates all the five,
    None stray'd the vale beyond,
  They were the happiest imps alive,
    All of each other fond.

  And Jessy all with joy survey'd,
    With joy her heart ran o'er,
  When they their little gambols play'd,
    She spinning at her door.

  But how mischance will intervene:
    This spot of sweet delight,
  One eventide, became a scene
    Of anguish and affright.

  The elder boy, gay Donald, chanc'd,
    Far from the door to play,
  Lest, now within the vale advanc'd,
    His kid might roam away.

  The mother sat to watch the vale,
    Nor yet his sport forbid;
  But starts to see the Eagle sail
    Above the trembling kid.

  The kid began to quake and cry;
    Not so the braver boy,
  The full-winged savage to defy
    Was his heroic joy.

  Still nearer sail'd the undaunted bird,
    Its destin'd deed undone,
  And when its ravenous scream she heard
    The mother join'd her son.

  Their shouts united, and each arm
    In bold protection spread,
  Secur'd the kid from real harm,
    Tho' now with fear half dead,

  Some furlongs from their cottage sill,
    Now pass'd this anxious scene;
  There they had left, as safe from ill,
    The sleeping babe serene.

  The savage bird the kid renounc'd,
    But round the cottage oft
  Rapid he wheel'd, and there he pounc'd,
    And bore the babe aloft.

  Ah!—who can now that impulse paint,
    Which fires the mother's breast?
  Nor toil, nor danger, makes her faint;
    She seeks this Eagle's nest.

  But first with courage clear, tho' warm,
    As guides the martial shock,
  When British tars prepare to storm
    A fortress on a rock.

  She bids, to mark the Eagle's flight,
    Young Donald watch below,
  While she will mount the craggy height,
    And to his aerie go.

  With filial hope her son, who knew
    Her courage and her skill,
  Watch'd to parental orders true,
    Magnanimously still.

  And now, his mother out of sight,
    He fixt his piercing eye
  On crags, that blaz'd in solar light,
    Whence eagles us'd to fly.

  He saw, as far as eye may ken,
    A crag with blood defil'd,
  And entering this aerial den
    The Eagle and the child.

  The boy, tho' trusting much in God,
    With generous fear was fill'd;
  Aware, that, if those crags she trod,
    His mother might be kill'd.

  His youthful mind was not aware
    How nature may sustain
  Life, guarded by maternal care
    From peril, and from pain.

  And now he sees, or thinks he sees
    (His heart begins to pant)
  A woman crawling on her knees,
    Close to the Eagle's haunt.

  It is thy mother, gallant boy,
    Lo! up her figure springs:
  She darts, unheard, with speechless joy
    Between the Eagle's wings.

  Behold! her arms its neck enchain,
    And clasp her babe below:
  Th' entangled bird attempts in vain
    Its burthen to o'erthrow.

  Now Heaven defend thee, mother bold,
    Thy peril is extreme:
  Thou'rt dead, if thou let go thy hold,
    Scar'd by that savage scream;

  And bravely if thou keep it fast,
    What yet may be thy doom!
  This very hour may be thy last,
    That aerie prove thy tomb.

  No! No! thank Heaven! O nobly done!
    O marvellous attack!
  I see thee riding in the sun,
    Upon the Eagle's back.

  In vain it buffets with its wings,
    In vain it wheels around;
  Still screaming, in its airy rings,
    It sinks towards the ground.

  Run, Donald, run! she has not stirr'd,
    And she is deadly pale:
  She's dead; and with the dying bird
    Descending to the vale.

  Lo! Donald flies.—She touches earth:
    O form'd on earth to shine!
  O mother of unrivall'd worth,
    And sav'd by aid divine!

  She lives unhurt—unhurt too lies
    The baby in her clasp;
  And her aerial tyrant dies
    Just strangled in her grasp.

  What triumph swelled in Donald's breast,
    And o'er his features spread.
  When he his living mother prest,
    And held the Eagle dead!

  Angels, who left your realms of bliss.
    And on this parent smil'd,
  Guard every mother brave as this,
    In rescuing her child!