Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals/The Panther
BALLAD THE SIXTH.
Maternal love! thou wond'rous power,
By no base fears controul'd,
Tis truly thine, in danger's hour,
To make the tender bold!
And yet, more marvellous! thy sway,
Amid the pathless wild,
Can humanize the beast of prey!
And make the savage mild!
A traveller, on Afric's shore.
Near to a forest's side,
That shook with many a monster's roar,
With hasty caution hied.
But suddenly, full in his way,
A Panther he descries;
Athwart his very road she lay,
And fixt his fearful eyes.
With backward step, and watchful stare
If refuge there may be;
He hopes to gain, with trembling care,
The refuge of a tree.
A fruitless hope—the Panther moves,
Perceiving his intent,
And vain his utmost caution proves
Her purpose to prevent.
But no fierce purpose to destroy
The dreadful beast impells;
Her gesture, blending grief and joy,
Far other motive tells.
Round him she fawns, with gentle pace;
Her actions all entreat:
She looks imploring in his face,
And licks his hands and feet!
The traveller, a Roman born,
Was of a generous mind;
He never view'd distress with scorn,
To all that breath'd most kind.
And soon all selfish fear apart,
His native spirit rose,
The suffering Panther won his heart,
He only felt her woes.
"Jove help thee gracious beast," he cried,
"Some evil wounds thee sore,
And it shall be my joy and pride,
Thy sorrows to explore!"
The beast his kindness understood,
Fix'd on his robe a claw,
And gently to the neighb'ring wood,
Appear'd her friend to draw.
How little is the want of speech,
When kindness rules the heart;
Gesture will then all lessons teach,
That language can impart!
The Roman, Caelius, was his name,
By brave compassion sway'd,
Conjectur'd all the Panther's aim,
And gave her willing aid.
For in the forest with his guide,
He hears her wailing young,
To whom the tender beast replied.
With a maternal tongue.
He sees them only in his thought,
For in a curious snare,
The hapless little creatures caught,
Could only murmur there.
Deep in an earthy trap they lay,
An iron grate above,
Precluded them from chearful day,
And from a mother's love!
But quicken'd by the touching sound,
The little captives made,
The generous Cælius clear'd the ground.
And all the snare display'd.
Two vigorous cubs spring up to light,
And to their parent haste;
Cælius a third, in tenderer plight,
Within the pit embrac'd!
For in he leap'd, to save the young,
That seem'd to suffer harm;
And swiftly from the pit he sprung,
The cub beneath his arm.
The conscious nursling lick'd his cheek,
With young endearment sweet,
He kiss'd, and laid it safe, tho' weak,
Before its parent's feet.
Too faint is language to describe,
The Panther's grateful glee,
Contemplating her little tribe,
From deadly bondage free.
By gesture, that with meaning glows,
All eloquence above,
She largely, on her friend, bestows,
Protection, thanks, and love!
Seeing him start, to hear a roar,
That spoke the lion near,
She guides him thro' her wood once more,
And banishes his fear.
Here (when she brought him to his road)
Her gesture said, "we part!"
With friendship all her features glow'd,
Each movement spoke her heart.
He shar'd her feelings. "Bless your den,"
He said, as he withdrew,
"For gratitude has fled from men,
And seems to live with you!"