Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals/The Swan
BALLAD THE TENTH.
Kind Heaven will oft a lesson give
If mortals are inclined to learn;
To shew how simplest things that live,
To kindness make a rich return.
Tho' fiction speaks of dying notes,
Sung by the swan in death resign'd;
Is there a tribe, that flies or floats,
Of sense, or feeling, less refin'd?
Yet simple as this bird we deem,
My faithful ballad shall attest,
One Swan displayed on Thames's stream,
A feeling and a friendly breast
Cecilia liv'd on Thames's bank,
A young and lovely married fair;
To creatures kind of every rank,
A favourite Swan had own'd her care.
Her lord, a merchant, frank and young,
By probity was known to thrive;
Their bliss enliven'd every tongue,
They were the happiest pair alive;
For to increase their nuptial joy
And their domestic scene adorn;
Heaven crown'd their blessings with a boy,
A finer boy was never born.
His sportive life had only run
To six short months, how brief a date!
When gay Cecilia's darling son,
Was threaten'd with a deadly fate!
Her garden had a terrace fair,
Beneath it, full the river flow'd,
There she enjoyed the evening air,
Her favourite Swan there proudly row'd.
The mother in her active arms,
To make her boy benignly mild;
And nobly proof 'gainst all alarms,
There oft would exercise her child.
A boat-house by the terrace side,
Shelter'd a small and simple boat:
And sometimes half way o'er the tide
Chain'd to its home, it us'd to float.
Here she, her infant, and her maid,
Sport with the Swan, and give it bread;
While her gay boy, of nought afraid,
With lively transport sees it fed.
'Tis June—a sultry tempest wild
Impends, Cecilia would retire,
But checks herself to teach her child,
The vivid light'ning to admire.
Her noble mind delights to rear
In early fortitude, her boy;
That he the voice of God may hear,
With admiration's awful joy!
While to regain the vessel's shed,
Her maid an active pilot stands;
She to the music o'er her head,
Dances the child with dauntless hands.
But whirlwinds rise: the vessel reel'd,
Heaven! the sweet parent is o'erthrown:
Her falling head she fails to shield,
Attentive to her child alone.
Tis the tornado's ruthless blast;
The mother stunn'd, the babe it bears
Far from her senseless frame! aghast
The maid, in speechless horror glares!
Yet swiftly to its proper shore,
The whirlwind now the vessel drives,
Where by the elemental roar
Alarm'd, Cecilia's lord arrives.
Into the boat behold him bound,
He lifts his lifeless wife upright:
She wakens to the thunder's sound;
Her opening eyes regain the light.
"Where is my child?" she faintly cries;
"Where is the child?" her lord rejoin'd:
Poor heart-struck Susan nought replies,
The child had vanished from her mind.
"My child! my child!" with terror's start
She shrieks, in accents wild and shrill;
And at her agony of heart,
The very tempest's self grew still!
"Say if you saw him sink!" she cried,
Wildly to Susan pale and wan:
When quick her roving eye descried,
The tall neck of her favourite Swan.
"My God! my God! 'tis thee I thank!"
Exclaim'd the now exulting fair;
"I see him wafted to the bank,
His cradle form'd by heavenly care!"
She spoke, and all who heard her cry,
Now saw the babe divinely nurst;
The extatic sight from every eye,
Made tears of grateful transport burst.
Between her silvery arching wings,
The guardian bird had lodg'd the child;
And forward as her broad foot springs,
At every stroke the infant smil'd.
And with a heaven-implanted pride,
Superbly rowing now to land;
The brave bird has her charge denied
To all, but to the mother's hand.
Cecilia feeling now no pains,
Leans o'er the boat's advancing end;
And aided by her lord reclaims,
The present of her feather'd friend.
Now with delight the rescued boy,
To her maternal bosom springs:
The conscious Swan partakes their joy,
And claps her proud triumphant wings.
Cecilia beads to weep and pray,
She weeps with joy, no longer wan;
And still on this returning day,
Blesses the heaven-directed Swan!