"Can mothers of our English isle,
The pride of all the earth,
From any tribe of tender brutes,
A mother's duly learn?"
So to a shepherd of the Alps,
A guest of noble birth,
A traveller of English race
Said on the swain's return;
When bringing to his simple cot
A Goat of signal grace,
He, to his foreign guest, display'd
The ornament she wore;
It was a splendid silver toy,
It's folds her neck embrace,
And it's rich centre, highly wrought,
This grateful motto bore:
_Dear animal! This trinket wear,
Mark of thy mental beauty!
For teaching to an English fair,
A mother's highest duty_!
"Good shepherd thou hast much to tell,
Some curious tender tale,
Thy kindness I with joy accept,
To rest beneath thy roof;
For now I see an evening storm
Is sweeping o'er the vale,
And here in this thy airy nest
I well can sleep aloof."
"But tell me, who has so adorn'd
Thy tame and pretty Goat?"--
"Ah! sir", (the white-hair'd shepherd said,)
"It was a lovely fair;
A lady of the sweetest face
That ever eyes could note,
But she was plung'd in darkest depths
Of cruel craz'd despair."
"My Goat her guardian angel prov'd,
As she herself allow'd,
And hence her little neck appears
So brilliant and so brave;
No longer mine, she has a queen,
Of whom she may be proud,
And sure an angel might be proud
So sweet a soul to save."
"But rest, sir, on my humble bench,
And take my simple cheer,
And I will tell you, all you ask,
With hearty frank good will:
A story of no trifling sort,
In truth, you have to hear,
Yet, like the most of mortal scenes,
A mass of good and ill."
"But say, my pleasant, honest friend,"
(The traveller replied,)
"Where is the lovely English fair,
That you so much admire?"--
"Before you hear where now she goes,
(And God be still her guide!)
Her sufferings here let me relate,"
(Rejoin'd the sighing sire.)
"Of all the sufferers I have seen,
She was indeed the prime,
That of a deeply wounded heart,
Most keenly felt the throes:
'Twas agony to see her grief;
And even at this time,
My foolish eyes grow full of tears
In thinking of her woes!"
"No! ne'er shall I forget that eve,
When I beheld her first,
Ah! little thought my dame and I
Such guest with us would dwell;
With pity my old woman's heart
Was even like to burst,
When this sweet lady first implor'd,
A refuge in our cell."
"'I do not ask to live with you,
I am not fit to live!'
(The beauteous mourner meekly cried
Approaching to our cot:)
'Your pity, to my babe and me,
Good aged friends! may give
All that we ask; to die with you,
To die, and be forgot!'"
"'Twas so the piteous pilgrim spake,
With eyes that glisten'd wild;
For privilege to die with you,
We give you all our gold;
For bitterer want, than want of wealth,
For want of love my child,
My child, must, like his mother, waste,
And both will soon be cold!"
"So speaking, to my dame she held
A lovely little boy,
Who speechless, yet seem'd sorely griev'd
To see his mother weep;
My good old dame is soft of heart.
And children are her joy;
So she, who cherished both her guests.
Soon lull'd the babe to sleep."
"But sleep to that sweet lady's eyes
Had seem'd to bid farewell,
And sometimes she would wildly say,
There's but one sleep for me!
So deep her woe sunk in her heart:
Tho' she was loath to tell,
My tender dame, discreetly guess'd,
What that deep woe must be."
"By cruel man, of cruel things,
Most cruel in his love!
This suffering innocent had been
To darkest frenzy driven;
Tho' in it's nature her soft heart
Is gentle as a dove,
And, save one frantic thought, ne'er had
A fault to be forgiven!"
"That frantic thought was a desire,
To end her wretched life;
But you shall hear how nature strove
To soothe her stormy breast:
For all her struggles, one and all,
She told my good old wife,
And how this little darling Goat,
She as her guardian-blest."
"To heal her grief we both had tried,
But both had tried in vain.
When this dear sufferer in our shed
Three mournful weeks had spent:
While sleep press'd on our aged eyes,
One morn in heart-felt pain
Bearing her baby in her arms,
To yon high cliff she went."
"Her purpose was, as since she said,
From base mankind to fly,
And with her nursling on her breast
To take a fatal leap;
But when she scal'd the topmost crag,
That seems to touch the sky,
Her little infant shriek'd to view
A precipice so deep!"
"His voice wak'd nature in her heart,
She wish'd to die alone,
And in a safe, and hollow rock,
Her lovely babe she plac'd;
Then thinking his pure life preserv'd,
Yet bent to end her own;
She to the summit mounts again,
In wild and breathless haste!"
"The horrid precipice below
She deems the vale of peace,
And having in a parting prayer
Pray'd fondly for her child,
She feels a wish to look yet once
Before her sufferings cease,
If calm her heaven-commended babe
In solitude has smil'd."
"With this desire she gently creeps
With anxious love to view
The mossy cove of hollow stone,
Where he is softly laid;
Now near that most attractive spot,
By slow degrees, she drew,
And there an unexpected sight
She suddenly survey'd."
"It was my little darling Goat
Who cherishing the boy,
With copious draughts of morning milk
His grateful lips supplied;
Her tears burst forth: she kneel'd, she pray'd,
But now she pray'd in joy,
For Heaven had kindled in her breast
A mother's vital pride."
"O how angelic was the light
That on her visage shone!
When now returning to our cot
Her old friends she carest:
And, all her wild delirium past,
With self-reproof made known,
The gracious wonders God had wrought,
In her enlighten'd breast!"
"Your blessed Goat, my friends", she said,
"With your indulgent leave,
My comrade, thro' my future life
My monitor shall be;
For now with heart-reform'd, I hope,
I, not too late, perceive,
How Heaven this tender creature sent,
Tho' dumb, to lecture me."
"I wish that all the earth might know,
For suffering pride's relief,
How this heaven-guided animal
In scenes so roughly wild;
A wicked mother has reclaim'd
Who lost in selfish grief,
Neglected nature's highest charge,
The nursing of her child!"
"'Twas wounded pride, my good old friends,
My heart you will not blame,
That rack'd my agonizing breast,
And set my brain on fire;
The thought to fall from honour's sphere
In undeserved shame,
And see my baby, and myself;
The torment of his sire!"
"No! No! his torment tho' preserv'd,
Our lives shall never prove,
His hard desertion we forgive!
Desertion by constraint:
From every angry passion free
My lips shall only move,
To utter blessings on his head,
And never breathe complaint."
"Tho' of our marriage every proof
Has basely been suppresst,
By his proud father's cruel guile
To wrong my babe and me:"--
"My God!" (the traveller exclaims)
By hope and doubt distrest,
"Shepherd, if you would save my life,
That lady let me see!"
"You must be patient noble sir,"
The gentle swain rejoins,
"For she beneath her brother's care,
With my good dame her guide,
This morning to our city went
That in the valley shines,
Upon a safe and easy mule,
By turns to walk and ride."
"Beneath her brother's care--you say,
Then all my hope is fled,
Yet no--perchance from India come,
Heard you that brother's name?"
"O yes! from India come, like one
Returning from the dead;
My blest Horatio, oft to him
His sister would exclaim!"--
"Enough, good Heaven!" in transport now,
In transport fondly wild,
The stranger clasp'd the good old swain
With tears of tender glee;
"My father! yes!" he cried, "thy care
Has sav'd my wife and child!
And as a father to my heart
Henceforward thou shalt be."
"Their sufferings rose not from my fault,
But from the fault of one,
Whom Heaven has call'd to his account,
Whose faults I wish to hide;
But vanish all ye sorrows past
In joy's effulgent sun,
And that sweet sufferer quick to cheer,
Good father be my guide!"
"Ah noble sir! if you bestow
So dear a name on me,
Allow me, with a father's fears,
To check your hasty joy;
If you surprise her heart with bliss
So wond'rous in degree,
That tender frame, you wish to save,
You surely will destroy."
"Be patient here, good sir, to night,
As was your first intent,
And by to-morrow's noon your eyes
Shall look on their delight;
For hither they will all return,
As kindly as they went,
And truly when you see them all,
You'll see a goodly sight."
"But you must let my careful age
Your eager love restrain,
And suffer me in my odd guise.
Your lady to prepare;
To meet a burst of mortal bliss
That might o'erset the brain
Of such a tender feeling soul,
Most delicately fair."
"Ah sir! old shepherd as I seem,
I know the sex full well,
In truth I studied nought beside,
In all my early life;
And underneath the cope of Heaven,
No lady can there dwell,
More worthy of the fondest care,
Than your angelic wife."
The good old man so charm'd his guest,
As they familiar grew,
The stranger to his guidance bent,
Tho' born of spirit high:
At last the long'd-for hour was come,
On what slow wings it flew!
But now the dear returning group,
They from the hill descry.
When he his distant friends espied,
The fondly anxious swain,
Station'd his guest, with beating heart,
Behind his cottage door;
And, in concealment, made him vow,
That he would fixt remain,
While cautious age pursued its plan,
Within the porch before.
For these a spacious shady porch,
Rais'd by the shepherd's skill,
With creeping foliage sweetly grac'd,
Presents a pleasant seat;
Most grateful to the pilgrim's sight
Just mounted up the hill,
And there the shepherd and the Goat,
Now wait their friends to greet.
And soon his favourite dog announced
His near approaching dame,
Who mounted on her mule arrived,
Before her youngest guest;
Supported by her brother's arm
The sweet Amelia came,
And bearing; with maternal pride,
Her baby on her breast.
Seeing the Goat, the lively babe
Put forth his hands and smil'd;
The mother blest the grateful act
With smiles of sweeter grace,
And held him to his guardian nurse,
While the delighted child
Suffer'd the Goat's soft shaggy lips
To fondle o'er his face!
"My Goat and I are prophets both!"
The eager shepherd cried,
"We both discover wond'rous good,
And time will make it clear:
Good for this heaven-protected babe,
Our nursling and our pride,
We of Amelia's lord have heard,
What she will joy to hear."
"Yes, tho' he must not live for me,
I in his life rejoice!"
With eyes where sudden joy and pain,
With mingled flashes shone,
The fond Amelia faintly, said,
And in a troubled voice:
"He for his dear Amelia lives,
And lives for her alone!"
So cried her latent lord, who now
Rush'd from the cottage sill,
And all the extacy indulged
He could no more contain;
It was a scene of speechless joy,
That words would paint but ill,
A moment of such joy o'erpays
A century of pain.
Supremely happy, one and all,
All blest their present lot,
And all for England soon exchanged,
That scene so sweetly wild:
And well ye judge, by all these friends
The Goat was ne'er forgot,
No, she and every kid she bore
Was cherish'd as a child.