Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals/The Serpents
BALLAD THE THIRTEENTH.
Now blest be Providence divine,
Surpassing human skill!
That often takes from things malign,
The privilege of ill.
Good folks! who love a simple strain.
That seems like fancy's sound;
Rejoicing, when in nature's reign,
The marvellous is found,
As strange a tale, as history knows,
Accept in artless rhyme:
An honest Greek relates in prose,
This wonder of old time.
The antients gloried to describe,
And held such wonders dear;
For of the Psylli's signal tribe,
'Twas their delight to hear.
The Psylli were an Afric clan,
Of wond'rous power possest;
Fierce snakes, of enmity to man,
They could with ease divest.
This gift they boasted with delight,
A gift to them confin'd;
Exemption from the viper's bite,
Of most malignant kind.
This native gift they deem'd a test,
To prove their genuine race;
By every true-born child possest,
Not granted to the base!
In brains that burn from Afric suns,
Mad jealousy will rise,
Till thro' the heart the frenzy runs,
And bursts all tender ties.
A Lybian of this far fam'd clan,
Had dream'd his wife untrue,
And soon the madd'ning wretch began
His child with hate to view.
That child, which till his fatal dream
Was from base slander bred;
The happy sire, with joy extreme,
Had fondled, blest, and fed.
And never infant more deserv'd
To prove his father's joy:
Of two years old, and nobly nerv'd,
A brave Herculean boy.
Nature, with passion, long at strife,
Contended in his breast;
Till to expose his infant's life,
He form'd a deadly test!
No common trial would suffice,
For his suspicious mind;
His rage a trial would devise,
Of most tremendous kind.
Sansado, so the wretch was nam'd,
A cruel brother taught:
With equal jealousy inflam'd,
To aid his barb'rous thought.
Him, many a deadly snake to feed,
Sansado would engage;
And more, by many a noxious weed,
Exasperate their rage.
And now the settled day arrives,
Fixt for their savage joy;
To risk two unprotected lives,
Poor Neela and her boy.
For if, so jealous rage decreed,
One reptile wounds the child;
Neela upon that couch must bleed,
They think she has defil'd.
God save thee Neela in a strife,
By nature's heart abhorr'd:
And God defend each hapless wife,
Who has a jealous lord!
But see the brothers, bent on ill!
Neela yet kind and calm,
Beholds a knot of Snakes, that fill
A basket made of palm!
No fear her blameless mind alarms:
But quick with scornful joy,
One basely holds her by the arms;
One grasps her fondling boy.
The sire himself, with gesture wild,
His thoughtless offspring takes;
And seats his unoffending child
Amidst these angry Snakes!
Angry at first, they foam'd around
The boy, who on them prest;
He unappall'd sat gayly crown'd,
With many a shining crest!
Stretching his little hands he play'd,
Unconscious of a fear,
With all the monsters he survey'd,
And smil'd at every spear.
Now free, but with a fixt disdain,
Behold the mother stand!
She frowns upon the brothers twain,
Nor takes the proffer'd hand.
"Do not, dear wife, my kindness shun,
Henceforth my comfort be;
And let us jointly bless my son,
Who witnesses for thee;"
So with quick speed Sansado cried,
With mingled joy and shame:
The noble Neela, thus replied,
With eyes of temperate flame.
"No, I renounce thee, and thy roof:
For Heaven who shields my young,
Bids me abjure thy love, not proof
'Gainst slander's vip'rous tongue."
"It is my duty to desert
A guard I must despise:
Farewell weak man, my child unhurt
On Providence relies."
"Now brave; a coward he might turn
Beneath thy base controul;
But from his mother he shall learn,
The empire of the soul."
She spoke, she kept, with truth most rare,
Her purpose nobly wild,
And made, by her maternal care,
A hero of her child.