Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals/The Stag

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THE STAG.

BALLAD THE FOURTH.

  
  Blest be the boy, by virtue nurst,
    Who knows not aught of fear's controul,
  And keeps, in peril's sudden burst,
    The freedom of an active soul.

  Such was a lively Tuscan boy,
    Who lived the youthful Tasso's friend,
  Friendship and verse his early joy,
    And music, form'd with love to blend.

  Love had inspir'd his tender frame,
    His years but two above eleven,
  The sister of his friend his flame!
    A lovely little light of Heaven!

  Born in the same propitious year,
    Together nurst, together taught;
  Each learn'd to hold the other dear,
    In perfect unison of thought.

  Their forms, their talents, and their talk,
    Seem'd match'd by some angelic powers,
  Ne'er grew upon a rose's stalk
    A sweeter pair of social flowers.

  Fortunio was the stripling's name,
    Cornelia his affection's queen,
  Both to all eyes, where'er they came,
    Endear'd by their attractive mien.

  For like a pair of fairy sprites,
    Endued with soft ætherial grace,
  Enrapt in musical delights
    They hardly seem'd of mortal race!

  Often the youth, in early morn,
    Awak'd a social sylvan flute.
  To notes as gay, as Dian's horn,
    Or tender, as Apollo's lute.

  Then, at his side, his sovereign fair
    Appear'd the rising day to greet,
  Uniting to his dulcet air
    Devotion's song divinely sweet.

  A fund of joys, that never waste,
    Nature to this sweet pair had given;
  Invention, harmony, and taste,
    And fancy, brightest gift of Heaven!

  In quest of many a new device,
    Thro' pathless scenes they joy'd to roam,
  Composing songs most wildly sweet,
    Heard, with parental pride, at home.

  Delighted in a wood to rove,
    That near their native city spread;
  There of its gayest flowers they wove,
    A garland for each other's head.

  One morn when this dear task was done,
    And just as each the other crown'd,
  Seeking deep, shade to 'scape the sun,
    A piteous spectacle they found.

  It was a dead disfigur'd fawn,
    Its milk white haunch some monster tore;
  It perish'd in that morning's dawn,
    Nor had the sun yet dried its gore!

  Cornelia, nature's genuine child,
    Caress'd the dead, with pity pale;
  It's mangled limb, with gesture mild,
    She shrouded in her sea-green veil.

  The sympathetic pair agreed,
    To form a grave without a spade;
  Bury their fawn beneath a tree,
    And chaunt a requiem to his shade.

  Fortunio had a rustic knife,
    With this their feeling task they plann'd,
  And often in a friendly strife,
    They claim'd it from each other's hand.

  But ere their tedious toil advanc'd,
    Towards its kind and tender end,
  Cornelia, as her quick eye glanc'd,
    Saw, what escap'd her toiling friend.

  It was a sight that well might shake,
    A little heart of stouter mould;
  A sight, that made Cornelia quake,
    And all her quivering fibres cold!

  A furious Stag advancing sprung,
    Eager along the echoing wood,
  As if vindictive for his young,
    To reach the spot, where now they stood.

  Cornelia scarce could stand, for she
    Began her guardian to entreat;
  Seizing his busy arm, to flee
    Far from the fawn before her feet.

  The youth her painful terror saw,
    And with a manly sterness said,
  In a firm voice, inspiring awe,
    "Cornelia I must be obeyed."

  "True love is brave, whate'er may chance—
    Behind this tree's protecting bole
  Stand thou—nor fear the Stag's advance,
    But trust to thy Fortunio's soul!"

  The faithful maid, in double dread,
    Fear'd to offend him more than death;
  And now, as near the fierce foe sped,
    Behind the tree, she pants for breath.

  Yet peeping thence in fond alarm,
    Most trembling for her guardian's life,
  She looks, expecting that his arm
    Would brandish his defensive knife.

  Amazement kept the trembler mute,
    To see him hurl it far away,
  And from his bosom pluck his flute,
    And fearlessly begin to play.

  The furious parent of the dead,
    Marking him near his blood-stain'd young,
  Aim'd at his breast with hostile head,
    As near the dauntless boy he sprung.

  But ere the branching horns could reach,
    That object of ill-founded ire,
  Sounds of resistless magic teach
    Submission to the savage sire.

  The young musician richly pour'd
    Notes from his pipe, so wond'rous sweet,
  A rav'nous pard must have ador'd,
    And melted at the minstrel's feet.

  So softly plaintive was the strain,
    No living thing unmov'd could hear,
  What took from terror all its pain,
    And mixt delight with sorrow's tear.

  The Stag with a pathetic grace
    Look'd up, most eloquently mute;
  And sighing in Fortunio's face,
    Now lick'd the hand, that held his flute.

  Cornelia saw, with blest relief,
    The scene that every fear dismist;
  And sharing all his love and grief,
    Her foe, so humaniz'd, she kist.

  Then by her brave musician's side,
    She fondly claspt his honour'd hand.
  "And give me credit now," she cried,
    "For staying at thy stern command."

  "Henceforth, tho' plung'd in perils new,
    I shrink from none, if thou art near,
  But feel our sacred maxim true,
    That perfect love will cast out fear!"

  "This Stag to thee will ever shew
    The gratitude, thy strains inspire!
  And those, who soothe a parent's woe,
    Are dear to Heaven's all-soothing sire."

  "Our duty to this hapless fawn
    We will perform, and often fly
  To hail his grave at early dawn;
    Youth and misfortune claim a sigh!"

  The lovely nymph prophetic spoke;
    The Stag, as taught by powers above,
  Oft met them at their fav'rite oak,
    And seem'd to bless their tender love.

  Here oft the little fair retir'd;
    Here lov'd from gayer scenes withdrawn,
  To breathe, what harmony inspir'd—
    A dirge to memorize the fawn!