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The Grateful Snake

Ingratitude! of earth the shame!
Thou monster, at whose hated name,
The nerves of kindness ake;
Would I could drive thee from mankind,
By telling how a grateful mind,
Once dignified a snake.

The tale is antient, and is sweet,
To mortals, who with joy repeat,
What soothes the feeling heart;
The first of virtues, that may boast
The power to soothe, and please it most,
Sweet gratitude, thou art.

The reptile, whom thy beauties raise,
Has an unquestion'd claim to praise,
That justice will confirm!
The Muses, with a graceful pride,
May turn from thankless man aside,
To celebrate a worm!

In Arcady, grave authors write,
There liv'd a Serpent, the delight,
Of an ingenuous child;
Proud of his kindness, the brave boy.
Fed and caress'd it with a joy,
Heroically mild.

Pleased all his gambols to attend,
The snake, his playfellow, and friend,
Still in his sight he kept;
The reptile, ever at his side,
Obeys him waking, and with pride,
Would watch him, while he slept!

Once ere her darling was awake,
The anxious mother saw the snake,
So twin'd around his arm,
She begged her husband to convey
The fondling serpent far away,
For fear of casual harm.

The happy father of the child,
Himself a being bravely mild,
To her request attends;
Conscious such comrades could not part
Without great anguish of the heart,
He fear'd to wound the friends.

They both were young, and both had shewn
Affection into habit grown,
With feelings most acute;
Yet to a parent's duty just,
Tho' griev'd to part them, part he must,
The point bears no dispute.

But with a tenderness of mind
That prov'd him truly not inclined,
Their friendship to destroy;
He form'd a plan, and held it good;
To hurt as little as he could,
The Serpent, or the boy.

To sleep he both with opiates lur'd,
Then, in their slumber's bond secur'd,
See in his arms they go!
To woody scenes, where for the snake,
(There left entranc'd) when he shall wake,
Both food and shelter grow.

The slumbering boy awak'd at home,
And miss'd his friend, and wish'd to roam,
And seek the friend he miss'd:
But hearing all his sire had done,
Soon pacified, the grateful son,
Could not such love resist.

He promis'd, for his mother's sake,
Not to recall his exil'd snake,
Nor wander to his wood;
He was a boy of manly soul,
And true to honour's just controul,
He made his promise good.

Nature, to these divided friends
Now in their separate lot attends;
Time decks them as he flies;
The child, a graceful stripling grows,
And freedom on the snake bestows,
A formidable size.

And now it chanc'd the Arcadian youth,
Renown'd for courage, love and truth!
Had sought a favourite maid;
Led by her tender charms to roam,
Forgetting distance from his home,
Abroad too late he stay'd.

Sooner indeed he meant to start,
To save a watchful parent's heart,
And not one fear excite:
But oft, as nature's records tell,
Ere love can utter his farewell,
Day melts into the night.

Eager to take the shortest road,
That led to his remote abode,
He thro' a forest sped;
There, by the moon's slow rising beam,
He saw a robber's faulchion gleam,
High brandish'd o'er his head.

A hunter's javelin in his hand,
He scorn'd the ruffian's base demand,
And made the wretch recoil;
But numbers from a thicket spring,
The youth they hem within a ring,
And threaten to despoil.

He, then alarm'd, calls loud for aid,
And sudden from the rustling shade,
A wond'rous sound they hear.
The startled ruffians turned in dread;
Some shriek'd, some shouted, and some fled,
Their foe approaches near.

Against one wretch, of form uncouth,
Who basely struck the encircled youth,
And gave his foot a wound;
This shadowy foe, of silent tongue,
Had from his secret ambush sprung,
And beat him to the ground,

Another, as he fled in haste,
The youth's defender then embrac'd
With such a deadly clasp;
The villain fell, and in the strife
Groan'd out his miserable life,
In horror's speechless gasp.

Who can describe the youth's surprise,
When by the moon-beam he descries
The source of his escape!
That aid, who crush'd his murd'rous foes,
To meet his gratitude now rose.
And in a serpent's shape.

'My Zoe!' (hear him now exclaim)
The child had by that fondling name,
Been used his snake to call:
The reptile heard, and at the sound
Began, wi
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:59 min read

William Hayley

William Hayley was an English writer best known as the friend and biographer of William Cowper more…

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