The Pet-Lamb, a Pastoral



The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink;
I heard a voice, it said, Drink, pretty Creature, drink !
And, looking o’er the hedge, before me I espied,
A snow-white mountain Lamb with a Maiden at its side.
No other sheep were near, the Lamb was all alone,5
And by a slender cord was tether’d to a stone;
With one knee on the grass did the little Maiden kneel,
While to that Mountain Lamb she gave its evening meal.
The Lamb while from her hand he thus his supper took
Seem’d to feast with head and ears, and his tail with pleasure shook.10
“Drink, pretty Creature, drink,” she said in such a tone
That I almost receiv’d her heart into my own.
’Twas little Barbara Lewthwaite, a Child of beauty rare,
I watch’d them with delight, they were a lovely pair.
And now with empty Can the Maiden turn’d away,15
But ere ten yards were gone her footsteps did she stay.
Towards the Lamb she look’d, and from that shady place
I unobserv’d could see the workings of her face:
If Nature to her tongue could measur’d numbers bring
Thus, thought I, to her Lamb that little Maid would sing.20
“What ails thee, Young One ? What ? Why pull so at thy cord ?
Is it not well with thee ? Well both for bed and board ?
Thy plot of grass is soft, and green as grass can be,
Rest little Young One, rest; what is’t that aileth thee ?
What is it thou would’st seek ? What is wanting to thy heart ?25
Thy limbs are they not strong ? And beautiful thou art:
This grass is tender grass, these flowers they have no peers,
And that green corn all day is rustling in thy ears.
If the Sun is shining hot, do but stretch thy woollen chain,
This beech is standing by, its covert thou can’st gain,30
For rain and mountain storms the like thou need’st not fear,
The rain and storm are things which scarcely can come here.
Rest, little Young One, rest; thou hast forgot the day
When my Father found thee first in places far away:
Many flocks are on the hills, but thou wert own’d by none,35
And thy Mother from thy side for evermore was gone.
He took thee in his arms, and in pity brought thee home,
A blessed day for thee ! then whither would’st thou roam ?
A faithful nurse thou hast, the dam that did thee yean
Upon the mountain tops no kinder could have been.40
Thou know’st that twice a day I have brought thee in this Can
Fresh water from the brook as clear as ever ran;
And twice in the day when the ground is wet with dew
I bring thee draughts of milk, warm milk it is and new.
Thy limbs will shortly be twice as stout as they are now,45
Then I’ll yoke thee to my cart like a pony in the plough,
My playmate thou shalt be, and when the wind is cold
Our hearth shall be thy bed, our house shall be thy fold.
It will not, will not rest !—poor Creature can it be
That ’tis thy Mother’s heart which is working so in thee ?50
Things that I know not of belike to thee are dear,
And dreams of things which thou can’st neither see nor hear.
Alas the mountain tops that look so green and fair !
I’ve heard of fearful winds and darkness that come there,
The little brooks, that seem all pastime and all play,55
When they are angry, roar like lions for their prey.
Here thou need’st not dread the raven in the sky,
He will not come to thee, our Cottage is hard by,
Night and day thou art safe as living thing can be,
Be happy then and rest, what is’t that aileth thee ?60
As homeward through the lane I went with lazy feet,
This song to myself did I oftentimes repeat,
And it seem’d as I retrac’d the ballad line by line
That but half of it was hers, and one half of it was mine.
Again, and once again did I repeat the song,65
“Nay” said I, “ more than half to the Damsel must belong,
For she look’d with such a look, and she spake with such a tone,
That I almost receiv’d her heart into my own.”