animals, Horses, Humor, Humour, poetry, William Blake

THE HORSE, poem by William Hayley

William Hayley (1745 – 1820), was an English writer, best known as the friend and biographer of William Cowper.
He was also a patron of William Blake.
This poem by Hayley does drag on a bit, but I love it because he’s speaking from the heart.
Hayley often opened up an umbrella when on horseback, causing the horse to rear and deposit Hayley on the wet ground. Hayley then switched from an umbrella to a large, fancy hat in wet weather, in the hope of remaining astride his horse!

“Virtue! thou hast spells divine,
    Spells, that savage force controul!
  What’s the strongest charm of thine?
    Courage in a mother’s soul.

  Haste my song, the scene proclaim,
    That may prove the maxim true!
  Fair ones of maternal fame,
    Hark! for honour speaks to you.

  Noblest of your noble band,
    Brave Marcella chanc’d to rove,
  Leading childhood in her hand,
    Thro’ a deep and lonely grove:

  See her child! how gay! how light!
    Twice two years her life has run,
  Like a young Aurora bright,
    Sporting near the rising sun.

  Thro’ a pass of sandy stone,
    Where autumnal foliage glow’d,
  While the quivering sun-beams shone,
    Lay their deep, and narrow road:

  Now, as thro’ the dale they pac’d,
    Pleas’d with its umbrageous charm,
  Lo! a fiery steed, in haste,
    Prancing, spreads a quick alarm,

  Fiercest of Arabia’s race,
    Force and beauty form’d his pride;
  Vainly tutor’d for the chace,
    Care he scorn’d, and rule defied.

  Soon his rider had been flung,
    Tho’ like Perseus, he adroit,
  Oft to flying coursers clung,
    Proud of every bold exploit!

  Now, on foot, he tried in vain,
    Or to soften, or subdue
  This wild steed, whose leading rein,
    Short and tight he firmly drew:

  But the more the horseman strove
    To restrain his fiery force,
  More he made the solemn grove
    Echo to his frantic course.

  Snorting loud, with savage leer,
    All controuling powers to foil,
  See him plunge! and see him rear!
    Mocking all his leader’s toil!

  Fearless for himself alone,
    He, of courage bravely mild,
  Manly fear was frank to own
    For the mother, and her child:

  For the beast, in barb’rous ire,
    To the child and mother rush’d;
  Both he deem’d must now expire,
    By the vicious monster crush’d:

  For his rage, with forceful art,
    Still he fail’d to turn, or tame:
  Fear and pity fill’d his heart,
    And convuls’d his manly frame,

  “Fly!” he cried, in accents weak,
    As the rampant courser sped;
  “Fly!” was all, that he could speak,
    Toss’d beneath the monster’s head.

  But without her child to fly,
    Brave Marcella now disdained:
  As her darling’s guard to die,
    This her only hope remained.

  On the bank, where pine-trees mixt,
    Thick to form an arching wood,
  At her back her child she fixt,
    And before it bravely stood:

  Firm in voice, in soul elate,
    Then in solemn tone she cried,
  “With her features fixt as fate–
    Tell your father how I died.”

  Noble parent! nature saw,
    Virtue shining in thy soul,
  And with sudden, wond’rous awe
    Struck the beast, that spurn’d controul;

  For, as if thy fixed eyes
    Darted fascinating flame,
  He, to thy devout surprise,
    Stood before thee fondly tame:

  He, as touched by powers above,
    That can demons dispossess,
  View’d thee, with submissive love,
    Like a spaniel’s meek caress.

  Free from all maternal dread,
    Now ’twas thine to raise and chear
  Him, from whom the courser fled,
    Trembling yet with generous fear!

  Fear soon turned to strong delight,
    When he saw the savage tam’d;
  And enchanted by the sight,
    Quick the horseman thus exclaim’d:

  “God! I thank thee, I behold
    Wonders far surpassing thought
  More than fiction ever told,
    By maternal virtue wrought!”

  “Virtue, in thy praises warm,
    I may speak how fair thou art:
  I have seen thy fairest form–
    Courage in a mother’s heart.”

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