The Lion In Love.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine


To Mademoiselle De Sévigné.[2]

Sévigné, type of every grace
In female form and face,
In your regardlessness of men,
Can you show favour when
The sportive fable craves your ear,
And see, unmoved by fear,
A lion's haughty heart
Thrust through by Love's audacious dart?
Strange conqueror, Love! And happy he,
And strangely privileged and free,
Who only knows by story
Him and his feats of glory!
If on this subject you are wont
To think the simple truth too blunt,
The fabulous may less affront;
Which now, inspired with gratitude,
Yea, kindled into zeal most fervent,
Doth venture to intrude
Within your maiden solitude,
And kneel, your humble servant. -
In times when animals were speakers,
Among the quadrupedal seekers
Of our alliance
There came the lions.
And wherefore not? for then
They yielded not to men
In point of courage or of sense,
Nor were in looks without pretence.
A high-born lion, on his way
Across a meadow, met one day
A shepherdess, who charm'd him so,
That, as such matters ought to go,
He sought the maiden for his bride.
Her sire, it cannot be denied,
Had much preferr'd a son-in-law
Of less terrific mouth and paw.
It was not easy to decide -
The lion might the gift abuse -
'Twas not quite prudent to refuse.
And if refusal there should be,
Perhaps a marriage one would see,
Some morning, made clandestinely.
For, over and above
The fact that she could bear
With none but males of martial air,
The lady was in love
With him of shaggy hair.
Her sire, much wanting cover
To send away the lover,
Thus spoke: - 'My daughter, sir,
Is delicate. I fear to her
Your fond caressings
Will prove rough blessings.
To banish all alarm
About such sort of harm,
Permit us to remove the cause,
By filing off your teeth and claws.
In such a case, your royal kiss
Will be to her a safer bliss,
And to yourself a sweeter;
Since she will more respond
To those endearments fond
With which you greet her.'
The lion gave consent at once,
By love so great a dunce!
Without a tooth or claw now view him -
A fort with cannon spiked.
The dogs, let loose upon him, slew him,
All biting safely where they liked.

O, tyrant Love! when held by you,
We may to prudence bid adieu.

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