The Lion.

A poem by William Hayley

Lovely woman! how brave is thy soul,
When duty and love are combin'd!
Then danger in vain would controul
Thy tender, yet resolute mind.

Boulla thus in an African glade,
In her season of beauty and youth,
In the deadliest danger display'd
All the quick-sighted courage of truth.

Tho' the wife of a peasant, yet none
Her grandeur of heart rose above;
And her husband was nature's true son
In simplicity, labour, and love.

'Twas his task, and he manag'd it well,
The herd of his master to guide,
Where a marshy and desolate dell
Daily drink to the cattle supplied.

In this toil a dear playfellow shar'd,
A little, brave, sensible boy!
Who nobly for manhood prepar'd,
Made every kind office his joy.

One day as the dell they drew near,
They perceiv'd all the cattle around
Starting wild, in tumultuous fear,
As if thunder had shaken the ground.

The peasant, in wonder and awe,
Keenly search'd for the cause of their fright;
Very soon it's just motive he saw,
And he shudder'd himself at the sight;

For couch'd in the midst of the glade
An enormous fierce Lion he view'd;
His eye-balls shot flame thro' the shade,
And with gore his vast jaw was imbru'd.

"Fly boy to thy mother, be sure!
Dear child do not tremble for me!
I fear not if thou art secure;
I shall 'scape in the limbs of a tree."

He spoke, flying light as the breeze,
His cattle were scatter'd before,
Them he thought that the Lion would seize,
And for human food hunger no more.

But athirst for the blood of a man,
All the herd he in fury disdain'd;
And leapt at the bough, as he ran,
Which the peasant had rapidly gain'd.

He leapt, but he fail'd of his prey;
For the peasant was happily higher:
Beneath him, indignant, he lay,
And watch'd him with vigilant ire.

The boy had his father obey'd,
And ran for his rustic abode;
And oft turning, that father survey'd,
And hardly remember'd his road.

But when, with a burst of delight.
His father he saw in a tree,
He lost all his sense of affright,
And his terror was turn'd into glee.

Then quick to his mother he sped,
And quickly his story he told:
As she heard it, she shudder'd with dread;
But love made her suddenly bold.

She remember'd, that oft to her boy
She a lesson of archery gave:
Then the bow she resolv'd to employ,
And by courage his father to save.

Soon forth from a curious old chest
A bundle of arrows she drew;
The gift of a warrior, their guest,
And ting'd with a poisonous glue!

With a bow, that the chief us'd alone,
Which her arm could not easily draw:
This bow she preferr'd to her own,
In these moments of hope and of awe.

And now they both haste from their cot,
The stripling his mother before,
And keenly he shew'd her the spot,
As the bow he exultingly bore.

More cautious as now they advance,
The boy, to his eager desire,
Espied, with a love-guided glance,
The half-shrouded head of his sire.

He leapt, with a rapturous joy;
But, marking the Lion below,
In silence the spirited boy
Made ready the powerful bow.

From his mother an arrow he caught,
In hope's youthful extacy hot;
And softly said, quick as his thought,
"O grant to my hand the first shot."

His entreaty she could not refuse,
Yet hardly had time to consent;
Impatient his aim not to lose,
The stripling the bow would have bent.

He labour'd to bend it in vain;
It surpass'd all the strength of his years:
The brave boy full of anguish and pain,
Let it fall to the ground with his tears.

His father beheld him with grief,
Seeing both, he yet more and more grieves,
While his eyes, as in search of relief,
Look forth from his refuge of leaves.

But Boulla, who caught his keen eye,
Now grasp'd her adventurous bow,
And, with prayers addrest to the sky,
She aim'd at the Lion below.

Good angels! her arrow direct!
On its flight these dear beings depend,
Whose kindness, by danger uncheck'd,
Has deserv'd to find Heaven their friend.

See the beast! Lo! his eye-balls yet burn,
On his prey he still gloats, with a yawn,
Yet the woman he does not discern;
And her bow is undauntedly drawn.

O love! it is thine to impart
Such force, as none else can bestow--
She has shot with the strength of her heart,
She has pierced her infuriate foe.

While his jaws were enormously spread,
(The truth of her archery see!)
Thro' his cheek her sure arrow has sped;
It fastens his flesh to the tree.

Too soon of her conquest secure,
She runs within reach of his claw,
But in tortures he cannot endure,
He has struck her to earth with his paw.

Lo! anxious the peasant descends:
Good peasant no more be afraid!
Heaven sent her the bravest of friends,
In the boy who has rush'd to her aid.

Before thou couldst spring to the ground,
Her boy made her triumph complete;
And contriving a marvellous wound,
He has stretch'd her foe dead at her feet.

From the tree by his struggles releas'd,
While he roll'd in his own blood afloat
Brave Demba ran up to the beast,
And darted ten shafts in his throat.

Their poisons collected afford
Lethargic relief to his pangs;
And Death! of all nature the lord!
Thy shadows now rest on his fangs.

Now love! thy own fancy employ!
For words are too feeble to trace
The father, the mother, the boy,
In triumph's extatic embrace.

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