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The Lion In Love

(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 1)



Sevigne, 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,

Does 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 why 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 charmed him so,

That, as such matters ought to go,

He sought the maiden for his bride.

Her sire, it cannot be denied,

Had much preferred a son-in-law

Of less terrific mouth and paw.

It was not easy to decide

The lion might the gift abuse

It was 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 on him, slew him,

All biting safely where they liked.

O, tyrant Love! when held by you,

We may to prudence bid adieu.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 4, Fable 1



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