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THE LION IN LOVE. Jean de La Fontaine

Camille Roqueplan's dark interpretation of the fable in the Wallace Collection

Camille Roqueplan's dark interpretation of the fable in the Wallace Collection

Lady, whose charms were meant to be
A model for the Graces three;
Lend graciously your gentle ear,
And but one simple fable hear;
You′ll see, without profound alarm,
A Lion quelled by Cupid′s arm.
Love rules with such a tyranny,
Happy those shunning slavery;
Who the harsh monarch only know
By song and poem, not by blow.

When I dare speak of love to you,
Pardon the fable, no whit true,
That gives me courage to bring it,
Perhaps with more of zeal than wit,
A simple offering, rough and rude,
Of my devoted gratitude.
In times when animals could speak,
The Lion came intent to seek
Mankind′s alliance—wherefore not?
Since beasts had then by nature got
Courage, intelligence, and skill;
A bearing, too, by no means ill.
Now hear what happened, if you will:
A Lion of a noble race
Saw in a vale a pretty face,
A shepherdess′s, understand,
And instantly he claimed her hand.
The father, prudent and pacific,
Preferred a suitor less terrific:
To give his daughter seemed too bad,
Yet how refuse so wild a lad?
If he refused, perhaps there′d be
A marriage still clandestinely.
The maiden liked her dashing wooer,
Her boisterous, reckless, blustering suer,
And playing with the creature′s main,
Combed it, and smoothed it o′er again;
The prudent father, half afraid
To spurn the lover of the maid,
Said, "But my daughter′s delicate,
Your claws may hurt your little mate;
And when you fondle and caress,
Lion, you′ll tear her and her dress;
Permit me, sir, to clip each paw,
It shall be done without a flaw,
And, by-the-by, in the meanwhile,
Your teeth ′twould be as well to file;
Your kisses then would be less rough,
And her′s far sweeter—that′s enough."
The Lion, blinded by affection,
Obeyed the artful man′s direction;
Toothless and clawless, he grew prouder
(A fortress without guns or powder).
They loosed the mastiff on him soon,
And he was butchered before noon.
O Love! O Love! when bound by you,
Prudence, to thee we say, Adieu!

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