TCS: The Way to Treat a Lion

. . Good Morning!  

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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Did you think the lion was sleeping
because he didn’t roar?

― Friedrich Schiller

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The first World Lion Day was launched on August 10, 2013, to raise awareness of how close the world is to the extinction of lions in the wild – current estimates are that only about 20,000 lions are still living outside captivity – a wild population loss of 95% just since the 1940s. At the current rate of decline, the African Lion will disappear from the wild by 2050.

By coincidence, most of August falls in the astrological sign of Leo, an elemental Fire sign, which governs the heart. While completely unscientific, astrology has provided much rich symbolism to poets – and terrible pick-up lines for adolescent males trolling for one-night stands.

Lions too have become versatile symbols, subject to admiration and awe, but also to pity or satire. What they need now from humans is our determination that they shall not vanish from the wild.

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Sonnet XIX

by William Shakespeare 

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phœnix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
    Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
    My love shall in my verse ever live young.


“Sonnet XIX” is in the public domain.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English playwright, poet,  actor, and theatrical company partner; widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.” 

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A Candlelion Poem

 – for Michael (McClure)

by Richard Brautigan

Turn a candle inside out
and you have the smallest portion of a lion
standing there at the edge of the shadows.


“A Candlelion Poem” from The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, © 1968 by Richard Brautigan – Houghton Mifflin Co.

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was born in Tacoma, Washington. American novelist, poet, and short story writer, he is best known for Trout Fishing in America. Among his other works are: A Confederate General from Big Sur; All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace; Please Plant This Book; and The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. He once wrote, “All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”

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The Lion

by Hilaire Belloc

The Lion, the Lion, he dwells in the Waste,
He has a big head and a very small waist;
But his shoulders are stark, and his jaws they are grim,
And a good little child will not play with him.


“The Lion” from The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, by Hilaire Belloc, illustrated paperback edition, 2008 from Dodo Press (the original book was published in 1896)

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was born near Paris just a few days before the Franco-Prussian War began. His family fled to England when news came of the French army’s collapse, returning after the war’s end to discover that their home had been looted and vandalized by Prussian soldiers. His father died, leaving his English mother in difficult financial circumstances, and she returned with her children to England. Belloc joined the French Artillery Service in France for a year. Back in England, he became a student at Baillol College, Oxford, then wrote for London newspapers and magazines. In 1896, his first book, Verses and Sonnets, appeared, followed by The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, the original offering of his satiric verses which remain popular to this day.

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Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo

by John Ciardi

The morning that the world began
The Lion growled a growl at Man.

And I suspect the Lion might
(If he’d been closer) have tried a bite.

I think that’s as it ought to be
And not as it was taught to me.

I think the Lion has a right
To growl a growl and bite a bite.

And if the Lion bothered Adam,
He should have growled right back at ‘im.

The way to treat a Lion right
Is growl for growl and bite for bite.

True, the Lion is better fit
For biting than for being bit.

But if you look him in the eye
You’ll find the Lion’s rather shy.

He really wants someone to pet him.
The trouble is: his teeth won’t let him.

He has a heart of gold beneath
But the Lion just can’t trust his teeth.


“Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo“ from The Collected Poems of John Ciardi, © 1984 – published by University of Arkansas Press (1997 edition)

John Ciardi (1916-1986), a premier American 20th century poet, highly esteemed translator of Dante, but also a popular children’s poet. He wrote hundreds of poems on a wide range of topics, was the poetry editor of  the Saturday Review (1956-1972), and taught at Harvard and Rutgers.

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Elegy for Sakhr

by al-Khansa

Be generous, my eyes, with shedding copious tears
and weep a stream of tears for Sakhr!
I could not sleep and was awake all night;
it was as if my eyes were rubbed with grit.
I watched the stars, though it was not my task to watch;
at times I wrapped myself in my remaining rags.
He would protect his comrade in a fight, a match
for those who fight with weapons, tooth, or claw
Amidst a troupe of horses straining at their bridles eagerly,
like lions that arrive in pastures lush.


“Elegy for Sakhr” translated by Geert Jan Van Gelder, from Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology, © 2013 by New York University, New York University Press

al-Khansa (575-645) born as Tamadir bint Amr, one of the Arab world’s most famous women poets. She converted to Islam during the life of the Prophet Mohammad. Her best-known poems are eulogies to her brother Sakhr, a tribal chief who was severely wounded and later died after a raid against the rival Bani Assad tribe. Years later, when four of her children were killed during Muslim battles against the Romans and Persians, al-Khansa refused to write any eulogies to them, saying that Islam had taught her not to wail for the dead.

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On a Lion Enraged at Seeing a Lad
in the Highland Dress

by William Hamilton

Calm and serene the imperial lion lay,
Mildly indulging in the solar ray;
On vulgar mortals with indifference gazed,
All unconcerned, nor angry, nor amazed;
But when the Caledonian lad appeared,
Sudden alarmed, his manly mane he reared,
Prepared in fierce encounter to engage
The only object worthy of his rage.


“On a Lion Enraged at Seeing a Lad in the Highland Dress” is in the public domain

William Hamilton (1665-1751), Scottish poet and humourist; he served in the army, and retired with the rank of lieutenant. He then spent much of his time enjoying the literary society of Edinburgh, particularly evenings spent drinking in taverns. He was modest about his poetic gifts, but Robert Burns praised Hamilton in one of his poems.

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Sekhmet, the Lion-Headed
Goddess Of War

by Margaret Atwood

He was the sort of man
who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Many flies are now alive
while he is not.
He was not my patron.
He preferred full granaries, I battle.
My roar meant slaughter.
Yet here we are together
in the same museum.
That’s not what I see, though, the fitful
crowds of staring children
learning the lesson of multi-
cultural obliteration, sic transit
and so on.

I see the temple where I was born
or built, where I held power.
I see the desert beyond,
where the hot conical tombs, that look
from a distance, frankly, like dunces’ hats,
hide my jokes: the dried-out flesh
and bones, the wooden boats
in which the dead sail endlessly
in no direction.

What did you expect from gods
with animal heads?
Though come to think of it
the ones made later, who were fully human
were not such good news either.
Favour me and give me riches,
destroy my enemies.
That seems to be the gist.
Oh yes: And save me from death.
In return we’re given blood
and bread, flowers and prayer,
and lip service.

Maybe there’s something in all of this
I missed. But if it’s selfless
love you’re looking for,
you’ve got the wrong goddess.

I just sit where I’m put, composed
of stone and wishful thinking:
that the deity who kills for pleasure
will also heal,
that in the midst of your nightmare,
the final one, a kind lion
will come with bandages in her mouth
and the soft body of a woman,
and lick you clean of fever,
and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck
and caress you into darkness and paradise.


“Sekhmet, The Lion-Headed Goddess Of War” from Morning in the Burned House, © 1995 by Margaret Atwood – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

Margaret Atwood (1939 – ) Canadian poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and environmental activist, widely regarded as one of Canada’s greatest living writers. Known for her novels, especially The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Governor General’s Award, twice.

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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