Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LION'S BRIDE, by ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO



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THE LION'S BRIDE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: With myrtle bedecked and in bridal array
Last Line: Till the bullet avenging speeds swift through his brain.


WITH myrtle bedecked and in bridal array,
Comes the keeper's fair daughter, as blooming as May.
She enters the cage of the lion; he lies
Calm and still at her feet and looks up in her eyes.

The terrible beast, of whom men are afraid,
Lies peaceful and tame at the feet of the maid,
While she, in her tender adorable grace,
Is stroking his head as the tears stain her face.

"In the days that are gone, we were playmates so true;
Like brother and sister we played, I and you.
Our love was still constant in joy or in pain—
But alas for the days that will ne'er come again!

"You learned to toss proudly your glorious head,
And roar, as you tossed it, a warning of dread;
I grew from a babe to a woman—you see,
No longer a light-hearted child I can be.

"Oh, would that those days had had never an end,
My splendid strong playmate, my noble old friend!
But soon I must go, so my parents decree,
Away with a stranger—no more am I free.

"A man has beheld me, and fancied me fair;
He has asked for my hand—and the wreath's in my hair!
Dear faithful old comrade, my girlhood is dead;
And my sight is bedimmed with the tears I have shed.

"Do you know what I mean? Ah, your look is a sign!
I have made up my mind, and you need not repine.
But yonder he comes who must lead me away—
So I'll give the last kiss to my playmate today!"

As the last fond farewell with reluctance she took,
The huge frame so trembled the bars even shook;
But when, drawing near a strange man he espied,
A sudden alarm seized the heart of the bride.

The lion stands guard by the door of the cage—
He is lashing his tail, he is roaring with rage.
With threats, with entreaties she bids him to cease,
But in vain—in his might he denies her release.

Without are confusion and cries of despair:
"Bring a gun!" shouts the bridegroom; "our one hope is there!
I will snatch her away from his horrible claws * * *"
But the lion defies him with foam-dripping jaws.

The girl makes a last frenzied dash for the door—
But his past love the beast seems to measure no more;
The sweet slender body goes down 'neath his might,
All bleeding and lifeless, a pitiful sight.

Then, as if he knew well what a crime he had wrought,
He throws himself down by her, caring for naught;
He lies all unheeding what dangers remain,
Till the bullet avenging speeds swift through his brain.





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