(Poem #275) The Glove and the Lions
King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport, And one day, as his lions fought, sat looking on the court. The nobles filled the benches, with the ladies in their pride, And 'mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he signed: And truly 'twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show, Valor and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below. Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws; They bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went with their paws; With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another, Till all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother; The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air; Said Francis then, "Faith, gentlemen, we're better here than there." De Lorge's love o'er heard the King, a beauteous lively dame, With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same; She thought, The Count my lover is brave as brave can be; He surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me; King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine; I'll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine. She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled; He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild: The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place, Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady's face. "By Heaven," said Francis, "rightly done!" and he rose from where he sat; "No love," quoth he, "but vanity, sets love a task like that."
This is the third of Hunt's widely anthologised poems, and, like Abou Ben Adhem, demonstrates a nice combination of simplicity and stylistic polish. As poems go it's a fairly standard piece of narrative verse - not, perhaps, as brilliant as Jenny Kissed Me, or as memorable as Abou Ben Adhem, but it tells a nice story, and tells it well. And I love the playfulness that runs through the rhyme scheme and metre - perhaps the one aspect of Hunt's poetry that most endears it to me.  as to whether the story has any basis in reality, or even whether it's drawing upon an existing folk tale, I have no idea. m. Links: The two previous Hunt poems on Minstrels can be found, complete with biography at poem #103 and poem #153. There's a nice assessment of Hunt at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/Bai/thompson.htm An excerpt: Finally, a major virtue of Hunt's poetry is its unpretentiousness, its freedom, as someone has said, from fustian. Though he revered the high rhetoric of the great poets, he found his own analogy in an earlier minor poet, John Pomfret. Speaking of Pomfret's The Choice (1700), Hunt applauded the earlier poet as one "who knows / The charm that hollows the least thing from prose, / And dresses it in its mild singing clothes" (p. 540). Hunt's approval is based on his fundamental principle of poetic classes cited earlier -- that regardless of the order of imagination, poetry must "spring out of a real impulse" and if it is true to that impulse, no matter how humble, the result must be recognized for its value. Such is the case with the best of Hunt's poetry.