The Spirit of the Nation/The Lion and the Serpent. A Fable

The Spirit of the Nation
The Lion and the Serpent. A Fable by Shamrock (Richard D'Alton Williams)



In days of old the Serpent came
To the Lion's rocky hall,
And the forest king spread the sward with game,
And they drank at the torrent's fall;
And the Serpent saw that the woods were fair,
And she long'd to make her dwelling there.

But she saw that her host had a knack of his own,
At tearing a sinew or cracking a bone,
And had grinders unpleasantly strong;
So she said to herself, "I'll bamboozle the king
With my plausible speech, and all that sort of thing,
That, since Eve, to my people belong:

"These claws and those grinders must certainly be
Inconvenient to you as they're dreadful to me—
Draw 'em out, like a love, I'm so 'frighted!
And, then, since I've long had an amorous eye on
Yourself and your property, dear Mr. Lion,
We can be (spare my blushes) united."

So subtle the pow'r of her poisonous kisses,
So deadly to honour the falsehood she hisses,
The lion for once is an ass.
Before her, disarmed, the simpleton stands,
The Union's proclaimed, but the hymen'al bands
Are ponderous fetters of brass.

The Lion, self-conquer'd, is chained on the ground,
And the breath of his tyrant sheds poison around
The fame and the life of her slave.
How long in his torture the stricken king lay
Historians omit, but 'tis known that one day
The Serpent began to look grave;

For when passing, as usual, her thrall with a sneer,
She derisively hiss'd some new taunt in his ear—
He shook all his chains with a roar;
And, observing more closely, she saw with much pain,
That his tusks and his claws were appearing again,
A fact she'd neglected before.

From that hour she grew dangerously civil, indeed,
And declared he should be, ere long, totally freed
From every dishonouring chain.
"The moment, my dearest, our friend, the Fox, draws
Those nasty sharp things from your Majesty's jaws,
You must bound free as air o'er the plain."

But the captive sprung from his dungeon floor,
And he bow'd the woods with a scornful roar,
And his burning eyes flash'd flame;
And as echo swell'd the shout afar,
The stormy joy of Freedom's war
O'er the blast of the desert came.

And the Lion laugh'd, and his mirth was loud
As the stunning burst of a thunder cloud,
And he shook his wrathful mane;
And hollow sounds from his lash'd sides come,
Like the sullen roll of a 'larum drum,
He snapp'd, like a reed, the chain,
And the Serpent saw that her reign was o'er,
And hissing, she fled from the lion's roar.