70. Lions of Romance.


Il est vray que le lyon est sire and roy de toutes les bestes du monde, et est de si franche nature et de si haulte que sil trouvoit fitz de roy de loyal pere et de loyalle mere ja nul mal ne luy feroit. (Lancelot du Lac. p. 2. ff 127.) The experiment was tried upon Lenvalles, son of king Eliezer, to prove his birth when he was three days old.

Beaumont and Fletcher have made a humorous use of this notion in the Mad 135Lover. When Memnon has lost his wits for love of the princess, they endeavour to pass upon him a woman of a very different description for her. The lady begins by giving him a kiss. He, however, takes her “royal hand as more than he must purchase,” and finding good cause for suspicion, exclaims,

Fetch the Numidian lion I brought over,
If she be sprung from royal blood, the lion
Will do you reverence; else—
Woman. I beseech your lordship—
Memnon. He’ll tear her all to pieces.

A century ago the lions in the Tower were named after the reigning kings; and “it has been observed,” says a writer of that age, “that when a king dies, the lion of that name dies after him.”

There is a distinction made in Palmerin de Oliva between Leones Coronados, aud Leones Pardos The former, who may be called Lions Royal, are those who know blood-royal instinctively, and respect it, I suppose, as a family sort of tie. The others have no such instinct.

136Maulequi, the soldan of Babylon, had sworn to throw Palmerin into the lion’s den; this oath he could not break, but, at his daughter Alchidiana’s request, he gave orders that he should be put in the den and the gates shut upon him, and then instantly let out again. There were fifteen lions in the den, twelve royal ones, and three pardos; these three attacked him, for he did not chuse to retreat (c. 79). As all fifteen are called Lions, and the keeper is called Leonero, it is evident that the leones pardos are not meant to be leopards, but that it is some imaginary distinction. For though, according to old fabulous history, this was a species of mule beast, produced by the lioness and leopard having conjunction together, or the lion and leopardess, there was an enmity between the true lion and these bastards, so that they never could have been kept in one den. The true lion is jealous of the leopard, who “is a very tyrant, and advouterous in his kind;” and he knoweth,

137sayth Pliny, when the lyonesse hath played him false play, and hath played the advoutresse with the libard, by a certain rammish[1] smell or sweate which ariseth of them both; yet if she washeth herselfe throughly, she may deceyve him. The leoparde hath his cabbage in the yearth, with two contrary wayes undermined to enter into it, or to run out of it at his pleasure; verie wide at the coming in, but as narrow and straight about the mid cabbage: whether his enemie the lion, running sometimes after him and apace, at the first coming in thither, is narrowly pent, insomuch that he cannot neyther get forward nor backwarde. That seeing the leoparde, he runneth apace out of the furder hole, and commeth to that whereas the lion first 138ran in, and having him hard pent, and his back toward him, bighteth and scratcheth him with tooth and nayle, and so by art the leopard getteth the victory, and not by strength. “

The greene Forest, or a naturale historie. &c. compiled by John Maplet, M. of Arte, student in Cambridge, entending hereby that God might especially be glorified, and the people furdered. London, 1567.

  1. It is curious to see how this M. of Arte has debased the expressions of Pliny—Odore pardi coitum sentit in adultera lea, totaque vi consurgit in pœnam. Ideirco ea culpa flumine abluitur, ant longius comitatur.

    L.8. § 17


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