Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Una and the Lion
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
(See full text.)

ONE day, nigh weary of the irksome way,
From her unhasty beast she did alight;
And on the grass her dainty limbs did lay,
In secret shadow far from all men’s sight;
From her fair head her fillet she undight,        5
And laid her stole aside; her angel’s face
As the great eye of heaven shined bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place;
Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace.
 
It fortunèd, out of the thickest wood        10
A ramping lion rushèd suddenly,
Hunting full greedy after savage blood.
Soon as the royal virgin he did spy,
With gaping mouth at her ran greedily,
To have at once devoured her tender corse;        15
But to the prey when as he drew more nigh,
His bloody rage assuagèd with remorse,
And with the sight amazed, forgat his furious force.
 
Instead thereof, he kissed her weary feet,
And licked her lily hands with fawning tongue,        20
As he her wrongèd innocence did weet.
Oh! how can beauty master the most wrong,
And simple truth subdue avenging strong!
Whose yielded pride and proud submission,
Still dreading death, when she had markèd long,        25
Her heart ’gan melt in great compassion,
And drizzling tears did shed for pure affection.
 
“The lion, lord of every beast in field,”
Quoth she, “his princely puissance doth abate,
And mighty proud to humble weak does yield        30
Forgetful of the hungry rage, which late
Him pricked, in pity of my sad estate:—
But he, my lion, and my noble lord,
How does he find in cruel heart to hate
Her that him loved, and ever most adored        35
As the god of my life? Why hath he me abhorred?”
 
Redounding tears did choke th’ end of her plaint,
Which softly echoed from the neighbor wood;
And sad to see her sorrowful constraint
The kingly beast upon her gazing stood;        40
With pity calmed, down fell his angry mood.
At last, in close heart shutting up her pain,
Arose the virgin, born of heavenly brood,
And to her snowy palfrey got again
To seek her strayed champion if she might attain.        45
 
The lion would not leave her desolate,
But with her went along, as a strong guard
Of her chaste person, and a faithful mate.
Still, when she slept, he kept both watch and ward;
And, when she waked, he waited diligent,        50
With humble service to her will prepared:
From her fair eyes he took commandment
And ever by her looks conceivèd her intent.
 
 
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