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The Glove and the Lions -- James Leigh Hunt

       
(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."
-- James Leigh Hunt
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[1], 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.

[1] 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.

73 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kim Handsaker said...

The most amazing thing (for me anyway)....

I read this poem in the 7th grade. My grandmother had a book of old poems and this one happened to be there. I have remembered much of it through the 25 years or so that have passed since my reading of it, but not the author or it's name. :)

Was trying to share it with my wife and we thought of the Internet. Thought I'd give it a shot. Found "Charge of the Light Brigade" and "The Highwayman" by title so typed in "threw the glove poem.." and up it came.

Thank you SO very much for allowing me to recapture a memory. :)

rkpgroup said...

THIS POEM IS VERY GOOD THAT I HANOVER READ

Patricia said...

Thus a 60-year search is ended, since when I was just eight years old my mother gave my poetry book to the Boy Scouts for their Bring-and-Buy sale, this is a wonderful thing all I did was google my way to your page, OH! the deep joy foldered in the Heart-i'most thanklymuch and Meric-Crispin Wonders from Patricia.

Regina Forsyth said...

Thank you for this poem complete. I remember, as apparently do many, from my early adolescence. I too remember the 'tale' of the poem most vividly: ["No love," quoth he, "but vanity, sets love a task like that."]

I am frequently amazed at how that phrase has come to haunt my adult life. In some ways, I can honestly said that it changed my life. The bottom line assessment is one that I have had reason to use more once.

Thank you for giving me the author and the poem in its entirety.

Regina

Emil Khavkin said...

Is Schiller's 'The Glove' completely unknown to English poetry readers?

Russell said...

line 4, "signed" should read "sighed."

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Gisela von Brunn said...

"And 'mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he signed"

>>>This should read: "...with one for whom he sighed"

Unfortunately I don't have the hard copy with me to check the rest...
Gisela v. Brunn, Germany

P.S.: Friedrich Schiller has written a ballad about the same story in "Der Handschuh" - so maybe there is some basis in history (unless they copied from each other!).

Bob VandenBoom said...

I memorized this poem when I was in the 3rd grade (back in 1968) and have
never forgotten the words!

My daughter, interestingly enough, who is currently in the 3rd grade, is
studying poetry and was asked to bring in any poems that her parents
remembered. I remembered everything except the title and the author, but
thanks to this site, I now have "the rest of the story".

"With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, that always seemed the same"
she'll share the poem with her class.

Renuka Prematillake said...

Whether this poem depicts a true story or not is not important as long as the message given by the poet is important. This shows us the differece between true love and vanity!

heidi said...

My eldest sister would say this poem for us over and over. Now here I am 30 years later reading myself, and having all intentions of reading it to my baby. My sister would recite it with such emotions, complete with an English accent, which sounded funny to me then, seeing it was recited by a Trinidadian person. Thank you for bringing back my childhood, and for letting me realize how fortunate I am to have such a loving sister.

Heidi- Trinidad & Tobago

Tommy Erskine said...

I have known this poem for some 45 years and I believe there is a
mistake in the 4th line:
”...with one for whom he signed:“ should in fact read ”...with one
for whom he sighed:“

This was one of many of the poems we had to memorize in my 9th grade
English class at Baltimore City College.

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pavani lokuhettiarachchi said...

this denotes all time truth about people who chase after fame and vanity . it touches the heart and the same time winking at us ,telling no no NO VANITY.!!!!!!!!

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Nate said...

Browning offered a little more insight: Check "The Glove."

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