Charles Lamb

The Beasts In The Tower

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Within the precincts of this yard,
Each in his narrow confines barred,
Dwells every beast that can be found
On Afric or on Indian ground.
How different was the life they led
In those wild haunts where they were bred,
To this tame servitude and fear,
Enslaved by man, they suffer here!

In that uneasy close recess
Couches a sleeping lioness;
That next den holds a bear; the next
A wolf, by hunger ever vext;
There, fiercer from the keeper's lashes
His teeth the fell hyena gnashes;
That creature on whose back abound
Black spots upon a yellow ground,
A panther is, the fairest beast
That haunteth in the spacious East.
He underneath a fair outside
Does cruelty and treachery hide.

That cat-like beast that to and fro
Restless as fire does ever go,
As if his courage did resent
His limbs in such confinement pent,
That should their prey in forests take,
And make the Indian jungles quake,
A tiger is. Observe how sleek
And glossy smooth his coat: no streak
On satin ever matched the pride
Of that which marks his furry hide.
How strong his muscles! he with ease
Upon the tallest man could seize,
In his large mouth away could bear him,
And into thousand pieces tear him:
Yet cabined so securely here,
The smallest infant need not fear.

That lordly creature next to him
A lion is. Survey each limb.
Observe the texture of his claws,
The massy thickness of those jaws;
His mane that sweeps the ground in length,
Like Samson's locks, betokening strength.
In force and swiftness he excels
Each beast that in the forest dwells;
The savage tribes him king confess
Throughout the howling wilderness.
Woe to the hapless neighbourhood,
When he is pressed by want of food!
Of man, or child, of bull, or horse,
He makes his prey; such is his force.
A waste behind him he creates,
Whole villages depopulates.
Yet here within appointed lines
How small a grate his rage confines!

This place methinks resembleth well
The world itself in which we dwell.
Perils and snares on every ground
Like these wild beasts beset us round.
But Providence their rage restrains,
Our heavenly Keeper sets them chains;
His goodness saveth every hour
His darlings from the lion's power.

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