William Cowper

(26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire)

Reciprocal Kindness The Primary Law Of Nature - Poem by William Cowper

Androcles, from his injured lord, in dread
Of instant death, to Lybia's desert fled,
Tired with his toilsome flight, and parch'd with heat,
He spied at length a cavern's cool retreat;
But scarce had given to rest his weary frame,
When, hugest of his kind, a lion came:
He roar'd approaching: but the savage din
To plaintive murmurs changed -- arrived within,
And with expressive looks, his lifted paw
Presenting, and implored from whom he saw.
The fugitive, through terror at a stand,
Dared not awhile afford his trembling hand;
But bolder grown, at length inherent found
A pointed thorn, and drew it from the wound.
The cure was wrought; he wiped the sanious blood,
And firm and free from pain the lion stood.
Again he seeks the wilds, and day by day
Regales his inmate with the parted prey.
Nor he disdains the dole, though unprepared,
Spread on the ground, and with a lion shared.
But thus to live -- still lost -- sequester'd still --
Scarce seem'd his lord's revenge a heavier ill.
Home! native home! O might he but repair!
He must -- he will, though death attends him there.
He goes, and, doom'd to perish, on the sands
Of the full theatre unpitied stands:
When lo! the selfsame lion from his cage
Flies to devour him, famish'd into rage.
He flies, but viewing in his purposed prey
The man, his healer, pauses on his way,
And, soften'd by remembrance into sweet
And kind composure, crouches at his feet.
Mute with astonishment, the assembly gaze:
But why, ye Romans? Whence your mute amaze?
All this is natural: nature bade him rend
An enemy: she bids him spare a friend.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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