I see a king who stands as noble as a king can be: pride of his servants, pride of you and me. He keeps his kingdom strong, twice he’s fought off foreign armies nipping at our borders, twice he’s beaten generals on the field and off it. To compare him to others is a slight to himself, and it diminishes the comparer even by compliment. His hair is lavishly oiled, his horses legion, bright stallions rippled with muscle nay a nag among them. His chariot is gold trimmed as is his beard, his bed, and his bride. Never, in the history of the World did a king stand as noble as this, surrounded by servants glad to serve, and in martial valor his soldiers are inspired by his glance, his looks, his action. In battle, he carries a bow that fifty servants could not string, and his lethal arrows never fail to find their mark.
God, what a king! Paragon to be worshiped, the picture of Divine Right personified in a man ramrod straight in his chariot, arrow flying away in a perfect arc, bringing death to that in its path:
Now, a lion is a cat. A beast of desert and plain. 480 pounds of muscle, fur, claws, and fangs. An engine of destruction that runs-- like most engines do-- by burning fuel; antelope, water buffalo, hogs, zebra. You, maybe me. It lives a little more than a decade in a pride before it returns its chalk to the grass. Its fur is gold, mane twined in haloed sunshock around a face for coins-- impression stamped meraviglioso with rounded ears, citrine-colored eyes, howlite teeth, a moist nose, all run by a heart pumping blood through brain, flesh, and sinew.
It seeks and proffers from the generosity of other’s slow speed, dim wits, or bad luck. Where the antelope is is slow, the lion is happy. When the zebra is dumb, the lion is sated. When the buffalo breaks its leg, the lion lives.
Who speaks for God? The lion, for his voice is thunder, as out of the Whirlwind. Animals rest in his paws, to live or die; the blood debt of life, this bargain is one and only: strive for life or lose it-- the lion’s jaws seek you, and the worthy shall unworthy themselves in golden paws wrought by the Almighty.
This then is the lion, and he stalks Creation with the assurance of a divine mission. That these arrows prick is an oddity. That red stains gold fur is a given; given the lion’s mandate, but that it comes from within rather than from without gives one pause as if the natural order has been broken, it then is stranger to see the Beast Mandatum Caelorum stumble, shriek, bite at his shoulder in agony, and feel the fear of lesser things.
Arrows are simple, dull things. No life lives in them, they are dead wood, cold metal, and lost feathers. Neck, fletching, shaft, and head-- cheap, no exotic metals, silvered or otherwise. The wood is not as deadly as oleander, but it needn’t be to do its work.
The lion, the work of God, crystaled in light shafts, hide resplendent: aureate, aurelian, aurous, auriferous, auric, gilded withal, and that flesh punctuated by arrow shafts’ deadly period. Every spot a stain, every stain red, to draw the life out, to drown the world, and here the sentence ends; five years a cat, eternity as nothing.
The sky crumbles, the storm comes on, the angry bolts crash, as right becomes wrong, and natural law breaks.
The lion creeps like a guilty thing down somewhere to die. The shame it feels second to burning arrows thick in its back. A river to bathe the wounds? The clump of grass for a pillow? A dark solemn place where light will never again reach jeweled fur? The halo is out, the jaws will find no klipspringer, no roan or sabled antelope, never again, no more. It’s an angry heaven to receive so noble a soul.
O, but wasn’t this hunt grand for our--