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Lions, loss, what poetry does.

I was reading about the vanishing of wild lions. Should dwindling numbers be fenced off in protected grounds? Do we give in to poaching and money culture - what's a dead one worth, exactly? - because hey, everything dies out eventually? Take DNA samples and keep "representative" lions - which hardly seems to cut it in terms of their magnificence in their own habitat? Words do it better while they last, and they can last a long, long time.

Today I found a page I seem to have saved from school on a loose sheet, probably fallen out of a school textbook, in Latin with my wobbly translation. So I found a good translation instead, my own Latin having vanished almost as completely as snow off a dyke, and there it was - the lion as a symbol of magnificence from around 750 years BC. The 'lion' is there as a glimpse of the character of Hector, a Trojan killed in a terrible war, a man of beauty and grace and appalling courage fighting for his own territory and the future of his family.

Homer. Poetry. Genius. And awful, awful loss.

See an East African lion Nose tip to tail tuft ten, eleven feet Slouching towards you Swaying its head from side to side Doubling its pace, its gold-black mane That stretches down its belly to its groin Catching the sunlight as it hits Twice its own length a beat, then leaps Great forepaws high great claws disclosed The scarlet insides of its mouth Parting a roar as loud as sail-sized flames And lands, slam-scattering the herd. That is how Hector came on us.

The Iliad

World Wildlife Fund information here:

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