Una and the Lion by Spenser

Letter S.

She, that most faithful lady, all this while,

Forsaken, woful, solitary maid,

Far from the people's throng, as in exile,

In wilderness and wasteful deserts stray'd

To seek her knight; who, subtlely betray'd

By that false vision which th' enchanter wrought,

Had her abandon'd. She, of nought afraid,

Him through the woods and wide wastes daily sought,

Yet wish'd for tidings of him—none unto her brought.

One day, nigh weary of the irksome way,

From her unhasty beast she did alight;

And on the grass her dainty limbs did lay

In secret shadow, far from all men's sight:

From her fair head her fillet she undight,

And laid her stole aside; her angel face,

As the great eye that lights the earth, shone bright,

And made a sunshine in that shady place,

That never mortal eye beheld such heavenly grace.

It fortun'd that, from out the thicket wood

A ramping lion rushed suddenly,

And hunting greedy after savage blood,

The royal virgin helpless did espy;

At whom, with gaping mouth full greedily

To seize and to devour her tender corse,

When he did run, he stopp'd ere he drew nigh,

And loosing all his rage in quick remorse,

As with the sight amazed, forgot his furious force.

Then coming near, he kiss'd her weary feet,

And lick'd her lily hand with fawning tongue,

As he her wronged innocence did meet:

Oh! how can beauty master the most strong,

And simple truth subdue intent of wrong!

His proud submission, and his yielded pride,

Though dreading death, when she had marked long,

She felt compassion in her heart to slide,

And drizzling tears to gush that might not be denied.

And with her tears she pour'd a sad complaint,

That softly echoed from the neighbouring wood;

While sad to see her sorrowful constraint,

The kingly beast upon her gazing stood:

With pity calm'd he lost all angry mood.

At length, in close breast shutting up her pain,

Arose the virgin born of heavenly brood,

And on her snowy palfrey rode again

To seek and find her knight, if him she might attain.

The lion would not leave her desolate,

But with her went along, as a strong guard

Of her chaste person, and a faithful mate

Of her sad troubles and misfortunes hard:

Still when she slept, he kept both watch and ward,

And when she waked, he waited diligent

With humble service to her will prepared.

From her fair eyes he took commandment,

And ever by her looks conceived her intent.

Spenser.