Cecil the lion, one of the most iconic creatures of Zimbabwe’s national parks, has been killed by trophy hunters, creating an international outcry in the press as well as in social media (for an overview see e. g. this page)
I don’t care at all for trophy hunting and those who pursue this repulsive pastime.
Cecil and his pointless, unnecessary, and undignified death by the hand of vainglorious animal killers, deriving their perverted pleasures from the killing of proud beasts for no practical purpose whatsoever, reminded me of a classic(al) tale.
Cecil was 13 years old, with a typical life-span of lions of 10-14 years (in the wild). In other words, he was not only an exceptionally photogenic, but also – let’s face it – an old lion.
Phaedrus, Rome’s hugely under-appreciated fabulist, tells a story about an old lion (Phaedr. 1.21), and it goes like this –
Leo senex, aper, taurus et asinus
Quicumque amisit dignitatem pristinam,
Ignavis etiam iocus est in casu gravi.
Defectus annis et desertus viribus
Leo cum iaceret spiritum extremum trahens,
Aper fulmineis venit ad eum dentibus
Et vindicavit ictu veterem iniuriam.
Infestis taurus mox confodit cornibus
Hostile corpus. Asinus, ut vidit ferum
Impune laedi, calcibus frontem extudit.
At ille exspirans: “Fortis indigne tuli
Mihi insultare: te, naturae dedecus,
Quod ferre certe cogor bis videor mori”.
Christopher Smart’s beautifully outdated English verse translation of this piece (from here):
The Old Lion
Whoever, to his honor’s cost,
His pristine dignity has lost,
Is the fool’s jest and coward’s scorn,
When once deserted and forlorn.
With years enfeebled and decay’d,
A Lion gasping hard was laid:
Then came, with furious tusk, a boar,
To vindicate his wrongs of yore:
The bull was next in hostile spite,
With goring horn his foe to smite:
At length the ass himself, secure
That now impunity was sure,
His blow too insolently deals,
And kicks his forehead with his heel.
Then thus the Lion, as he died:
“‘Twas hard to bear the brave,” he cried;
But to be trampled on by thee
Is Nature’s last indignity;
And thou, o despicable thing,
Giv’st death at least a double sting.”
‘But to be trampled on by thee / Is Nature’s last indignity, / And thou, o despicable thing, / Giv’st death at least a double sting’ says the lion to the creature that administered the fatal blow.
The once proud lion, killed by an ass.