By Howard Lee
His body tired, the end draws nigh,
The old lion lies down in the shade.
His breathing laboured, he’s barely awake.
The last glimmer begins to fade.
His mane a tangle from more glorious days
When he ruled the plains with fury.
His claws of steel, once feared and revered,
Now dull and blunt, battle-wearied.
His mind flickers, remembering the days
When his pride flanked him right and left.
All creatures accorded him respect,
Or a frigid stare leads to death.
He saunters not, his stride is firm.
He had no time for weakness.
A path he cuts, completely unchallenged,
He forged his very own greatness.
Oh, there were those who rose in protest,
Lesser minions and rebel tribes.
“They know not what they wish to destroy,”
With glowering countenance he decried.
Then cunningly as an alpha would,
He planned for a swift attack.
Decimated, broken, left for dead,
His foes retreated, their wills driven back.
The old lion had it all his way,
Yet undeniably, the plains were well.
Docility ended all agitation,
Constant threat forced all to excel.
In his prime, he kept endless watch
For deviations to the norm.
Any hint of trouble was quashed.
On the plains, his law was formed.
His pride revelled in his victory,
Buoyed by the ease of control.
They learnt his firm hand, he tutored well,
The siege they continued, stories retold.
“How he fought the greatest of foes!
How boundless his energy was!
How great the miracle he has built!
How great his sacrifice, his loss!”
But something was not right, it seems,
As time and history takes its toil.
The plains unfolded, new life blossomed,
Sprung anew from blood-stained soil.
A grudging angst grew louder in voice,
A new agitation born of despair.
No single foe, but thorns everywhere
Slowly engulfed the lion’s lair.
Did the old lion fail his watch?
His eyes too blurry to see?
His dominion exhausted, all respect lost?
Or his glory a faded memory?
He trusted too much in his success
In crafting a prosperous land.
He believed firmly that all was well
Because of his pride’s strong hand.
His pride stands aside now, watching him,
Feigning purpose and strength.
Claws sharp and coats glistening,
Heads held high, dignity entrenched.
But in them little comfort can be found
As did the old lion of the past.
The change on the plain caught them by surprise,
As the old lion breathed his last.
So they gathered their best voices
And started a mighty roar
That resounded over all the plains
As far as the eagle soared.
“The king has passed, but we are here,
To glory we will bring you!
We have not his gifts, but trust in us,
Our strength his spirit has renewed!”
Yet the roar echoes back.
Empty and hollow.
The silence mourns death.
But the plains won’t follow.
The pride reflects in puzzlement,
“What manner of sorcery this?
Dissenting voices, they drown our good work,
Quash them – cease and desist!”
With renewed vigour, they turned on false foes,
And cleaved a few tombstones, too.
The true troubles, but left unchecked,
The thorns into towering bushes grew.
And so the old lion’s reign would wane,
A mere flicker of past glories.
A new beginning need be sought,
But his pride has no new stories.
Before an encroaching unknown,
The plains can only hold so long.
Wither the good times, the peace of old?
What did the old lion do wrong?
The fault’s not all his, and very well he did.
It’s pride that did his pride in.
His golden mantra they could not resist,
But ideas were rotting from within.
Their stride was firm, their manes in order,
Their claws were just as steely.
But what they did not know they needed
Was that little bit more empathy.
The iron fists of the old lion
Held a romantic past long gone.
The plain needed space to grow on its own
Together with weeds and thorns.
It never knew what it could do,
In the shadow of the old lion.
Perhaps that was his only flaw,
That he never allowed true freedom.
The old lion had breathed his last.
His pride stands by watching.
They might never lean on his past glory,
But that won’t stop them trying.
Yet concern turns to what the plains will be,
As it mourns a leader feared.
Will it find itself in the unknown
And forge a new future?