Leonardo da Vinci's

Saint Jerome and his lion
in that hermitage
of walls half gone,
share sanctuary for a sage--
joint-frame for impassioned ingenious
Jerome versed in language--
and for a lion like one on the skin of which
Hercules' club made no impression.

The beast, received as a guest,
although some monks fled--
with its paw dressed
that a desert thorn had made red--
stayed as guard of the monastery ass . . .
which vanished, having fed
its guard, Jerome assumed. The guest then, like an ass,
was made carry wood and did not resist,

but before long recognized
the ass and consigned
its terrorized
thieves' whole camel-train to chagrined
Saint Jerome. The vindicated beast and
saint somehow became twinned;
and now, since they behaved and also looked alike,
their lionship seems officialized.

Pacific yet passionate--
for if not both, how
could he be great?
Jerome--reduced by what he'd been through--
with tapering waist no matter what he ate,
left us the Vulgate. That in Leo,
the Nile's rise grew food checking famine,
made lion's mouth fountains appropriate,

if not universally,
at least not obscure.
And here, though hardly a summary, astronomy--
or pale paint--makes the golden pair
in Leonardo da Vinci's sketch, seem
sun-dyed. Blaze on, picture,
saint, beast; and Lion Haile Selassie, with household
lions as symbol of sovereignty.