Bereavement of the Lion Keeper

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What are your thoughts and feelings as you read this poem, and how do the words of the poem make you respond in this way?

The poem the ‘Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper’ explores the intensity and intimacy of a relationship between a lion and his keeper while also portraying the challenges of dealing with death and abandonment. The keeper faces a transition in his identity following his lion’s death, a sense of abandonment and an unwelcoming and cold world outside of his comforts with the lion.

The poet explores the intensity and closeness of the keeper and lion’s relationship throughout the poem while portraying the respect the keeper has for the animal. The egalitarian relationship of keeper and animal comes through clearly in the line ‘just keepers and captives’. The alliteration of the words ‘keepers’ and ‘captives’ displays the equality between the two characters, portraying them as companions rather than dependents. This is the first idea introduced in the poem and is clearly emphasized in the first line itself ‘Who stayed, long after his pay stopped’. The line highlights the way the keeper regards the lion as more than part of his job and develops a very close bond and attachment to it. Through writing of the small detail and attention with which the keeper attends to the lion’s needs, the poet portrays the extent of the relationship between the characters as seen in the line ‘cut it small to feed him, since his teeth were gone.’ The simplicity of the statement ‘teeth were gone’ not only shows the lion’s ageing but also insinuates that the keeper does not want to face the reality of the situation and almost skims over the fact that his lion is growing old. Furthermore, we see how ironically, the keeper treats his lion like a baby while he is dying.

Not only does the poet convey the intimate relationship of the characters, he also displays the way it forms the keeper’s identity. The poet portrays the lion and the keeper as one entity through the...
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