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The Circus Lion (a Poem About Cruelty to Animals in Captivity)

John is passionate about human and animal rights, social justice, equality, and the environment, and likes to convey that in his writing.

I wrote this poem many years ago after actually taking my children to a visiting circus. Of course the events in the poem didn't happen, but as we walked past the animal cages before the show the dejected and unhappy looks on the animals faces made me feel guilty about even being there let alone paying money to encourage and support such a thing.

Fellow hubber and friend, Brenda Arledge has provided a weekly word prompt for the word "freedom" in 'Word Prompts Help Creativity ~ Week 29' so I thought this was the perfect time to update and reshare this poem.

A Proud Lion: Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay

A Proud Lion: Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay

Animal abuse is rampant in the U.S., right under everyone's eyes, for the entertainment of the public. The brutal confinement and pain of training methods of wild animals in the circus, the aquatic and theatrical shows, leads to retaliation by the animals. Eventually they find the right time to strike out, and they will.

— Tippi Hedren

The Circus Lion

Children gather in the streets,

Laughter on their faces.

Happy voices cheering loud,

Excited acclamation.

What's the reason for such gaiety?

Hey- look there's a clown,

A juggler and an acrobat,

The circus is in town.

A proud lion paces in a cage,

Fierce frown upon his face,

Arrogant but trapped by bars,

He hates the human race.

Long ago when just a cub,

Roaming wild and free.

A land so vast with endless plains,

The ideal place to be.

One fateful day men came with guns

And fired without a care,

To capture trophies for their walls,

And panic filled the air.

A lioness fell down at his side

Her heart a bullet tore.

A net was dropped upon the cub,

Freedom his no more.

Caged and placed upon a ship

Bound for far away.

Never to be free again,

To join the circus frey.

Always carefree in the wild

Content just to survive,

Now he feels both fear and rage,

For freedom does he strive.

The Circus: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Circus: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Forced to learn tricks and perform,

To jump through blazing hoops.

Teased by men with whips and chairs,

How low does mankind stoop?

The three ring circus is in town,

The "Greatest Show On Earth".

People flock from miles around

Expressing joyful mirth.

The dancing stallions in ring one

with shining coats and manes aflow.

Marching, prancing, raring high,

Long tails waving to and fro.

Ring two has the high trapeze,

All young eyes are staring.

Flying freely through the air,

Beautiful and daring.

And now the 'Greatest Show On Earth"

Presents its main attraction,

Guaranteed to thrill you all,

Danger, non-stop action.

Gents and ladies, boys and girls,

Kids of every age,

Avert your eyes to center ring,

Here comes the lion cage.

Within the cage are not just lions,

But tigers, leopards too

Angry fear in all their eyes,

Made beg and jump on cue.

The lion tamer, bold and brave

Enters cautiously the cage.

Despised on sight by all the cats,

A whip protects him from their rage.

I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Every time he cracks the whip

The big cats must obey,

Humiliation in their hearts,

On him they'd like to prey.

Just one slip is all it takes,

The big man trips and falls.

He tries to scramble to his feet,

But a lion leaps swift, and mauls.

The crowd at first is stunned and quiet,

But soon a scream rings out.

All the cats have joined the frey,

"Get guns!" someone shouts.

Soon shots are fired into the cage,

A lion and tiger fall.

The other cats try to escape

But the cage is much too small.

All the beasts are soon destroyed,

The bodies dragged away.

The crowd sit shocked within their seats,

They won't forget this day.

How can man condemn a beast

That's taken from its home,

Caged and kept against its will,

Imprisoned and alone?

Although the proud lion lost it's life

At least now he was free.

Avenged the man who taunted him,

And escaped captivity.

So you see, the Circus

Is not all it appears,

Underneath the laughter

Lurks a million tears.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

— Albert Camus

Free at Last: Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Free at Last: Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

© 2013 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Thank you Peg, so would I. I appreciate your congratulations on the hubby award. Same to you..well deserving of “best photgrapher.”

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Much appreciation for your comment, manatita. Yes, Jesus transformed lives through love but also supported activism if needed. There have been steps forward in regard to the treatment of animals but still a long way to go.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2021:

Forgot to mention my congratulations on receiving the most votes for being the best poet. You deserve it!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2021:

Hi John,

I would much rather have the animal be free in natural surrounding than kept in cages and used for circus acts. Your poem expresses their pain of confinement and cruelty to them well.

manatita44 from london on September 11, 2021:

Engaging John, with a very powerful message. So impactful!! Sad that we were doing it in Roman times and to humans. Continued in the colonial era. That is why Christ refused to help Barabbas, a good man who believed in social justice and revolutionary change.

I always remember this, as Jesus the Christ said that his was the way of Love. Activism is necessary and will happen regardless: A Gandhi, A Dr Martin Luther King jnr, a John Lewis and so forth. Yet the way of Love transform lives. What a powerful piece!!

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on September 11, 2021:

always good to see you too Sir John!!!! has been a busy months, been spending reading too. I didn't even noticed Christmas is approaching. Take good care you all out there.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Hello Bill, I can remember going to the circus as a child and not knowing any better. When I grew up,I realised how wrong it was, the way animals were kept in captivity and made to perform. Most zoos are not so bad, and especially with the poaching still occurring in many places, but freedom is the ideal. Thanks you for reading.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 11, 2021:

John, It absolutely drives me crazy thinking about animal abuse. We don’t go to the circus, never will. I know zoos try to give animals a comfortable atmosphere, but nothing compares to being free in nature where they belong. Thank you for highlighting this important issue with your wonderful poem.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Hello Chrish, good to see you. I am glad that there are no longer many circuses involving animal acts. It is a cruel practice that needs to end. Hugs back to you.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Brenda thank you for your analysis of the poem. I am glad you enjoyed it, and I also appreciate the congratulations for the hubby award. Have a great day.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on September 11, 2021:

I have never been a fan of this specilly zoos ):

how can people watch a such when its obviously a scene of cruelty.

As I read those lines my tiny heart aches. Hope all could read this so they might know or realize it was never fan watching cruelty.

Sending super power hugs Sir John!!!!!!!!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 11, 2021:


Your poem, "The Circus Lion" you tell us how when the circus comes to town the children are excited.

They see the clown and the juggler, but the lion has a frown.

He hates the human race for taking his freedom away.

He remembers being a cub running wild & free until the men came with guns.

He was trapped in a cage & sent to be in a circus.

He was forced to learn tricks but he yearns to be free.

Yet people flock from all over to see the Greatest Show on earth.

You can see the anger in their eyes..the lions, the leopards, & tigers, but they perform on cue.

When the tamer cracks his whip they obey but when he slips & falls the lion leaps & mauls him.

The crowd screams as the other cats join in & soon the sound of gunfire puts it to an end.

This crowd is shocked & won't forget this day, but how could they blame an animal taken from his home & caged.

The crircus isn't as it appears, for there lurks a million tears.

This is an excellent piece of work to show the cruel & inhumane captivity of these animals.

It is sad the lion earned his freedom back this way.

Great work. I'm glad you updated this one.

I'll post a link in the word prompt article.

P.S. ~ Congratulations on your Hubbie Award.

Your words are always terrific & we look forward to reading more.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Misbah, my dear friend, thank you for such a wonderful comment. This poem meant a lot to me when I wrote it and still does. Animals deserve the same right to freedom as humans do.

Thank you for the sincere congratulations on the hubby award also.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 11, 2021:

John, this is so beautiful poem. You have portrayed the harshness and bitter reality of human beings is so brilliantly. These words are so moving:

“How can man condemn a beast

That's taken from its home,

Caged and kept against its will,

Imprisoned and alone?”

When a someone is kept in prison, we feel sorry for them, but when animals are mistreated, few of us raise our voice against it. Thank you for sharing this lovely writing with us. This is a very worthy response to Brenda's prompt. Please accept my heartfelt congrats on winning the Hubbie award. I'm really very happy for you. Wishing you all the best in the future.

Have a great weekend.

Blessings always!!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Thank you Teodora. Yes, you are right, we need to speak up loudly for animals rights.

Teodora Gheorghe on September 11, 2021:

Wonderful poem! Touching and realistic...unfortunately. Animals don't have a voice, so we need to be their voice.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2021:

Yes, it is an old article, Chitrangada. I contemplated writing a new one but it would have had a similar message, so thought I may as well just update this with new photos etc and reshare. It suited the prrompt “freedom.” Thank you for reading it again.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 11, 2021:

Hello John!

I have read this one earlier, and this is a perfect response to the word prompt. A very important and valuable article.

Congratulations on winning the Hubbie award-- So well deserved.

Enjoy the weekend with celebrations.

Thank you for sharing!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 10, 2021:

This is my response to Brenda's weekly word prompt "freedom."

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 07, 2014:

What a horrible experience Sally. That would be enough to turn you away, as well as the animal cruelty. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 07, 2014:

Thanks Shauna, I feel guilty for having taken my kids to circuses years ago as well, but we learn from our mistakes and become older and wiser don't we...I hope. Clowns are scary :)

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on September 07, 2014:


I will never go to another circus, especially after I watched a young clown die of a heart attack in the ring. I loathe seeing animals treated unkindly and that is probably the best reason for never having to go to another performance again.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 07, 2014:

Amen, John! I only took my son to the circus once. He had a fit when the clowns fired their pop guns. Once was enough for him. Now that I know what I know and I've become an opponent of keeping animals in captivity for human entertainment, I'm ashamed of having dropped my dollars on circuses, SeaWorld and the like.

Excellent poem my friend!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on June 05, 2014:

Thank you so much Chitrangada. I appreciate your kind words.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 05, 2014:

Very nice poem with a big message!

This state of affairs is unfortunately true. Well done and so thoughtful!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on June 04, 2014:

Thank you Vellur, yes it is so sad. I won't go to a circus. I have been so saddened lately by photos Of elephants that have been cruely slaughtered by poachers for their tusks and left in agony. I hate man's cruelty to animals.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 04, 2014:

Great poem, touched my heart. It is sad to see animals treated the way they are in the circus. Great write.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on June 04, 2014:

Thanks for your comment April. I remember enjoying the circus as a child, before I knew about the cruelty involved, now I wouldn't ever take a child to one that has animal acts. Glad you enjoyed this poem.

April Garner from Austin, Texas on June 04, 2014:

This is a wonderful poem. I feel the same guilt you speak of whenever I see zoo animals. We never go to the circus with the kids, because I just can't bear it. It's too depressing.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 01, 2014:

Thanks Flourish. This was one of my very first on Hub Pages. I totally agree with your keeping your daughter from circuses, even if it seemed tough to her. There are always animal-free ones, like Circ de Soleil.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 01, 2014:

For this very reason, my daughter has never been to a circus. We just don't do them. It was hard to explain when the circus was coming to town and all her friends were excited about going, by we have choices. Good poem.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 21, 2014:

Thank you DDE, it is a long time since I went to a circus also. Glad my poem got the message across.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 21, 2014:

I have only once been to a circus and don't approve of the way the animals are treated. Overall animals should be free and in circuses is really sad. You said this greatly in your own way of expression.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 14, 2013:

My pleasure Pro-Hubber, thanks for reading and your kind comment.

Pro-Hubber from Florida on December 13, 2013:

words are beautifully arranged and a very nice. thank you :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 21, 2013:

Thank you for visiting, and also your kind comments Mark.

Mark from Moundsville,WV on November 21, 2013:

Well written and powerful. Sad , I could feel a lump in my throat while reading it. Great hub.


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 01, 2013:

Thank you Anna, I appreciate your kind words.

Anna Haven from Scotland on November 01, 2013:

Good use of rhyming and well written. I like the clear call for justice in your work. Sad and true story which hopefully one day will change.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 07, 2013:

Thanks again Wayne, much appreciated.

Wayne Barrett from Clearwater Florida on October 07, 2013:

Thank you for sharing this perspective, as it is one that I agree with. I refuse to go to a zoo or circus for this reason.

Very well written.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 03, 2013:

Thank you frogyfish. There seems to be some long overdue change towards more human based circuses such as Circ de Soleil which is a good thing. Hopefully this will see the end to caged animal acts entirely in the not too distant future.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on October 03, 2013:

Sad. Realistic. Continuing, with few exceptions. You stated it well.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 03, 2013:

Thanks drbj,

Every now and then we have to get on our high horse and vent at some injustice we see in the world. This was one of those times with me. Once it's off my chest I try to temper those emotions by writing something more lighthearted or frivolous.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 03, 2013:

Shockingly realistic poetry, Jodah. But unfortunately, so true!

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