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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.


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.

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.

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.

© 2013 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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 Queensland Australia 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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