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THE ABBOT MILO URBI ET ORBI, CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THE LEOPARD

I like this good man’s account of leopards, and find it more pertinent to my matter than you might think.  Milo was a Carthusian monk, abbot of the cloister of Saint Mary-of-the-Pine by Poictiers; it was his distinction to be the life-long friend of a man whose friendships were few:  certainly it may be said of him that he knew as much of leopards as any one of his time and nation, and that his knowledge was better grounded.

‘Your leopard,’ he writes, ’is alleged in the books to be offspring of the Lioness and the Pard; and his name, if the Realists have any truth on their side, establishes the fact.  But I think he should be called Leolupe, which is to say, got by lion out of bitch-wolf, since two essences burn in him as well as two sorts.  This is the nature of the leopard:  it is a spotted beast, having two souls, a bright soul and a dark soul.  It is black and golden, slim and strong, cat and dog.  Hunger drives a dog to hunt, so the leopard; passion the cat, so the leopard.  A cat is sufficient unto himself, and a leopard is so; but a dog hangs on a man’s nod, and a leopard can so be beguiled.  A leopard is sleek as a cat and pleased by stroking; like a cat he will scratch his friend on occasion.  Yet again, he has a dog’s intrepidity, knows no fear, is single-purposed, not to be called off, longanimous.  But the cat in him makes him wary, tempts him to treacherous dealing, keeps him apart from counsels, advises him to keep his own.  So the leopard is a lonely beast.’  This is interesting, and may be true.  But mark him as he goes on.

’I knew the man, my dear master and a great king, who brought the leopards into the shield of England, more proper to do it than his father, being more the thing he signified.  Of him, therefore, torn by two natures, cast in two moulds, sport of two fates; the hymned and reviled, the loved and loathed, spendthrift and a miser, king and a beggar, the bond and the free, god and man; of King Richard Yea-and-Nay, so made, so called, and by that unmade, I thus prepare my account.’

So far the abbot with much learning and no little verbosity casts his net.  He has the weakness of his age, you observe, and must begin at the beginning; but this is not our custom.  Something of Time is behind us; we are conscious of a world replete, and may assume that we have digested part of it.  Milo, indeed, like all candid chroniclers, has his value.  He is excellent upon himself, a good relish with your meal.  However, as we are concerned with King Richard, you shall dip into his bag for refreshment, but must leave the victualling to me.