Poetry

Poems listed alphabetically by author.

To Flush, My Dog by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Epitaph to a Dog by Lord Byron
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief by Gerard Manley Hopkins
On the Grasshopper and Cricket by John Keats
Where to Bury A Dog by Ben Hur Lampman
Spirits of the Dead by Edgar Allen Poe
The Swan by Rainer Maria Rilke
A Lament for the Dead Pets of Our Childhood by A. E. Stallings
The Dog by Ivan Turgenev
The House of the Trees by Ethelwyn Wetherald

To Flush, My Dogelizabeth-barrett-browing-flush-real
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yet, my pretty sportive friend,

Little is’t to such an end
That I praise thy rareness!
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears,
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary-
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning.
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares, and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow.
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing.
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech,
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears,
Or a sigh came double-
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping-
Which he pushed his nose within,
After-platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

One of the most well-known dog poems. The notions of life, death and grief go beyond the poem itself – as Flush was given to Elizabeth by her friend to provide comfort after the death of her brother in 1840. Flush was referenced by Elizabeth and future husband, Robert Browning, in thier poetry, and also became the subject of a book, Flush: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf. Read more here; accessed on 6/30/16.

Epitaph to a DogByron's_Dream-Ford-Madox-Brown-1874
by Lord Byron

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808*

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

Byron wrote these words in 1808 for his beloved Boatswain, his Newfoundland, who died of rabies. The poem is inscribed on Boatswain’s tomb at Byron’s estate, Newstead Abbey.

*The introductory section was written by Byron’s friend, John Hobhouse.

Much has been written about Byron, but less about his love for all his animals. Less still about his request to be buried with his beloved Bostwain. According to Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott:

It was Byron’s great desire to be buried with Boatswain, and he expressed that wish in his will. But by the time he died, Newstead had been sold to another owner, who did not wish his home to become the final resting place of the famed poet, nor have it overrun with his grieving admirers. Byron was instead buried in his family’s vault in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Hucknall. One hopes that he and Boatswain are finally joined in spirit, if not in fact.

In fact, Byron’s love for his dogs also inspired other poetry and artwork, including Brown’s Byron’s Dream (1874 – shown here), William Parry’s sketch of Byron and Lyon (1824), Clifton Townson’s painting of Boatswain (1808), Nick Hugh McCann’s painting of Byron & Boatswain (1990), Clifton Tomson’s Lyon, the Wolf Dog (1808) – commissioned by Byron, and perhaps most famously, the illustrated book The Wonderful History of Lord Byron and his Dog by EB Pigot (1807).

Painting: Ford Madox Brown, Byron’s Dream. 1874. Oil on canvas. 71.5 x 54.8 cm. Manchester Art Gallery.

This painting was completed long after Byron’s death (1824) and “inspired by Byron’s semi-autobiographical poem The Dream (1816).” It depicts Byron with his first lover, Mary Chaworth along with Boatswain in repose upon Diadem Hill, which once offered breathtaking views of the Annesley Hall, Mary’s home. Chase and Scott: “While she represents lost love and thwarted dreams, it’s ever-faithful Boatswain who stands for loyalty.”

No worst, there is none. Pitched Gerard-Manley-Hokins-National-Portrait-Gallery-London
past pitch of grief.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985). originally published posthumously in 1918. [Found on Poetry Foundation, accessed 11/30/15]

On the Grasshopper and Cricketby Joseph Severn, oil on ivory, 1819. NPG 1605 © National Portrait Gallery, London
by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:
 When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
 And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead 5
 In summer luxury,—he has never done
 With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
 On a lone winter evening, when the frost 10
   Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
 And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
   The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

                                        December 30, 1816

Keats, John. (1884). Poetical Works. London: Macmillan, poem 28; Bartleby.com, 1999. www.bartleby.com/126/. [accessed 8/2/15].

Painting: John Keats by Joseph Severn,1819. Oil on ivory. 108 x 79 mm. NPG 1605
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Where to Bury A DogBen_Hur_Lampman
by Ben Hur Lampman

A subscriber of the Ontario Argus has written to the
editor of that fine weekly, propounding a certain question,
which, so far as we know, yet remains unanswered. The
question is this — “Where shall I bury my dog?” It is asked
in advance of death.

The Oregonian trusts the Argus will not be offended if this
newspaper undertakes an answer, for surely such a
question merits a reply, since the man who asked it, on the
evidence of his letter, loves the dog. It distresses him to
think of his favorite as dishonored in death, mere carrion
in the winter rains. Within that sloping, canine skull, he
must reflect when the dog is dead, were thoughts that
dignified the dog and honored the master. The hand of the
master and of the friend stroked often in affection this
rough, pathetic husk that was a dog.

We would say to the Ontario man that there are various
places in which a dog may be buried. We are thinking
now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine,
and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a
mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried
beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and
at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green
lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or
any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to
bury a good dog.

Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy
summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to
challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in
life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches
sentiment more than anything else. For if the dog be well
remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams
actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing,
begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long
and at last.

On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are
roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or
somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most
exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one
to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost — if
memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog.
One place that is best of all.

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must
already have, he will come to you when you call — come
to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the
well-remembered path, and to your side again. And
though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not
growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he
belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no
lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no
whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who
may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for
you shall know something that is hidden from them, and
which is well worth the knowing. The one best place to
bury a good dog is in the heart of its master.

This column was published early in Lampman’s career at The Oregonian on Sept. 11, 1925. It was later included in his book of essays and poems, How Could I Be Forgetting, published in 1926. It has since been cited by many to memorialize their dogs during times of bereavement. Ben Hur Lampman was named poet laureate of Oregon in 1951.

Spirits of the DeadEdgar-Allan-Poe-Catalina-Charles-Sheldon
by Edgar Allen Poe

       I

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

       II

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

       III

The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

       IV

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass.

       V

The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

A.k.a. “Visits of the Dead” in 1827 collection Tamerlane and Other Poems. Current title introduced in 1829 collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Source: Poetry Foundation and Wikipedia. In the public domain.

Drawing:Charles Mills Sheldon, Poe at work under Catalina’s eye [detail]. Illustration from Cassell’s Book of Knowledge. c 1910. Lithograph. Private collection. [In one transcribed letter, he refers to Caterina, which seems more likely – who is right?] Read more about Poe and Caterina here.

The SwanRainer Maria Rilke, Muzot, 1926.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.

And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself

into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.

Rilke’s poem was originally published in 1902. For more about Joanna Macy and her affection for Rilke’s poetry, read here.

Photo Credit: Rainer Maria Rilke, by Muzot. 1926.

A Lament for the Dead Pets of Our ChildhoodA.E. Stallings
by A. E. Stallings

Even now I dream of rabbits murdered
By loose dogs in the dark, the saved-up voice
Spilt on the last terror, or the springtime
Of lost baby rabbits, grey and blind
As moles, that slipped from birth and from the nest
Into a grey, blind rain, became the mud.
And still i gather up their shapes in dreams,
Those poor, leftover Easter eggs, all grey.

That’s how we found out death the strangled bird
Undone by a toy hung in his cage,
The foundlings that would never last the night,
Be it pigeon, crippled snake, the kitten
Whose very fleas forsook it in the morning
While we nursed a hangover of hope.

After the death of pets, dolls lay too still
And wooden in the cradle, sister, after
We learned death: not hell, no ghosts or angels,
But a cold thing in the image of a warm thing,
Limp as sleep without the twitch of dreams.

© A.E. Stalling. Originally published in Poetry, December 1995. Photo from an interview in The Cortland Review, February 2002, Issue 19. With permission by the poet.

The DogIvan-Turgenev
by Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)

Us two in the room; my dog and me….Outside a fearful storm is howling.

The dog sits in front of me, and looks me straight in the face.

And I, too, look into his face.

He wants, it seems, to tell me something. He is dumb, he is without words, he does not understand himself – but I understand him.

I understand that at this instant there is living in him and in me the same feeling, that there is no difference between us. We are the same; in each of us there burns and shines the same trembling spark.

Death sweeps down, with a wave of its chill broad wing….

And the end!

Who then can discern what was the spark that glowed in each of us?

No! We are not beast and man that glance at one another….

They are the eyes of equals, those eyes riveted on one another.

And in each of these, in the beast and in the man, the same life huddles up in fear close to the other.

“The Dog” is reprinted from Dream Tales and Prose Poems. Ivan Turgenev. (Trans. Constance Garnett). New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.
Read more at http://www.poetry-archive.com/t/the_dog.html#SHbcTiuyQ3SrOZU1.99

Photo: Ivan Turgenev by Nadar. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The House of the TreesEthelwyn Wetherald, poet
by Ethelwyn Wetherald

Ope your doors and take me in,
Spirit of the wood;
Wash me clean of dust and din,
Clothe me in your mood.

Take me from the noisy light
To the sunless peace,
Where at midday standeth Night,
Signing Toil’s release.

All your dusky twilight stores
To my senses give;
Take me in and lock the doors,
Show me how to live.

Lift your leafy roof for me,
Part your yielding walls,
Let me wander lingeringly
Through your scented halls.

Ope your doors and take me in,
Spirit of the wood;
Take me–make me next of kin
To your leafy brood.

Wetherald, Ethelwyn. The House of the Trees and Other Poems. Boston, New York, Lamson, Wolffe, 1895.

Note: we are seeking permissions to include other works of fine poetry – please check back soon.

updated June 15, 2021

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