A Poem to Boatswain, a Dog

Epitaph to a Dog

by George Gordon 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:

The romantic painting, right, by Ford Madox Brown was completed long after the deaths of both Byron and Boatswain. Inspired by Byron’s semi-autobiographical poem The Dream (1816), it shows Byron with his first lover, Mary Chaworth. While she represents lost love and thwarted dreams, it’s ever-faithful Boatswain who stands for loyalty.

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,
Unhonour’d falls, unnotic’d all his worth,
Deny’d 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,
Debas’d 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 honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one-and here he lies.

George Gordon Byron. Though born with a club foot managed to distinguish himself in school sports. He went on to a dissolute youth, drinking wildly and bedding every woman who was attracted to his brooding nature and elegant limp (there was an extraordinary number of those young ladies). He inherited a title spoke quite passionately in the House of Lords in defense of workers long before it was fashionable to do so , and became one of England’s greatest poets. He was tough minded and cynical and wrote about stormy emotions and great lovers,(one of which was considered to be by many people, including himself) He was of course Lord Byron, author of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan and a notorious rakehell,

A magnificent Newfoundland born in Newfoundland in 1801 became Byron’s dog. It was said that it had once saved his life, but it is certain that the splendid dog, called Boatswain got through Byron’s defenses to his affection and loyalty as no other women ever did. The dog died of some kind of fit in 1808 and a friend reported that a distraught Byron wiped the dog’s saliva away with his bare hands during the paroxysm

When the dog died Byron was inconsolable – and enraged that anyone should find it default to understand his grief over a mere dog. The result of this grief and anger is a startling monument to Boatswain, placed over the dog’s remains at Newstead Abbey in England. There is a long inscription on the tomb which has been scorned by some as to flowery, rococo and ridiculously overstated. To think so is to miss the anger. The bittersweet and above all the intense grief that Byron felt, expressed through a nature which never cared for moderation in any form. This that angry poem:

Credits: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com and http://www.authorsden.com

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About Amirh

Ever-evolving spirit moving about via body. I'm a writer and a an ever-evolving spirit in service of animals through my blog and Buddhist and Reiki practices. My blogs: AllCreaturesLargeAndSmall.wordpress.com. and AmirhBahati.wordpress.com. For more about me: http://amirhbahati.wordpress.com/about/
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