POETRY



Saint Roch's Dog
by Patrick Early

They scattered churches across Europe in your name
from Rome to Warsaw, Montpellier to Dubrovnik,
Saint Roch, Rochus, Roque, Rocco, Rollox, Rock.

You are always depicted with your staff caminando,
a bewildered dog looking up into your face
as if to ask where you might be going next.

Garcia Lorca loved you, Rocky, or at least he loved
your familiar icon, with the brown tunic hitched
above the knee, slightly camp if one did not know

the saint is gesturing to a plague-wound
on his upper leg or to the swollen amper in his groin.
Your father was Governor of Montpellier,

but you were ascetic and devout like your mother
a great disappointment to your old man
so when he died, you turned your back

on his wealth and privilege and set out for Rome
but there you found a plague-ridden city.
Welcome to the Black Death!

You turned those soft white hands to
nursing those sick with the pestilence, not afraid
to touch their tumours, clean their sores,

hold their blackened gangrened hands
in yours, bring nepenthe to their agony.
It was you who laid them out when they died,

But in the end, you were a bit too engage,
caught the plague yourself, got yourself expelled
into the countryside and there in the greenwood,

a dog appeared who licked your wound
and brought you bread to eat. We are not told
how a stream of water sprung up so conveniently nearby.

Of course, you recovered and went on your saintly way,
forever locked in loving partnership
with a dog carrying a loaf in its mouth

Some clever-dick hagiographer says
you only exist as the doublet
of an obscure marabout of the early church .

Maybe. But then, one can’t so easily forget
how they named a dog hospital after you,
as well as a “golf”, an Argentine battle, and a Peruvian dessert.

Beloved of dog-lovers and the gravely sick,
there’s a town in Bolivia where they celebrate
the birthday of all dogs on your day.


[Painting by Bernardo Strozzi: 'St Roch & his Dog']



By Lord Byron

Epitaph to a Dog

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. 18, 1808.



Monument to a Dog

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by 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 perchance behold 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.



'Tis sweet to hear the watch dog's honest bark Bay deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home;
'tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming and look brighter when we come.



Epitaph On A Lap-Dog Named Echo
by Robert Burns

In wood and wild, ye warbling throng,
Your heavy loss deplore;
Now, half extinct your powers of song,
Sweet Echo is no more.

Ye jarring, screeching things around,
Scream your discordant joys;
Now, half your din of tuneless sound
With Echo silent lies.



To Flush, my Dog
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith has run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature!

Like a lady's ringlets brown,
Flow thy silken ears adown
Either side demurely
Of thy silver-suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,
Till the sunshine striking this
Alchemise its dullness,
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold
With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland
Kindling, growing larger,
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curveting,
Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light,
Leap! thy slender feet are bright,
Canopied in fringes;
Leap! those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine
Down their golden inches.

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.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blither choice
Than such chamber-keeping,
"Come out!" praying from the door, —
Presseth backward as before,
Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
Render praise and favor:
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
Therefore and for ever.

And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men,
Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail,
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee.

Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping!
No fly's buzzing wake thee up,
No man break thy purple cup
Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee,
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations!

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? —
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straitly,
Blessing needs must straiten too, —
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature;
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature!



Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog
by William Matthews

Most of the time he worked, a sort of sleep
with a purpose, so far as I could tell.
How he got from the dark of sleep
to the dark of waking up I'll never know;
the lax sprawl sleep allowed him
began to set from the edges in,
like a custard, and then he was awake,
me too, of course, wriggling my ears
while he unlocked his bladder and stream
of dopey wake-up jokes. The one
about the wine-dark pee I hated instantly.
I stood at the ready, like a god
in an epic, but there was never much
to do. Oh now and then I'd make a sure
intervention, save a life, whatever.
But my exploits don't interest you
and of his life all I can say is that
when he'd poured out his work
the best of it was gone and then he died.
He was a great man and I loved him.
Not a whimper about his sex life --
how I detest your prurience --
but here's a farewell literary tip:
I myself am the model for Penelope.
Don't snicker, you hairless moron,
I know so well what faithful means
there's not even a word for it in Dog,
I just embody it. I think you bipeds
have a catchphrase for it: "To thine own self
be true, . . ." though like a blind man's shadow,
the second half is only there for those who know
it's missing. Merely a dog, I'll tell you
what it is: " . . . as if you had a choice."


The first famous canine story dates from the 8th century B.C. In Homer’s “Odyssey,” the king of Ithaca returns home disguised as a beggar after 20 years. Two of King Odysseus’ old friends recognize him, his aged nurse, Eurycleia, and Argos, the only dog to whom Homer gave a name, and as such the first named dog in recorded history. “As they talked, a dog that lay there lifted up his muzzle, pricked his ears … It was Argos, Odysseus’ long-enduring dog, he trained as a puppy… the moment he sensed Odysseus standing by he thumped his tail, muzzling low, and his ears dropped, though he had no strength to drag himself an inch toward his master. Odysseus glanced to the side and flicked away a tear.” And with that, on his dung heap, Argos dies.



Argos, Ulysses' faithful dog

Today like everyday you met me with feelings unrestrained
As if I were a long lost relative getting off a train
You welcomed me like I was your entire life
Just as an excited groom who has take a new wife.

  So few words but we both new the score
As without hesitation on me love you did pour
Our love is madness, should we be certified?
A love had a voice, in you, that sound would be found

Tender contract as we sit together
We stroll in silence as we embrace all weathers
Sometimes I entrust my sorrows to you
You’re always a good listener and take no point of view

To be like you is living life’s’ simple miracle
As happily you’re content to live your life in a circle
Round and round treading over familiar ground
But never bored with the smells that you’ve once again found.

Do angels feel like you? I sometimes think
As into my awaiting arms you happily sink
My four legged friend, confidant, animal love
Never let it be said you’re not sent from heaven above.




My first Winter 2008 waiting a Friend
at the front Garden gate
in Siddhartha House