Thursday 10 March 2011

Animals in the Arts: Byrons' Epitaph to a Dog

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
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
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808.

These are the words inscribed on the tomb of a Newfoundland owned by celebrated Romantic poet, Lord Byron. Byron apparently loved the dog, and it's hard to deny it when you look at the evidence.

Reportedly, when Boatswain contracted rabies, Byron remained with him and nursed him without fear of being bitten and contracting the disease. Boatswain was buried in a tomb much bigger than Byron's own, and this epitaph later became one of Byron's most famous poems. Clearly, Byron loved his faithful companion, and was not content to let his loyalty go by unnoticed by the world.

It's a lovely reminder that despite power, fame and fortune, true love and companionship are always available in the form of a dog. Byron puts it more eloquently than I ever could:

'[T]he 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'
Lord Byron: Epitaph to a Dog, 1808

So if you're reading this, and you have a lump in your throat (be honest), now is the time to express your love for your dog. Not all of us can afford huge monuments, or have the words to put together a stirring ballad, but there are simpler ways to show your dog that he's appreciated...

Let us know what you do to show your hounds just how much they mean to you; be it a special dinner, a long walk, or a really good belly scratch.
Every dog is special, and we want to know about each and every one...

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