Dog Poetry Sunday – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It is at once both difficult and easy to find poems to share in honour of dogs. Easy because writing is a solitary business and many a poet found comfort in a silent friend. Difficult because most of the poems are melancholy. While I understand and even expect this, I am not seeking remind anyone of the shortness of a dog’s life. There is enough gloom, I think, and it is not my role to add to it.

Perhaps I am just looking in the wrong places. I am new to this journey, after all, and this part of the internet is unknown. I am looking forward to seeing what I can discover over time. But certainly, if you have a favourite to recommend, I would not turn it away.

Today’s selection was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I should know her works better than I do, I feel, because the name has such significance. From the little I have learned, her life was not simple and it does not surprise me she gained an affection for the canine friends in her life. There is much to which I can relate in the following words. I hope you can as well.

“To Flush My Dog”, 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.

4 thoughts on “Dog Poetry Sunday – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  1. EBB fact: Flush was dog-napped more than once, after it became apparent that she would pay ridiculous sums of money to get him back. Her family warned her to offer a more modest reward, but she couldn’t bring herself to risk it.


  2. I read this fascinating book called Shaggy Muses: THE DOGS WHO INSPIRED VIRGINIA WOOLF, EMILY DICKINSON, ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, EDITH WHARTON, AND EMILY BRONTË. (Sorry for the all caps… I copied/pasted instead of typing all that out.) It was filled with that solitary relationship with a quiet friend like you described. Random, I know, but I highly recommend if you can find it at your library!


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