To Flush, My Dog

Original Text: 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Poems. London: Edward Moxon, 1844. PR 4180 E44a ROBA. 19th-cent. STC: 5.1.511. mfe DA 533 N55.
1LOVING friend, the gift of one,
2Who, her own true faith, hath run,
4Be my benediction said
5With my hand upon thy head,
6  Gentle fellow-creature !
7Like a lady's ringlets brown,
8Flow thy silken ears adown
9  Either side demurely,
10Of thy silver-suited breast
11Shining out from all the rest
12  Of thy body purely.
13Darkly brown thy body is,
14Till the sunshine, striking this,
15  Alchemize its dulness, --
16When the sleek curls manifold
17Flash all over into gold,
18  With a burnished fulness.
19Underneath my stroking hand,
20Startled eyes of hazel bland
21  Kindling, growing larger, --
22Up thou leapest with a spring,
23Full of prank and curvetting,
24  Leaping like a charger.
25Leap ! thy broad tail waves a light ;
26Leap ! thy slender feet are bright,
27  Canopied in fringes.
28Leap -- those tasselled ears of thine
29Flicker strangely, fair and fine,
30  Down their golden inches
31Yet, my pretty sportive friend,
32Little is 't to such an end
33  That I praise thy rareness !
34Other dogs may be thy peers
35Haply in these drooping ears,
36  And this glossy fairness.
37But of thee it shall be said,
38This dog watched beside a bed
39  Day and night unweary, --
40Watched within a curtained room,
41Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
42  Round the sick and dreary.
43Roses, gathered for a vase,
44In that chamber died apace,
45  Beam and breeze resigning --
46This dog only, waited on,
47Knowing that when light is gone,
48  Love remains for shining.
49Other dogs in thymy dew
50Tracked the hares and followed through
51  Sunny moor or meadow --
52This dog only, crept and crept
53Next a languid cheek that slept,
54  Sharing in the shadow.
55Other dogs of loyal cheer
56Bounded at the whistle clear,
57  Up the woodside hieing --
58This dog only, watched in reach
59Of a faintly uttered speech,
60  Or a louder sighing.
61And if one or two quick tears
62Dropped upon his glossy ears,
63  Or a sigh came double, --
64Up he sprang in eager haste,
65Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
66  In a tender trouble.
67And this dog was satisfied,
68If a pale thin hand would glide,
69  Down his dewlaps sloping, --
70Which he pushed his nose within,
71After, -- platforming his chin
72  On the palm left open.
73This dog, if a friendly voice
74Call him now to blyther choice
75  Than such chamber-keeping,
76`Come out ! ' praying from the door, --
77Presseth backward as before,
78  Up against me leaping.
79Therefore to this dog will I,
80Tenderly not scornfully,
81  Render praise and favour !
82With my hand upon his head,
83Is my benediction said
84  Therefore, and for ever.
85And because he loves me so,
86Better than his kind will do
87  Often, man or woman,
88Give I back more love again
89Than dogs often take of men, --
90  Leaning from my Human.
91Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
92Pretty collars make thee fine,
93  Sugared milk make fat thee !
94Pleasures wag on in thy tail --
95Hands of gentle motion fail
96  Nevermore, to pat thee !
97Downy pillow take thy head,
98Silken coverlid bestead,
99  Sunshine help thy sleeping !
100No fly 's buzzing wake thee up --
101No man break thy purple cup,
102  Set for drinking deep in.
103Whiskered cats arointed flee --
104Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
105  Cologne distillations ;
106Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
107And thy feast-day macaroons
108  Turn to daily rations !
109Mock I thee, in wishing weal ? --
110Tears are in my eyes to feel
111  Thou art made so straightly,
112Blessing needs must straighten too, --
113Little canst thou joy or do,
114  Thou who lovest greatly.
115Yet be blessed to the height
116Of all good and all delight
117  Pervious to thy nature, --
118Only loved beyond that line,
119With a love that answers thine,
120  Loving fellow-creature !

Notes

3] This dog was the gift of my dear and admired friend, Miss Mitford, and belongs to the beautiful race she has rendered celebrated among English and American readers. The Flushes have their laurels as well as the Cæsars, -- the chief difference (at least the very head and front of it) consisting, according to my perception, in the bald head. (Browning's note) Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1844
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Rhyme: