The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog

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The Works of Lord Byron by George Gordon Byron
Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog


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 rest 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,
Unhonour'd 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 smiles hypocrisy, thy words 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 honours none you wish to mourn:
To mark a Friend's remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one,—and here he lies.[2]

Newstead Abbey, October 30, 1808. [First published, 1809.]

  1. [This monument is placed in the garden of Newstead. A prose inscription precedes the verses:—

    "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
    BOATSWAIN, a Dog,
    Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
    And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808."

    Byron thus announced the death of his favourite to his friend Hodgson:—"Boatswain is dead!—he expired in a state of madness on the 18th after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature to the last; never attempting to do the least injury to any one near him. I have now lost everything except old Murray." In the will which the poet executed in 1811, he desired to be buried in the vault with his dog, and Joe Murray was to have the honour of making one of the party. When the poet was on his travels, a gentleman, to whom Murray showed the tomb, said, "Well, old boy, you will take your place here some twenty years hence." "I don't know that, sir," replied Joe; "if I was sure his lordship would come here I should like it well enough, but I should not like to lie alone with the dog."—Life, pp. 73, 131.]

  2. I knew bnt one unchang'd—and here he lies.—[Imit. and Transl., p. 191.]