by George Meredith
Strike not thy dog with a stick!
I did it yesterday:
Not to undo though I gained
The Paradise: heavy it rained
On Kobold's flanks, and he lay.
Little Bruno, our long-ear pup,
From his hunt had come back to my heel.
I heard a sharp worrying sound,
And Bruno foamed on the ground,
With Koby as making a meal.
I did what I could not undo
Were the gates of the Paradise shut
Behind me: I deemed it was just.
I left Koby crouched in the dust,
Some yards from the woodman's hut.
He bewhimpered his welting, and I
Scarce thought it enough for him: so,
By degrees, through the upper box-grove,
Within me an old story hove,
Of a man and a dog: you shall know.
The dog was of novel breed,
The Shannon retriever, untried:
His master, an old Irish lord,
In an oaken armchair snored
At midnight, whisky beside.
Perched up a desolate tower,
Where the black storm-wind was a whip
To set it nigh spinning, these two
Were alone, like the last of a crew,
Outworn in a wave-beaten ship.
The dog lifted muzzle, and sniffed;
He quitted his couch on the rug,
Nose to floor, nose aloft; whined, barked;
And, finding the signals unmarked,
Caught a hand in a death-grapple tug.
He pulled till his master jumped
For fury of wrath, and laid on
With the length of a tough knotted staff,
Fit to drive the life flying like chaff,
And leave a sheer carcase anon.
That done, he sat, panted, and cursed
The vile cross of this brute: nevermore
Would he house it to rear such a cur!
The dog dragged his legs, pained to stir,
Eyed his master, dropped, barked at the door.
Then his master raised head too, and sniffed:
It struck him the dog had a sense
That honoured both dam and sire.
You have guessed how the tower was afire.
The Shannon retriever dates thence.
I mused: saw the pup ease his heart
Of his instinct for chasing, and sink
Overwrought by excitement so new:
A scene that for Koby to view
Was the seizure of nerves in a link.
And part sympathetic, and part
Imitatively, raged my poor brute;
And I, not thinking of ill,
Doing eviller: nerves are still
Our savage too quick at the root.
They spring us: I proved it, albeit
I played executioner then
For discipline, justice, the like.
Yon stick I had handy to strike
Should have warned of the tyrant in men.
You read in your History books,
How the Prince in his youth had a mind
For governing gently his land.
Ah, the use of that weapon at hand,
When the temper is other than kind!
At home all was well; Koby's ribs
Not so sore as my thoughts: if, beguiled,
He forgives me, his criminal air
Throws a shade of Llewellyn's despair
For the hound slain for saving his child.
Last updated January 14, 2019