Lord Byron: ‘Epitaph To a Dog’

Epitaph To a Dog

by Lord George Gordon Byron

       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.

The Price, 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 in Newstead Abbey,
          Nov. 18, 1808.
 
When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown by glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And stories urns record that rests 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 labors, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored 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, ennoble but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

Lord Byron’s tribute to “Boatswain,” on a monument in the garden of Newstead Abbey.
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