Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Love Poem To Her Dog #atozchallenge

Whenever I’ve thought of travel in the past, it’s definitely involved a change in physical scenery. Packing a bag and driving, flying, walking but definitely leaving my chair, my space and going somewhere else…even if it is our local beach. After all, it is a tourist destination after all and just because I happen to live here that shouldn’t detract.

However, as I’ve been doing the A-Z Challenge and blogging steadily through the alphabet, I have experienced a very different travel. Indeed, following in the footsteps of Keats who was spellbound by Chapman’s translation of Homer, I’ve come to appreciate how reading and research is also “travel”. Indeed, through exploring so many intricate twists and turns in this landscape of words, I feel like I’ve been round and round the world several times and even straight through it. Actually, make that more of a wiggly worm trail.

This brings me to Elizabeth Barrett. When I was at school, I studied the Barrett’s of Wimpole Street in drama as well as Elizabeth Barrett’s famous sonnet: How Should I love Thee?

So, I was naturally thrilled to stumble across Virginia Woolf’s Flush: The Biography of A Dog, which provided a dog’s eye view into the whirlwind romance of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. This in turn lead me to Elizabeth Barrett’s own poems to her beloved dog, which I’ve posted here and link up to my next post.


To Flush, My Dog

LOVING friend, the gift of one,

Who, her own true faith, hath run,

Through thy lower nature ;

Be my benediction said

With my hand upon thy head,

Gentle fellow-creature !

Like a lady’s ringlets brown,

Flow thy silken ears adown

Either side demurely,

Of thy silver-suited breast

Shining out from all the rest

Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,

Till the sunshine, striking this,

Alchemize its dulness, —

When the sleek curls manifold

Flash all over into gold,

With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,

Startled eyes of hazel bland

Kindling, growing larger, —

Up thou leapest with a spring,

Full of prank and curvetting,

Leaping like a charger.

Leap ! thy broad tail waves a light ;

Leap ! thy slender feet are bright,

Canopied in fringes.

Leap — those tasselled ears of thine

Flicker strangely, fair and fine,

Down their golden inches

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.

This dog, if a friendly voice

Call him now to blyther choice

Than such chamber-keeping,

Come out ! ‘ praying from the door, —

Presseth backward as before,

Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,

Tenderly not scornfully,

Render praise and favour !

With my hand upon his head,

Is my benediction said

Therefore, and for ever.

And because he loves me so,

Better than his kind will do

Often, man or woman,

Give I back more love again

Than dogs often take of men, —

Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,

Pretty collars make thee fine,

Sugared milk make fat thee !

Pleasures wag on in thy tail —

Hands of gentle motion fail

Nevermore, to pat thee !

Downy pillow take thy head,

Silken coverlid bestead,

Sunshine help thy sleeping !

No fly ‘s buzzing wake thee up —

No man break thy purple cup,

Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee —

Sturdy stoppers keep from thee

Cologne distillations ;

Nuts lie in thy path for stones,

And thy feast-day macaroons

Turn to daily rations !

Mock I thee, in wishing weal ? —

Tears are in my eyes to feel

Thou art made so straightly,

Blessing needs must straighten too, —

Little canst thou joy or do,

Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height

Of all good and all delight

Pervious to thy nature, —

Only loved beyond that line,

With a love that answers thine,

Loving fellow-creature !

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Hope you enjoyed meeting Flush. There’s more to come!

xx Rowena

PS Robert Browning’s early meetings didn’t go quite so well and the rather jealous and possessive dog took to biting his rival. So much for being Miss Browning’s little darling!

1 thought on “Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Love Poem To Her Dog #atozchallenge

  1. Pingback: #AtoZchallenge Reflections…66, 652 Words Wiser. | beyondtheflow

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