Lord Byron (1788 - 1824) is regarded as one of the greatest British poets. He wrote this poem for his beloved dog Boatswain. Boatswain was tragically attacked and bitten by a rabid dog, Byron insisted on nursing Boatswain himself, heedless of the risk, and grieved deeply at the dog's inevitable death. "Boatswain is dead! "he lamented to a friend. "He expired in a state of madness...after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature to the last, never attempting to do the least injury to anyone near him." Lord Byron had a monument made to Boatswain with his poem inscribed on it.
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 in Newfoundland May 1803 and died at Newstead Nov. 18 1808
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.
Today we salute the memory of Boatswain.
Poppy and Abbey