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Poems about Wolfhounds
and Other Dogs
 

 

 

THE IRISH WOLF-HOUND
Denis Florence McCarthy

As fly the shadows o'er the grass
He flies with step as light and sure,
He hunts the wolf through Tostan Pass
And starts the deer by Lisanoure,
The music of the Sabbath bells,
O Con! has not a sweeter sound
Than when along the valley swells
The cry of John MacDonnell's hound.

His stature tall, his body long,
His back like night, his breast like snow,
His forleg pillar-like and strong,
His hind leg like a bended bow,
Rough curling hair, head long and thin,
His ear a leaf so small and round --
Not Bran, the favorite dog of Finn,
Could rival John MacDonnell's hound.

AT THE DOG SHOW
(To An Irish Wolfhound)
Christopher Morley

Long and grey and gaunt he lies,
A Lincoln among dogs; his eyes
Deep and clear of sight, appraise
The meaningless and shuffling way
Of human folk that stop to stare.
One witless woman seeing there
How tired, how contemptuous
He is of all the smell and fuss
Asks him, “Poor fellow, are you
Sick?”

Yea, sick and weary to the quick
Of heat and noise from dawn to dark.
He will not even stoop to bark
His protest, like the lesser bred.
Would he might know, one gazer read
The wistful longing in his face,
The thirst for wind and open space
And stretch of limbs to him
Begrudged.

There came a little, dapper, fat
And bustling man, with cane and spat
And pearl-grey vest and derby hat --
Such were the judger and the
Judged!

VIGI
Katharine Lee Bates

Wisest of dogs was Vigi, a tawny-coated hound
That King Olaf, warring over green hills of Ireland, found;
His merry Norse were driving away a mighty herd
For feasts upon the dragon-ships, when an isleman dared a word:

"From all those stolen hundreds, well might ye spare my score."
"Aye, take them," quoth the gamesome king, "but not a heifer more.
Choose out thine own, nor hinder us; yet choose without a slip."
The isleman laughed and whistled, his finger at his lip.

Oh, swift the bright-eyed Vigi went darting through the herd
And singled out his master's neat with a nose that never erred.
And drave the star-marked twenty forth, to the wonder of the king,
Who bought the hound right honestly, at the price of a broad gold ring.

If the herd-dog dreamed of an Irish voice and of cattle on the hill,
He told it not to Olaf the King, whose will was Vigi's will,
But followed him far in faithful love and bravely helped him win
His famous fight with Thorir Hart and Raud, the wizard Finn.

Above the clamor and the clang shrill sounded Vigi's bark
And when the groaning ship of Raud drew seaward to the dark,
And Thorir Hart leapt to the land, bidding his rowers live
Who could, Olaf and Vigi strained hard on the fugitive.

'Twas Vigi caught the runner's heel and stayed the wind-swift flight
Till Olaf's well-hurled spear had changed the day to endless night
For Thorir Hart, but not before his sword had stung the hound,
Whom the heroes bore on shield to ship, all grieving for his wound.

Now proud of heart was Vigi to be borne to ship on shield,
And many a day thereafter, when the bitter thrust was healed,
Would the dog leap up on the Vikings and coax with his Irish wit
Till 'mid laughter a shield was leveled, and Vigi rode on it.

BRAN AND THE BLOODY TREE
O.R.

Finn the son of Fiona Finn rode into the cabin yard
Where Bran was beating a great wolf-hound,
Roped to a tree three times around;
But the fall of the club was the only sound,
For the brave and the strong die hard.

Beneath the slant of his feathered hat the face of Finn grew red;
His hand was quick to his hunting gun
That shone -- a threat in the mountain sun --
"Another stroke -- an' your life is done!
Make loose the dog!" he said.

Bran stood straight in the sunlight and blinked at the morning sky;
His tongue was stiff with the taste of fear
And the voice of Finn was in his ear:
"God may forgive ye, clean and clear,
But never the dog nor I!

"His kin have crouched at the feet of Kings and you think to kill his pride!"
The rope fell slack to the bloody ground,
Then up from the tree gat the great wolf-hound,
And followed Finn as he reined him round
And over the mountain-side.

Then thunder spake from the silence and shattered the Bloody Tree,
And the heart of Bran was filled with dread,
As the ground was washed of its clotted red,
And a cross of black stood in its stead,
As the dawn rose tremblingly.

IN THE MANSION YARD
William Hervey Woods

There's no need now to look about my feet,
Or lift a cautious chair --
But uses of old years my senses cheat,
And still I think him there.

Along the hearth-rug stretched in full content,
Fond of the fire as I --
Ah! there were some things with the old dog went
I had not thought could die.

The flawless faith mankind not often earn
Nor give, he gave to me;
And that deep fondness in his eyes did burn
Mine own were shamed to see.

And though to men great Isis, Isis is
But while she wears her veil,
This love looked on my stark infirmities
Life-long, and did not fail.

And is it clean gone? Nay, an indian's heart
Have I, and even in heaven,
If heaven be mine, I pray some humble part
To earth-joys may be given --

Far down the ringing streets, some quiet yard,
Drowsy with afternoon
And bees, with young grass dandelion-starred,
And lilacs breathing June --

Across whose mossy walls the rolling psalms,
Like dream-songs, come aloud,
Shall float, and flying angels vex our calms
No more than flying cloud --

Some nook within my Father's House, where still
He lets me hide old toys,
Nor shames me even if foolish Memory will
Play with long laid-by joys.

There may my friend await, as once on earth,
My step, my hand's caress,
And nought of Heaven-town mingle with our mirth
But everlastingness.

TO JOHN, MY COLLIE
Walter Peirce

So you have left me. Here's the end,
My loyal comrade, fellow, friend,
You've had your day, as all dogs must,
Nor all your love and faith and trust
Could keep you with me -- fellow, friend,
You've run your race and here's the end.

No, not the end! For how shall I
Lay claim to immortality,
If naught your faith and love and trust
Availed to save your soul from dust?
Out of your brown eyes looked at me
A very soul, if souls there be,
And when at Peter's gate I knock,
And Peter's keys hear in the lock,
And hear not any answering bark,
I'll fare again into the dark,
From star to star, through God's wide space,
Until I find your dwelling place.

And when I find you where you dwell,
Perchance in fields of asphodel,
Guarding white Elysian sheep,
One eye shut, pretending sleep --
But only one -- and one ear cocked,
And chin on paws -- though gate be locked
And bars be high, no gates there are
Can hold you back, nor any bar,
Nor angel with the flaming sword,
When once you hear your master's word.

Perhaps they will not want me there,
Perhaps not want you otherwhere,
And so once more our way we'll wend,
To outer darkness, friend and friend,
Nor lack for any light, we two,
So you have me and I have you.
And if perchance we lose our way,
Nor anywhere can find the day,
Together we will fall asleep,
Together sink into the deep
Great sea of nothingness, we two,
You with me and I with you.

TALKING TO THE DOG
Kate Barnes

When I used to get up in the morning
and make some funny noises -
jargon, bits of songs, nonsense -
I wasn't really talking to myself;
no, I was talking to the dog.

But now the dog is dead;
no more unkempt wolf-hound lying asleep on her back
with her legs against the wall.
I must say good-bye to her prehistoric howling,
goodbye to the look of those mad, yellow owl-eyes.
I drop her unfinished dinner onto the compost pile,
I wash her bowls and put them away,
I pull the rug over the place where her bed was;
and still I think I can hear her,
just stirring in the next room.

It is almost midsummer,
the blackberries are flowering in festoons beside the pasture;
I will bury her ashes under the crooked pear tree
with the fruit already growing among its green leaves.
I know that for a long time I will hear her at the door,
and see her out of the corner of my eye.
When the wind tracks light through the bending grass,
for a long time I will be talking to the dog.

 

 
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