Lord Bryon & Alicia Ostriker Discuss Dogs

I realize now the title is a bit misleading: this post unfortunately won’t be a recounting of a discussion between Bryon and Ostriker. I understand if you feel mislead and would like to leave.

Rather, I thought it’d be fun to look at two different poems that honor the virtues of dogs: one the intangible merits and the other a look at the unbridled joy. To that end, I’ve included a few photos of Blackjack, a dog friend of mine that takes an inordinate amount of pleasure from chasing his Frisbee.

Curious to see the other poems from the month? Check out the original National Poetry Month post!

Bryon’s epitaph for his dog Boatswain

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
Who was born in Newfoundland May 1803,
And died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

Alice Ostriker: The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves


The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—


Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—


Pursuing pleasure
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they’ll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers


Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink


Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For nothing,
For absolutely nothing but joy.

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