John Godfrey Saxe

(1816-1887 / the United States)

Tale of a Dog - Poem by John Godfrey Saxe

'Curse on all curs!' I heard a cynic cry;
A wider malediction than he thought-
For what's a cynic?- Had he cast his eye
Within his dictionary, he had caught
This much of learning- the untutored elf-
That he, unwittingly, had cursed himself!
'Beware of dogs,' the great Apostle writes;
A rather brief and sharp philippic sent
To the Philippinas. The paragraph invites
Some little question as to its intent,
Among the best expositors; but then
I find they all agree that 'dogs' meant men!
Beware of men! a moralist might say,
And women too; 't were but a prudent hint,
Well worth observing in a general way,
But having surely no conclusion in 't,
(As saucy satirists are wont to rail),
All men are faithless, and all women frail.
And so of dogs 't were wrong to dogmatize
Without discrimination or degree;
For one may see, with half a pair of eyes,
That they have characters as well as we:
I hate the rascal who can walk the street
Caning all canines he may chance to meet.
I had a dog that was not all a dog,
For in his nature there was something human;
Wisely he looked as any pedagogue;
Loved funerals and weddings, like a woman;
With this (still human) weakness, I confess,
Of always judging people by their dress.
He hated beggars, it was very clear,
And oft was seen to drive them from the door;
But that was education;- for a year,
Ere yet his puppyhood was fairly o'er,
He lived with a Philanthropist, and caught
His practices; the precepts he forgot!
Which was a pity; yet the dog, I grant,
Led, on the whole, a very worthy life.
To teach you industry, 'Go to the ant,'
(I mean the insect, not your uncle's wife):
But- though the counsel sounds a little rude-
Go to the dogs, for love and gratitude.
'Throw physic to the dogs,' the poet cries;
A downright insult to the canine race;
There's not a puppy but is far too wise
To put a pill or powder in his face.
Perhaps the poet merely meant to say,
That physic, thrown to dogs, is thrown away-
Which (as the parson said about the dice)
Is the best throw that any man can choose;
Take, if you're ailing, medical advice-
Minus the medicine- which, of course, refuse.
Drugging, no doubt, occasioned Homeopathy,
And all the dripping horrors of Hydropathy.
At all events, 't is fitting to remark,
Dogs spurn at drugs; their daily bark and whine
Are not at all the musty wine and bark
The doctors give to patients in decline;
And yet a dog who felt a fracture's smart
Once thanked a kind chirurgeon for his art.
I've heard a story, and believe it true,
About a dog that chanced to break his leg;
His master set it and the member grew
Once more a sound and serviceable peg;
And how d' ye think the happy dog exprest
The grateful feelings of his glowing breast?
'T was not in words; the customary pay
Of human debtors for a friendly act;
For dogs their thoughts can neither sing nor say
E'en in 'dog-latin,' which (a curious fact)
Is spoken only- as a classic grace-
By grave Professors of the human race!
No, 't was in deed; the very briefest tail
Declared his deep emotions at his cure;
Short, but significant;- one could not fail,
From the mere wagging of his cynosure
('Surgens e puppi'), and his ears agog,
To see the fellow was a grateful dog!
One day- still mindful of his late disaster-
He wandered off the village to explore;
And brought another dog unto his master,
Lame of a leg, as he had been before;
As who should say, 'You see!- the dog is lame:
You doctored me, pray doctor him the same!'
So runs the story, and you have it cheap-
Dog-cheap, as doubtless such a tale should be;
The moral, surely, isn't hard to reap:-
Be prompt to listen unto mercy's plea;
The good you get, diffuse; it will not hurt you
E'en from a dog to learn a Christian virtue!

Topic(s) of this poem: dogs

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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