John Collings Squire
To A Bull-Dog - Poem by John Collings Squire
We shan't see Willy any more, Mamie,
He won't be coming any more:
He came back once and again and again,
But he won't get leave any more.
We looked from the window and there was his cab,
And we ran downstairs like a streak,
And he said, 'Hullo, you bad dog,' and you crouched to the floor,
Paralysed to hear him speak.
And then let fly at his face and his chest
Till I had to hold you down,
While he took off his cap and his gloves and his coat,
And his bag and his thonged Sam Browne.
We went upstairs to the studio,
The three of us, just as of old,
And you lay down and I sat and talked to him
As round the room he strolled.
Here in the room where, years ago
Before the old life stopped,
He worked all dy with his slippers and his pipe,
He would pick up the threads he'd dropped,
Fondling all the drawings he had left behind,
Glad to find them all still the same,
And opening the cupboards to look at his belongings
. . . Every time he came.
But now I know what a dog doesn't know,
Though you'll thrust your head on my kneee,
And try to draw me from the absent-mindedness
That you find so dull in me.
And all your life, you will never know
What I wouldn't tell you even if I could,
That the last time we waved him away
Willy went for good.
But sometimes as you lie on the hearthrug
Sleeping in the warmth of the stove,
Even through your muddled old canine brain
Shapes from the past may rove.
You'll scarcely remember, even in a dream,
How we brought home a silly little pup,
With a big square head and little crooked legs
That could scarcely bear him up,
But your tail will tap at the memory
Of a man whose friend you were,
Who was always kind though he called you a naughty dog
When he found you in his chair;
Who'd make you face a reproving finger
And solemnly lecture you
Till your head hung downwards and you looked very sheepish:
And you'll dream of your triumphs too,
Of summer evening chases in the garden
When you dodgedus all about with a bone:
We were three boys, and you were the cleverest,
But now we're two alone.
When summer comes again,
And the long sunsets fade,
We shall have to go on playing the feeble game for two
That since the war we've played.
And though you run expectant as you always do
To the uniforms we meet,
You'll never find Willy among all the soldiers
In even the longest street,
Nor in any crowd; yet, strange and bitter thought,
Even now were the old words said,
If I tried the old trick and said, 'Where's Willy?'
You would quiver and lift your head,
And your brown eyes would look to ask if I was serious
And wait for the word to spring.
Sleep undisturbed: I shan't say that again,
You innocent old thing.
I must sit, not speaking, on the sofa,
While you lie asleep on the floor;
For he's suffered a thing that dogs couldn't dream of,
And he won't be coming here any more.
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