To Rufus A Spaniel

Rufus, a bright New Year! A savoury stew,

Bones, broth and biscuits, is prepared for you.

See how it steams in your enamelled dish,

Mixed in each part according to your wish.

Hide in your straw the bones you cannot crunch--

They'll come in handy for to-morrow's lunch;

Abstract with care each tasty scrap of meat,

Remove each biscuit to a fresh retreat

(A dog, I judge, would deem
himself disgraced

Who ate a biscuit where he found it placed);

Then nuzzle round and make your final sweep,

And sleep, replete, your after-dinner sleep.

High in our hall we've piled the fire with logs

For you, the doyen of our corps of dogs.

There, when the stroll that health demands is done,

Your right to ease by due exertion won,

There shall you come, and on your long-haired mat,

Thrice turning round, shall tread the jungle flat,

And, rhythmically snoring, dream away

The peaceful evening of your New Year's day.

Rufus! there are who hesitate to own

Merits, they say, your master sees alone.

They judge you stupid, for you show no bent

To any poodle-dog accomplishment.

Your stubborn nature never stooped to learn

Tricks by which mumming dogs their biscuits earn.

Men mostly find you, if they change their seat,

Couchant obnoxious to their blundering feet;

Then, when a door is closed, you steadily

Misjudge the side on which you ought to be;

Yelping outside when all your friends are in,

You raise the echoes with your ceaseless din,

Or, always wrong, but turn and turn about,

Howling inside when all the world is out.

They scorn your gestures and interpret ill

Your humble signs of friendship and goodwill;

Laugh at your gambols, and pursue with jeers

The ringlets clustered on your spreading ears;

See without sympathy your sore distress

When Ray obtains the coveted caress,

And you, a jealous lump of growl and glare,

Hide from the world your head beneath a chair.

They say your legs are bandy--so they are:

Nature so formed them that they might go far;

They cannot brook your music; they assail

The joyful quiverings of your stumpy tail--

In short, in one anathema confound

Shape, mind and heart, and all, my little hound.

Well, let them rail. If, since your life began,

Beyond the customary lot of man

Staunchness was yours; if of your faithful heart

Malice and scorn could never claim a part;

If in your master, loving while you live,

You own no fault or own it to forgive;

If, as you lay your head upon his knee,

Your deep-drawn sighs proclaim your sympathy;

If faith and friendship, growing with your age,

Speak through your eyes and all his love engage;

If by that master's wish your life you rule--

If this be folly, Rufus, you're a fool.

Old dog, content you; Rufus, have no fear:

While life is yours and mine your place is here.

And when the day shall come, as come it must,

When Rufus goes to mingle with the dust

(If Fate ordains that you shall pass before

To the abhorred and sunless Stygian shore),

I think old Charon, punting through the dark,

Will hear a sudden friendly little bark;

And on the shore he'll mark without a frown

A flap-eared doggie, bandy-legged and brown.

He'll take you in: since watermen are kind,

He'd scorn to leave my little dog behind.

He'll ask no obol, but instal you there

On Styx's further bank without a fare.

There shall you sniff his cargoes as they come,

And droop your head, and turn, and still be dumb--

Till one fine day, half joyful, half in fear,

You run and prick a recognising ear,

And last, oh, rapture! leaping to his hand,

Salute your master as he steps to land.