A Retriever’s Epitaph – A Tribute Poem by Robert C. Lehmann
A RETRIEVER’S EPITAPH
by Robert C. Lehmann
Beneath this turf, that formerly he pressed
With agile feet, a dog is laid to rest;
Him, as he sleeps, no well-known sound shall stir,
The rabbit’s patter, or the pheasant’s whir;
The keeper’s “Over”—far, but well defined,
That speeds the startled partridge down the wind;
The whistled warning as the winged ones rise
Large and more large upon our straining eyes,
Till with a sweep, while every nerve is tense,
The chattering covey hurtles o’er the fence;
The double crack of every lifted gun,
The dinting thud of birds whose course is done—
These sounds, delightful to his listening ear,
He heeds no longer, for he cannot hear.
None stauncher, till the drive was done, defied
Temptation, rooted to his master’s side;
None swifter, when his master gave the word,
Leapt on his course to track the running bird,
And bore it back—ah, many a time and oft—
His nose as faultless as his mouth was soft.
How consciously, how proudly unconcerned,
Straight to his master’s side he then returned,
Wagged a glad tail, and deemed himself repaid
As in that master’s hand the bird he laid,
If, while a word of praise was duly said,
The hand should stroke his smooth and honest head.
Through spring and summer, in the sportless days,
Cheerful he lived a life of simpler ways;
Chose, since official dogs at times unbend,
The household cat for confidante and friend;
With children friendly, but untaught to fawn,
Romped through the walks and rollicked on the lawn,
Rejoiced, if one the frequent ball should throw,
To fetch it, scampering gaily to and fro,
Content through every change of sportive mood
If one dear voice, one only, called him good.
Such was my dog, who now, without my aid,
Hunts through the shadowland, himself a shade,
Or crouched intent before some ghostly gate,
Waits for my step, as here he used to wait.
Robert C. Lehmann.
As published in “The Dog’s Book of Verse” Collected by J. Earl Clauson
A Public Domain Work.