Richard Harris Barham
Poor Tray charmant!
Poor Tray de mon Ami!
-- Dog-bury, and Vergers.
Oh! where shall I bury my poor dog Tray,
Now his fleeting breath has pass'd away?
Seventeen years, I can venture to say,
Have I seen him gambol, and frolic, and play,
Evermore happy, and frisky, and gay,
As though every one of his months was May,
And the whole of his life one long holiday --
Now he's a lifeless lump of clay,
Oh! where shall I bury my faithful Tray?
I am almost tempted to think it hard
That it may not be there, in yon sunny churchyard,
Where the green willows wave
O'er the peaceful grave,
Which holds all that once was honest and brave,
Kind, and courteous, and faithful, and true;
Qualities, Tray, that were found in you.
But it may not be -- you sacred ground,
By holiest feelings fenced around,
May ne'er within its hallow'd bound
Receive the dust of a soul-less hound.
I would not place him in yonder fane,
Where the mid-day sun through the storied pane
Throws on the pavement a crimson stain;
Where the banners of chivalry heavily swing
O'er the pinnacled tomb of the Warrior King,
With helmet and shield, and all that sort of thing.
No!-- come what may,
My gentle Tray
Shan't be an intruder on bluff Harry Tudor,
Or panoplied monarchs yet earlier and ruder,
Whom you see on their backs,
In stone or in wax,
Though the sacristans now are 'forbidden to ax'
For what Mister Hume calls 'a scandalous tax;'
While the Chartists insist they've a right to go snacks.
No!-- Tray's humble tomb would look but shabby
'Mid the sculptured shrines of that gorgeous Abbey.
Besides, in the place
They say there's not space
To bury what wet-nurses call 'a Babby.'
Even 'Rare Ben Jonson,' that famous wight,
I am told, is interr'd there bolt upright,
In just such a posture, beneath his bust,
As Tray used to sit in to beg for a crust.
The epitaph, too,
Would scarcely do;
For what could it say, but 'Here lies Tray,
A very good sort of a dog in his day?'
And satirical folks might be apt to imagine it
Meant as a quiz on the House of Plantagenet.
No! no!-- The Abbey may do very well
For a feudal 'Nob' or poetical 'Swell,'
'Crusaders,' or 'Poets,' or 'Knights of St. John,'
Or Knights of St. John's Wood, who last year went on
To the Castle of Goode Lorde Eglintonne.
Count Fiddle-fumkin, and Lord Fiddle-faddle,
'Sir Craven,' 'Sir Gael,' and 'Sir Campbell of Saddell,'
(Who, as Mr. Hook said, when he heard of the feat,
'Was somehow knock'd out of his family-seat;')
The Esquires of the body
To my Lord Tomnoddy;
'Sir Fairlie,' 'Sir Lamb,'
And the 'Knight of the Ram,'
The 'Knight of the Rose,' and the 'Knight of the Dragon,'
Who, save at the flagon,
And prog in the waggon,
The Newspapers tell us did little 'to brag on;'
And more, though the Muse knows but little concerning 'em,
'Sir Hopkins,' 'Sir Popkins,' 'Sir Gage,' and 'Sir Jerningham.'
All Preux Chevaliers, in friendly rivalry
Who should best bring back the glory of Chi-valry.--
(Pray be so good, for the sake of my song,
To pronounce here the ante-penultimate long;
Or some hyper-critic will certainly cry,
'The word 'Chivalry' is but a 'rhyme to the eye.''
And I own it is clear
A fastidious ear
Will be, more or less, always annoy'd with you when you
Insert any rhyme that's not perfectly genuine.
As to pleasing the 'eye,'
'Tisn't worth while to try,
Since Moore and Tom Campbell themselves admit 'spinach'
Is perfectly antiphonetic to 'Greenwich.)
But stay!-- I say!--
Let me pause while I may --
This digression is leading me sadly astray
From my object -- A grave for my poor dog Tray!
I would not place him beneath thy walls,
And proud o'ershadowing dome, St. Paul's!
Though I've always consider'd Sir Christopher Wren,
As an architect, one of the greatest of men;
And,-- talking of Epitaphs,-- much I admire his,
'Circumspice, si Monumentum requiris;'
Which an erudite Verger translated to me,
'If you ask for his Monument, Sir-come-spy-see!'
No!-- I should not know where
To place him there;
I would not have him by surly Johnson be;--
Or that Queer-looking horse that is rolling on Ponsonby;--
Or those ugly minxes
The sister Sphynxes,
Mix'd creatures, half lady, half lioness, ergo
(Denon says) the emblems of Leo and Virgo;
On one of the backs of which singular jumble,
Sir Ralph Abercrombie is going to tumble,
With a thump which alone were enough to despatch him,
If that Scotchman in front shouldn't happen to catch him.
No! I'd not have him there, nor nearer the door,
Where the Man and the Angel have got Sir John Moore,
And are quietly letting him down through the floor,
Near Gillespie, the one who escaped, at Vellore,
Alone from the row;--
Neither he, nor Lord Howe
Would like to be plagued with a little Bow-wow.
No, Tray, we must yield,
And go further a-field;
To lay you by Nelson were downright effront'ry;--
We'll be off from the City, and look at the country.
It shall not be there,
In that sepulchred square,
Where folks are interr'd for the sake of the air,
(Though, pay but the dues, they could hardly refuse
To Tray what they grant to Thuggs and Hindoos,
Turks, Infidels, Heretics, Jumpers, and Jews,)
Where the tombstones are placed
In the very best taste,
At the feet and the head
Of the elegant Dead,
And no one's received who's not 'buried in lead:'
For, there lie the bones of Deputy Jones,
Whom the widow's tears and the orphan's groans
Affected as much as they do the stones
His executors laid on the Deputy's bones;
Little rest, poor knave!
Would he have in his grave;
Since Spirits, 'tis plain,
Are sent back again,
To roam round their bodies,-- the bad ones in pain,--
Dragging after them sometimes a heavy jack-chain;
Whenever they met, alarmed by its groans, his
Ghost all night long would be barking at Jones's.
Nor shall he be laid
By that cross Old Maid,
Miss Penelope Bird, of whom it is said
All the dogs in the Parish were always afraid.
He must not be placed
By one so strait-laced
In her temper, her taste, and her morals, and waist.
For, 'tis said, when she went up to heaven, and St. Peter,
Who happened to meet her,
Came forward to greet her,
She pursed up with scorn every vinegar feature,
And bade him 'Get out for a horrid Male Creature!'
So, the Saint, after looking as if he could eat her,
Not knowing, perhaps, very well how to treat her,
And not being willing, or able, to beat her,
Sent her back to her grave till her temper grew sweeter,
With an epithet -- which I decline to repeat here.
No, if Tray were interr'd
By Penelope Bird,
No dog would be e'er so be-'whelp''d and be-'cur'r'd.
All the night long her cantankerous Sprite
Would be running about in the pale moon-light,
Chasing him round, and attempting to lick
The ghost of poor Tray with the ghost of a stick.
Stay!-- let me see!--
Ay -- here it shall be
At the root of this gnarl'd and time-worn tree,
Where Tray and I
Would often lie,
And watch the light clouds as they floated by
In the broad expanse of the clear blue sky,
When the sun was bidding the world good b'ye;
And the plaintive Nightingale, warbling nigh,
Pour'd forth her mournful melody;
While the tender Wood-pigeon's cooing cry
Has made me say to myself, with a sigh,
'How nice you would eat with a steak in a pie!'
Ay, here it shall be!-- far, far from the view
Of the noisy world and its maddening crew.
Simple and few,
Tender and true
The lines o'er his grave.-- They have, some of them, too,
The advantage of being remarkably new
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Comments about this poem (The Cynotaph, by Richard Harris Barham )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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