Shepherd’s Winter – Part 23

thVVA1XNJ4Byron

Trap began to take on a healthy appearance. His paws fell heavy on the cabin floor he moved as a king, yet at the slightest show of affection toward Pal he nudged his head into Shepherd’s lap. It was a friendly jealousy and they enjoyed the playful vying for affection.

They ate together with no quarreling. They played and romped in the snow. Trap was like a grown man who never had a childhood. Likely he faced the harsh reality of the wilderness at an early age. He was strong. His strength was measured and never used to dominate Pal or Shepherd.

Pal and Trap sat at the feet of Shepherd at nights and listened to him read. Among their favorite reads was Byron’s Epitaph for a Dog:

“Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one — and here he lies.”

 

Shepherd closed his book of Byron poems. Pal and Trap lifted their heads as if to say may we have more.

“Rest, dear friends,” Shepherd said quietly, “and leave a lonely man with his lonely thoughts.”

 

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