The Thoughts of a Dog

What really does go on inside the mind
Of the domestic dog? To simply say
They think of very little else all day
But eating what they’re given, what they find
To feed on would be callous and unkind.
Unique among all species is the way
They stay by choice with us: a dog’s life they
Would say is so much better with mankind.

It isn’t merely cupboard love that leads
Their kind to ours. They’d hunger if we halved
Their rations, linger with us if they starved.
Devotion trumps their nature and their needs,
As faithful Argos waiting twenty years,
Rewarded only with Odysseus’ tears.

 

 

The Labrador Retriever 

The Labrador retriever is a dog
Who’s ill-disposed to cogitation or
Omphalic contemplation even, for
He finds such lucubration quite a slog.
But rather than engage in monologue
Or talk with you (for barking’s such a bore)
He’d much prefer to meditate (and snore)
And ruminate (and slumber like a log).

Although if he had half a chance he’d eat
Eight times his weight in finest cuts of meat
Before he’d answer Hypnos’ weary call,
Or yet would yield to Morpheus and fall
In dreams for visionary food that’s off
When he could wake and well and truly scoff.

 

 

Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.


Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.”

24 Responses

  1. Philip Keefe

    Thank you for your two very good dog poems. Though not a dog person myself I do share a house with a Golden and my partner. I am occasionally considered an equal to BeBe. But I have pondered many times what we mean to dogs apart from being providers of shelter and food.
    Incidentally you introduced me to two new words in the second poem which made me resort to the dictionary and I appreciate that.

    Reply
  2. Peter Hartley

    Philip – I’m glad to hear you know who’s first in the pecking order. I too have often wondered what inspires their devotion (a bit closer to our time than Argos think of Bullseye in Oliver Twist). Thank you for the kind remarks.

    Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    Guys, dogs are one thing, but don’t try to rhyme “un-KIND” with “MAN-kind. When will you putative Anglophones ever learn? Peter, this is not your best work, and may well be thrown to the dogs. Sorry, but that’s how I see it.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Sorry C. B. Anderson, but in English English the word in question is pronounced manKIND. Check the usual authoritative sources and even U-tube renditions! This reminds me of the fate of ice-CREAM as it was correctly pronounced over here until fairly recently when suddenly, all over the land, it became ICE-cream. TV has a lot to answer for!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Christina, my authoritative sources ( incuding THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY) support my pronunciation, where the stress is on the first syllable of “mankind.” It does allow for a pronunciation where both syllables are equally stressed, but there is no justification for putting an accent on the second syllable. Just look at the word: “Mankind” is not formed the way in which “ice cream” is formed. Anyway, I’ve always (for seventy years, almost) pronounced it ICE cream,” for otherwise “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” wouldn’t work.

      • Christina

        C. B. Anderson, I don’t know where this will pop up on the page, but thank you for introducing me to yet another dictionary of American English. However neither it nor any other dictionary of English (American or British) places the stress of mankind on the first syllable. Merriam-Webster does give a third definition of the word to mean mankind as opposed to womankind, and in this case only the stress is on the first syllable.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Christina, put on your magnifiers and look more closely. The stress is exactly where I said it was, and Webster concurs.

    • Peter Hartley

      CBA – I’m sorry you didn’t like this submission as I do have a great respect for your opinion. And it’s a great pity that a blunder of the nature you found above can completely ruin any experience for the prospective reader, as it did with the single missing foot oversight (and it was indeed merely an oversight, but that is no excuse whatsoever) that wrecked the reception of a series of five poems about my grandfather and the Great War. I was carried away on cloud nine with the accolades I received with my first few verses for the Society and thought I had at last found my metier rather late in life. Perhaps it was only cloud-cuckoo-land I had found. But I shall soldier on till my subscription is due for renewal and then I shall “consider my position” as we say (well, as we Brits say, anyway). And thank you, in the meantime, for your constructive comments (and occasional compliments) over the past eighteen months or so.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        Sorry, I mean the last SIX months or so (although it has seemed longer).

      • C.B. Anderson

        Peter, don’t get me wrong. Upon re-reading I found much to like about these dog poems, but I tend to focus on specific items that catch in my craw. Your work, overall, is splendid, and I very much hope that I will get to jump all over your ass or slather praise in the day they became man’s best friend, for now and for years to come. Dogs are very peculiar in that they form strong attachments to humans. I wish that someone would write a poem about the first man to tame a wolf. I’m not sure why dogs put up with us, but until they don’t they remain man’s best friend. Horses come in second place.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    Peter, I recently watched a magnificent sunset on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Although I was in one of most isolated places in Western Europe there happened to be an electric wire directly between me and the setting sun. For a brief moment it became a distraction, spoiling the otherwise perfect scene. Few things in life are perfect. Few things are beyond criticism or improvement. I have rarely submitted a poem to this site where my attention was not drawn to an overlooked error or where I was not offered a suggestion for improvement. I have learned to take all this in stride. C.B. may be the most critical and blunt of the lot but at least he is honest, and while I wish he was more tactful and sensitive of people’s feelings, he is an important part of SCP and I not only welcome his comments but look forward to his submissions, which often approach the perfection he demands from everyone else! Since falling into this site some two years ago I have been challenged to improve and expand my skill as a poet. I have also learned to first recognize when I have created a small masterpiece in verse and then to smile when someone else lets an electrical wire distract them from enjoying the beauty of my sunset. As for your two poems, I think they are wonderful. You rose to the challenge of composing not one, but two Petrarchan sonnets. As a bonus, you incorporated creative wordplay, humor, and clever vocabulary to add spice to the stories you set out to tell. At some point down the line I may offer you a piece of constructive criticism, but not today. You write well. Your Muse is on fire. Keep up the good work and keep on sharing it with us.

    Reply
  5. Mark Stone

    Peter,

    1. I am definitely a dog person, and I enjoyed both poems very much.

    2. I completely agree with what James Tweedie said. To conclude that you should stop writing because a small blemish was found on one of your poems is unthinkable to me. You have great talent as a poet, and the SCP website is made better by the publication of your poems. My vote is for you to keep on producing your excellent work.

    3. The SCP website recently introduced a Workshop section on the site. If you (or anyone) would like to have a draft poem critiqued before you submit it for publication, you could post the draft there. So far only eight poems have been submitted for critique, and I am the only one who has provided comments on the draft poems. However, my hope is that more people will do so, as they become aware of the Workshop section. Also, to make my analysis of the poems more structured, last Saturday I created a 10-point checklist to use when evaluating the poems. I used the checklist on the poem I reviewed last Saturday, and I will use it in the future.

    As I see it, use of the Workshop has three advantages. First, poets will see fewer criticisms of their poems after they are published. Second, a well-scrubbed poem has a better chance of being accepted for publication. Third, the publication of better poems on the SCP website will further improve the website’s reputation.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Mark – Thank you very much indeed for your generous remarks on my little dog poems and I’m glad to hear that you liked them, and even more glad that you like dogs. Your words, echoing what James has said, I find very encouraging indeed. It does seem a great pity, if we try to do our best, to have a poem rubbished for the sake of a carelessly dropped or supernumerary foot when it is usually so easy to correct such a fault before submission. In the present instance though I’m afraid I was too quick to admit to a fault that doesn’t exist (it must be some kind of guilt complex). The offending word, “mankind”, as Christina has pointed out, is correctly pronounced with the stress on the second syllable in both British and American English, and I have found six different authoritative dictionaries to prove it, apart from the aural evidence I have gleaned from the internet. So it looks as though “blemish” it is not and never was. I find your words, like James’s, very encouraging indeed, however, and if your workshop will help to prevent my making some of the stupid blunders I have made in the past, I shall certainly give it a go. Thank you for the invitation, and thank you once again for your kind remarks.

      Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    James – That was exactly the fillip I needed. Thank you. I too had one of those moments like yours en route to Barra from Eriskay the last time I went, in May 2008, with our little cocker spaniel. It was one of those occasions we all remember (and we don’t know why we remember) for the rest of our lives. The dog was sitting on one of those floating benches with me on the upper deck of the ferry-boat and he just looked so proud to be alive and proud, dare I say it, to be with me. The poem I wrote about it became the title verse for a little book of poems that I had published nearly ten years later: the dog is long dead.

    We sometimes do recall the oddest things.
    Why should it be so crystal clear that day
    Ten years ago, a dog with me, off Eriskay,
    Aboard a boat and Barra bound? It brings
    To mind the rain, the wind still sings and stings
    And tears in gusts across the sound the way
    It did, while gulls keep pace above the spray
    On imperturbable and static wings.

    Such moments unregarded in his prime,
    They seemed inconsequential at the time.
    The dog, so proud to be alive and when
    He was he lived the here and now, but then
    He questioned not the continuity
    Of life, the permanence of him and me.

    (You will notice line three has an extra foot.) When I started this comment I intended at some point to have a massive grouse about SCP and certain members thereof, but a response to your kind post is hardly the appropriate vehicle. Instead I should like to point out some of the good. There are many folk, indeed, who will not contribute unless they have something kind to say or a constructive criticism that is kindly put, among whom I must number Amy Foreman as a good example. There are some who, if they have a criticism to make, will put it so gently that it is read and nearly forgotten but almost subliminally taken on board. I number you in that category. I remember somebody trying to mock Monty because he may not have had a university education, but Monty seems to have more sense than the rest of us put together. I remember once being unreasonably disgruntled with Dr Salemi for apparently making light of my own intelligence by remarking that it took me a full three days to reply to one of his comments. The reason for the delayed response is because I am a full-time carer for a partner suffering from a distressing terminal illness, and not because the world revolves around Dr Salemi, but Dr Salemi could not possibly have known this and my judgment was unfair.

    This society could do and does so much good with Evan Mantyk at the helm, but could do so much more without all the cat-fighting and bitchiness and point-scoring. The Society needs more people like you. And many many thanks for the kind remarks which I shall certainly remember. And I wish I had your charity.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Actually, Peter, I did not notice the extra foot. I was too busy enjoying the beauty of the poem along with the memory of my own ferry trip from Eriskay to Barra several weeks ago (without, however, a dog with whom to share the experience). I have recently submitted to SCP a set of sonnets written during my recent sojourn in Ireland and the Western Isles. There is one sonnet set on Harris/Lewis and, if Evan agrees to include it, Barra will be represented by a song written in the style of a Scottish air. I thought of you from time to time during my trip, especially as I retraced your steps in places you so movingly captured in your poetry. As for charity, on several occasions my wife has kindly prevented me from pushing the “send” button on my own SCP rants–rants which, as a result, never found their way into the comments area! Sometimes it is best to count to ten . . . or twenty . . . or thirty before jumping off a cliff! All the best.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        James – You wouldn’t believe how relieved I am that you didn’t notice that supernumerary iambus! I don’t know if you got as far south as Vatersay when you visited Barra. I had to get there by ferry-boat on my visit in 1971 as a child but it is now connected by causeway to the “mainland”. It was the scene, in 1853, of the worst peacetime maritime disaster in British history. There is no evidence remaining beyond a small, tired-looking obelisk even though 350 bodies are buried in the sand round about, but it inspired another little poem which I have recently pestered Evan with. I do hope he publishes yours, and I’m intrigued by this Scottish air you’ve written. All the best with your poeticising!

      • James A. Tweedie

        I did take the opportunity to drive across the causeway to Vatersay. I did not see the obelisk you mention but did see a more contemporary interpretive sign (it may have been a plaque) that described the tragedy in some detail.

  7. Peter Hartley

    James – you seem to have got a very long way in a very short time, while managing to write poetry too! Vatersay’s as far south as you can get, of course, without going on a special trip. When you look cross the sea towards the tip of the chain their remoteness makes it hard to believe that Mingulay was permanently occupied until 1912. I wrote a poem about the wreck of the Annie Jane
    on Vatersay but won’t post it just in case Evan does.

    Reply
  8. James A. Tweedie

    I climbed partway up Mt. Heaval (the tallest peak on Barra directly above Castlebay) and gained a wonderful view beyond Vatersay to Mingulay and points south. It was a clear day but heavily overcast so the scene looked like a black and white picture on an old TV set. I did not know that there had been people living there as recently as 1912. Interesting.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      James – In 1971, and I think 1973, I clambered over nearly every point in the Outer Hebrides over 1000 feet above sea level. This included Heaval and neighbouring Ben Tangaval whence, as you say,there are stunning views of the southernmost isles of the Outer Hebrides. If you also went to the Uists, from the summits of Eaval, Hecla and Ben More you might have seen, as I have many times, the isles of Boreray and Hirta of the St Kilda group over 40 miles to the west. They were permanently occupied for several thousand years till 1930 when they were finally evacuated. And 43 miles NW of the Scottish mainland (Cape Wrath) is the tiny isle of North Rona which is the remotest part of the UK that has EVER been permanently occupied. It was abandoned in 1844. About 200 miles west of Scotland is the tiny seventy-foot-high blackened granite tooth of Rockall which may well be the most isolated piece of rock, for its size, in the world. I think trawlermen are the only folk who ever see it!

      Reply
      • James A.Tweedie

        I had to look up Ben Tangaval and found that I had a lovely picture of it with the small loch with the islet with the ruins of a small tower on it in the foreground. I clambered around as much as I was able on my trip, climbing Ben Nevis (which nearly killed me . . . in the clouds, sleeting with three inches of snow at the top), then up, down, in, out, and around the Quiraing on Skye, and on Barra, the lower slopes of Heaval, a scramble up a hill overlooking Brevig Bay to see a neolithic standing stone, and a slimy uphill trek through sodden bogs to a neolithic chamber tomb (called Dun Bharpa) in the western interior of Barra, a tomb neatly triangulated east, west and south with the three highest peaks visible from that spot. Back in 1971 and 1973 I could have done it much better! At 68, out of shape, and overweight, I am still surprised that I was able to do any of it at all last month!. This is part of what life is all about, isn’t it, building up a collection of good memories peppered with self-satisfying accomplishments, especially in our youth. Peter, I am glad that we can share some of these things and that we have been been fortunate enough to have discovered the poetry in them. With Evan’s kind cooperation, I hope to see your Vatersay poem on the SCP site soon.

  9. Peter Hartley

    And yours, and I hope you may continue travelling to remote regions of the world and getting as much out of it as you do. Come to think of it not many Glaswegians have been to Barra.

    Reply
    • Christina

      C. B. Anderson, I write in response to this one of yours above:

      “Christina, put on your magnifiers and look more closely. The stress is exactly where I said it was, and Webster concurs”.

      The original argument was against your very strongly expressed claim that the poet was wrong to rhyme ‘unkind’ with ‘mankind’. On the contrary, I pointed out, as a speaker of ‘English English’ he was correct to do so. Over here we say ‘manKIND’, and not ‘MANkind’. This raised an interesting point, I thought, for the SCP, where allowances for such differences should be made.

      However you claimed that:

      “…there is no justification for putting an accent on the second syllable” (!)

      I checked your American Heritage Dictionary and found the stress to indeed be given as you claimed, but it did not distinguish, as other dictionaries do, between manKIND, meaning humanity, and MANkind as distinct from womankind. Merriam-Webster does not concur – it places primary stress marks for both elements in the definition, which is fair enough in a compound word ĺike this, but the accompanying audio leaves one in no doubt that the American English pronunciation, according to MW, stresses the second syllable. Do please lend it an ear.

      As for ‘English English’ dictionaries, while the position of the primary stress indicator varies, they all agree on manKIND.

      So pleàse, CBA, cut our Brit poets a bit of slack, and, no offence taken and none of course meant, I ALWAYS put on my magnifiers ‘cos I have advanced AMD!!

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        The finest dog in the world is the Labrador retriever but it must be black. The second finest dog in the world is the Cocker spaniel as long as it is a blue roan. Neither of them, however, lives long enough.

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