A Tall Dog for a Little Poet

He was considered by many to be the premier poet of the 18th century, and phrases that Alexander Pope wrote are still around today: “To err is human, to forgive, divine,” and, “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Three of the moons of the planet, Uranus, are, in fact, named after characters from Pope’s poetry.

The poet’s propensity to offend critics, other writers and celebrities of the day, however, earned him the nickname, “The Wasp of Twickenham,” and garnered him a long list of those who meant him ill. Threats to his safety were very familiar to Pope, but he was hardly in a position to defend himself:  He had suffered numerous health conditions since puberty, including a form of tuberculosis that deformed his body, stunted his growth, and left him with a severe hunchback. In fact, Pope never grew beyond 4 feet 6 inches tall which made his ownership of a series of Great Danes all the more comical since they were marginally taller than he was. Still, Pope rarely left his house without a brace of pistols and his dog, and one did actually save his life from a vicious knife attack by a new valet.

Most of the Pope’s Great Danes were named,”Bounce,” and as an homage, Pope wrote “Bounce to Fop: An Heroick Epistle From a Dog at Twickenham to a Dog at Court” (“Fop” was a dog who belonged to Lady Suffolk):

Bounce to Fop

To thee, sweet Fop, these Lines I send,
W’ho, tho‘ no Spaniel, am a Friend.

Tho, once my Tail in wanton play,
New frisking this, and then that way,

Chanc’d, with a Touch of just the Tip,
To hurt your Lady-lap-dog-ship;

Yet thence to think I‘d bite your Head off!
Sure Bounce is one you never read of.

FOP! you can dance, and make a Leg,
Can fetch and carry, cringe and beg,
And (what’s the Top of all your Tricks)
Can stoop to pick up Strings and Sticks.
We Country Dogs love nobler Sport,
And scorn the Franks of Dogs at Court.
Fye, naughty Fop! where e’er you come
To f_..it and p_…ss about the Room,
To lay your Head in every Lap,

And, when they think not of you—snap!
The worst that Envy, or that Spite

E’er said of me, is, I can bite:

That sturdy Vagrants, Rogues in Rags,
W’ho poke at me, can make no Brags;
And that to towze such Things as flutter,
To honest Bounce is Bread and Butter.

While you, and every courtly Fop,
Fawn on the Devil for a Chop,
I’ve the Humanity to hate
A Butcher, tho‘ he brings me Meat;

And let me tell you, have a Nose,
(Whatever stinking Fops suppose)
That under Cloth of Gold or Tissue,
Can smell a Plaister, or an Issue.

Your pilfring Lord, with simple Pride,
May wear a Pick-lock at his Side;
My Master wants no Key of State,
For Bounce can keep his House and Gate.

When all such Dogs have had their Days,
As lmavish Pams, and favming Trays;
W’hen parnper’d Cupids, beastly Veni’s,
And motly, squinting Harvequinfs,

Shall lick no more their Lady‘s Br_. . . ,
But die of Looseness, Claps, or Itch;
Fair Thames from either ecchoing Shore
Shall hear, and dread my manly Roar.

See Bounce, like Berecynthia, crov\m’d
With thund’ring Offspring all around,
Beneath, beside me, and a top,
A hundred Sons! and not one Fop.

Before my Children set your Beef,
Not one true Bounce will be a Thief;
Not one without Permission feed,
(Tho‘ some of J_. . .’s hungry Breed)

But whatsoe‘er the Father’s Race,
From me they suck a little Grace.
While your fine Whelps learn all to steal,
Bred up by Hand on Chick and Veal.

My Eldest-born resides not far,
W’here shines great Strafl’ord’s glittering Star:
My second (Child of Fortune!) waits
At Burlington’s Palladian Gates:

A third majestically stalks
(Happiest of Dogs!) in Cobham‘s Walks:
One ushers Friends to Bathurst‘s Door;
One fawns, at Oxford’s, on the Poor.

Nobles, whom Arms or Arts adorn,
Wait for my Infants yet unborn.
None but a Peer of Wit and Grace,
Can hope a Puppy of my Race.

And 0! w0u‘d Fate the Bliss decree
To mine (a Bliss too great for me)
That two, my tallest Sons, might grace
Attending each with stately Pace,

Iulus‘ Side, as erst Evander‘s,*
To keep off Flatt‘rers, Spies, and Panders,
To let no noble Slave come near,
And scare Lord Fannys from his Ear:
Then might a Royal Youth, and true,
Enjoy at least a Friend—or two:

A Treasure, which, of Royal kind,
Few but Himself deserve to find.
Then Bounce (’tis all that Bounce can crave:
Shall wag her Tail within the Grave.

And tho‘ no Doctors, Whig or Tory ones,
Except the Sect of Pythagoreans,
Have Immortality assign’d
To any Beast, but lDryden’s Hind:

Yet Master Pope, whom Truth and Sense
Shall call their Friend some Ages hence,
Tho’ now on loftier Themes he sings
Than to bestow a Word on Kings,

Has sworn by Sticks (the Poet’s Oath,
And Dread of Dogs and Poets both)
Man and his Works he’ll soon renounce,
And roar in Numbers worthy Bounce.

Image: Illustration by Marianne Goldin.

 

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