Black Dog as a Metaphor

If there is any negative connotations about black dogs, history hasn’t helped. Superstition aside, “black dog” was a metaphor for periods of gloom or depression.

Winston Churchill had a black dog
his name was written on it
It followed him around from town to town
It’d bring him down
took him for a good long ride
took him for a good look around

-Reg Mombassa: Black dog

Winston Churchill often referred to his depression as his ‘black dog,’ as did Robert Bly in “Melancholia” in The Light Around the Body (1967):
“A light seen suddenly in the storm, snow

Coming from all sides, like flakes

Of sleep, and myself

On the road to the dark barn

Halfway there, a black dog near me.”

English writer, Samuel Johnson, became famous for the black dog as a metaphor after recording it in a letter to a friend, “… What will you do to keep away the black dog that worries you at home?”

Associations with depression  go all the way back to the poetry of the Roman poet Horace (c. 40BC) and Appollonius (c. 1st century AD).

It’s an unfair characterization, for how many of us (ourselves included) have outrageously happy black dogs at home?




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