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Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners

Posted May 23, 2011 to photo album "Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners"

In Beginners, the dog Arthur and the human Oliver create an emotional bond that echoes back all the way to Homer.

Arthur + Oliver
Argos + Odysseus
Peritas + Alexander the Great
Gelert + Llywelyn
Guinefort + his Knight
Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Pompey + William the Silent
Luath + Robert Burns
Boatswain + Lord Byron
Fortune + Josephine
Lauro + Napoleon
Seaman + Meriwether Lewis
Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen
Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Boatswain + Lord Byron

Boatswain + Lord Byron

“Lord Byron in Albanian dress,” by Thomas Phillips, 1835; Boatswain by Clifton Tomson, 1808)

Lord Byron’s favorite dog, a Newfoundland named Boatswain who was brought from Newfoundland by the British Navy, died after contracting rabies from having a fight with another dog. Through his illness, Byron nursed him by hand with no fear of contracting the disease. When Boatswain died, Byron buried him at Newstead Abbey, the family’s ancestral home. When Byron himself died he wanted to be buried with Boatswain, but his family interred him in a nearby church. To commemorate Boatswain, Byron wrote “Epitaph to a Dog,” a poem that is sometimes called “Inscription on the Monument to a Newfoundland Dog.” (Actually, later scholarship showed that the poem was really written by Byron’s friend John Hobhouse.)

Near this Spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
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 at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808.