Rudyard Kipling is writer of the month in our family. It all started a couple of weeks ago, when we took Brianna to see Jungle Book at our local theatre. As she is a bit partial to acting, drama and the stage herself, she loved it and wanted to read the book. The original, that is (she said she was too big for the kiddie picture book versions). So we downloaded it – for free – onto our Kindle and she’s been picking her way through it as part of her evening reading sessions.
Then she was given a Kipling poem to read and discuss as part of her literacy homework. This reminded me that I had a collection of Kipling poems – which I hadn’t opened for years – on our bookshelves. I thought that all the signs were there that it was time for me to re-read it. So I picked up the book and delved into it. Eventually, I came across a brilliant ‘dog’ poem which I couldn’t remember at all. I must have overlooked it when I read it years ago and I didn’t have a dog. This time, it hit home. It made me think, brought tears to my eyes and urged me to sneak up on George for a big cuddle (which he happily accepted, wagging his tail).
To me, this is one of those poems that you have to share. A poem that speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever had and loved a dog.
THE POWER OF THE DOG
by Rudyard Kipling
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years that nature permits
Are closing in asthma or tumors or fits
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers, or loaded guns.
Then you will find–its your own affair
But–you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You still discover how much you care
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em the more do we grieve;
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long–
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?