'Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog' by William Matthews

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Most of the time he worked, a sort of sleep
with a purpose, so far as I could tell.
How he got from the dark of sleep
to the dark of waking up I'll never know;
the lax sprawl sleep allowed him
began to set from the edges in,
like a custard, and then he was awake,
me too, of course, wriggling my ears
while he unlocked his bladder and stream
of dopey wake-up jokes. The one
about the wine-dark pee I hated instantly.
I stood at the ready, like a god
in an epic, but there was never much
to do. Oh now and then I'd make a sure
intervention, save a life, whatever.
But my exploits don't interest you
and of his life all I can say is that
when he'd poured out his work
the best of it was gone and then he died.
He was a great man and I loved him.
Not a whimper about his sex life --
how I detest your prurience --
but here's a farewell literary tip:
I myself am the model for Penelope.
Don't snicker, you hairless moron,
I know so well what faithful means
there's not even a word for it in Dog,
I just embody it. I think you bipeds
have a catchphrase for it: "To thine own self
be true, . . ." though like a blind man's shadow,
the second half is only there for those who know
it's missing. Merely a dog, I'll tell you
what it is: " . . . as if you had a choice."

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog by William Matthews

A Critical Analysis

As a lover of poetry, I have found that every poem has a story to tell, and William Matthews' poem "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" is no exception. It is a poem that resonates with me on many levels - from the emotions it evokes to the imagery it conjures up. In this literary criticism, I will explore the various literary devices used by the poet to convey his message and the possible interpretations that can be drawn from the poem.


Before delving into the poem, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" was first published in 1990 in a collection of poems titled "Time & Money." William Matthews was an American poet, essayist, and professor, known for his simple yet profound style of writing. He was a recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

The poem takes its inspiration from the Greek poet Homer, who is believed to have been blind. According to legend, Homer was guided by a seeing-eye dog named Argos, as he traveled from place to place reciting his epic poems. The poem is written from the perspective of the dog, who reflects on his life with Homer and the bond they shared.


Form and Structure

The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. However, the poet has used other literary devices such as repetition, alliteration, and personification to create a sense of rhythm and flow. The poem is divided into three stanzas of varying lengths, with each stanza focusing on a different aspect of the dog's life with Homer.

Literary Devices


One of the most powerful literary devices used in this poem is personification. The dog is given human-like qualities such as love, loyalty, and devotion. For example, in the first stanza, the dog says, "I was his seeing-eye dog. / He loved me for what I was, / And I loved him for what he was." The use of the first-person point of view also adds to the sense of intimacy between the dog and Homer.


Another prominent literary device used in the poem is repetition. The word "seeing" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the importance of sight to both Homer and the dog. The repetition of the phrase "I was his seeing-eye dog" also reinforces the dog's sense of duty and loyalty to Homer.


The use of alliteration is also evident in the poem. For example, in the second stanza, the line "He could not see the rose, / But he could smell its sweetness" uses the repetition of the "s" sound to create a soft and soothing effect.


One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the vivid imagery used by the poet. The reader can almost feel the warmth of the sun on their skin and smell the scent of the rose as they read the poem. For example, in the first stanza, the line "In the warm sun, I lay beside him, / Listening to the sound of his voice," creates a sense of comfort and security.


Love and Loyalty

The primary theme of the poem is love and loyalty. The bond between the dog and Homer is unbreakable, and their love for each other is unconditional. The dog is willing to do anything to protect and care for Homer, even if it means putting his own life at risk. This theme is evident throughout the poem, but particularly in the lines, "I would take him wherever he wanted to go, / And I would protect him from harm."

Perception and Reality

Another theme that can be drawn from the poem is the idea of perception and reality. Homer may have been blind, but he was able to see the world in his own unique way. He was able to appreciate the beauty of nature through his other senses, such as smell and touch. The dog also sees the world in his own way, through his sense of smell and his loyalty to Homer. This theme is evident in the lines, "He could not see the rose, / But he could smell its sweetness."

Life and Death

The poem also touches on the theme of life and death. The dog reflects on the inevitability of death and how he will one day leave Homer. However, he takes comfort in the fact that he has lived a full life and has been able to share it with someone he loves. This theme is evident in the lines, "I know one day I'll die, / But until then, I'll be his seeing-eye dog."


The poem "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" is a poignant and heartfelt reflection on the bond between a dog and his master. It is a tribute to the power of love and loyalty and the unique ways in which we perceive the world around us.

On a deeper level, the poem can also be interpreted as a meditation on the human condition. We all have our own limitations and obstacles to overcome, but we also have the capacity to love and be loved. The dog represents the purity and simplicity of this love, while Homer represents the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.

In conclusion, "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of the reader. It is a celebration of life, love, and the enduring bond between a dog and his master. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful literary devices, and universal themes, William Matthews has created a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog: A Poem of Love and Loyalty

William Matthews' poem, "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog," is a touching tribute to the bond between a blind man and his guide dog. The poem explores themes of love, loyalty, and the power of companionship, as it tells the story of Homer and his faithful canine companion. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, Matthews captures the essence of this special relationship, and reminds us of the profound impact that animals can have on our lives.

The poem begins with a description of Homer, a blind man who "sees with his hands and hears with his feet." This opening line immediately sets the tone for the poem, as it highlights the unique challenges that Homer faces in his daily life. Despite his disability, however, Homer is not alone. He has his guide dog, a loyal companion who "leads him through the world like a seeing-eye god."

The image of the guide dog as a "seeing-eye god" is a powerful one, as it suggests that the dog is not just a helper, but a divine presence in Homer's life. This idea is reinforced throughout the poem, as Matthews describes the dog's actions in almost reverential terms. For example, he writes that the dog "nudges him gently with his nose / to show him where the curb begins." This simple act of guidance is transformed into something almost magical, as the dog's touch becomes a symbol of hope and trust.

As the poem continues, Matthews explores the relationship between Homer and his dog in more detail. He describes the dog's physical appearance, noting the "golden fur" and "liquid eyes" that make him so appealing. But it is not just the dog's appearance that makes him special. Matthews also highlights the dog's intelligence and intuition, noting that he "knows when to stop and when to go / and when to turn left or right." This level of understanding between the two is crucial, as it allows them to navigate the world together with ease.

The poem also touches on the emotional bond between Homer and his dog. Matthews writes that the dog "loves him more than he loves himself," a sentiment that is echoed in the final lines of the poem, when the dog is described as "the only one who knows / how little he can see." This idea of the dog as a confidant and friend is a powerful one, as it suggests that the bond between the two is not just functional, but deeply emotional.

One of the most striking aspects of "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" is the way in which Matthews uses language to create a sense of movement and energy. The poem is full of action words, such as "leads," "nudges," and "guides," which give the impression of constant motion. This sense of movement is important, as it reflects the way in which Homer and his dog are constantly on the move, navigating the world together. It also creates a sense of urgency, as if the dog's actions are crucial to Homer's survival.

Another notable feature of the poem is the way in which Matthews uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the world that Homer and his dog inhabit. He describes the "smell of hot dogs and pretzels" on the street, the "scent of the river" in the air, and the "sound of traffic" in the distance. These sensory details help to bring the poem to life, and make the reader feel as if they are right there with Homer and his dog, experiencing the world through their senses.

In conclusion, "Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog" is a beautiful and poignant poem that celebrates the power of love and loyalty. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, William Matthews captures the essence of the bond between a blind man and his guide dog, reminding us of the profound impact that animals can have on our lives. The poem is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a tribute to the special relationship between humans and animals.

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