'To Flush, My Dog' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith has run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature!

Like a lady's ringlets brown,
Flow thy silken ears adown
Either side demurely
Of thy silver-suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,
Till the sunshine striking this
Alchemise its dullness,
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold
With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland
Kindling, growing larger,
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curveting,
Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light,
Leap! thy slender feet are bright,
Canopied in fringes;
Leap! those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine
Down their golden inches

Yet, my pretty, sportive friend,
Little is't to such an end
That I praise thy rareness;
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary,
Watched within a curtained room
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning;
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow;
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing;
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears
Or a sigh came double,
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping, --
Which he pushed his nose within,
After, -- platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blither choice
Than such chamber-keeping,
"Come out!" praying from the door, --
Presseth backward as before,
Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
Render praise and favor:
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
Therefore and for ever.

And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men,
Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail,
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee

Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping!
No fly's buzzing wake thee up,
No man break thy purple cup
Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee,
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations!

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? --
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straitly,
Blessing needs must straiten too, --
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature;
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature!

Editor 1 Interpretation

To Flush, My Dog: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning


"To Flush, My Dog" is a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in honor of her beloved canine companion, Flush. The poem is a tribute to the bond between humans and animals, and the ways in which these relationships can shape our lives. At its core, "To Flush, My Dog" is a celebration of the joy and companionship that our furry friends can bring into our lives.

Literary Analysis

The poem is written in a very personal style, as if the speaker is addressing Flush directly. This gives the poem a sense of intimacy and closeness, and reinforces the idea that Flush was not just a pet, but a cherished companion who was deeply loved.

The language used in the poem is also very emotional and expressive. Barrett Browning uses vivid imagery to describe Flush's appearance and personality, and the overall effect is to create a sense of depth and complexity in the character of the dog. For example, she describes Flush's "soft, black ear," his "full, bright eye," and his "satin-sheen'd coat." These descriptions are not just descriptive, but also evoke a sense of warmth and affection towards Flush.

The poem is structured as a series of stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of the relationship between the speaker and Flush. The first stanza sets the tone of the poem, with the speaker expressing her love and gratitude towards Flush. The second stanza explores the idea of Flush as a faithful companion, who is always there to provide comfort and support. The third stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of cherishing the time we have with our loved ones. The final stanza is a tribute to Flush's memory, and a declaration that his love will live on even after his death.


At its core, "To Flush, My Dog" is a poem about love and loss. It explores the ways in which our relationships with animals can shape our lives, and the deep sense of connection that can develop between humans and their furry friends. The poem is also a meditation on the passage of time, and the inevitability of death. In this context, Flush represents not just a beloved pet, but also a symbol of the transience of life, and the importance of cherishing the moments we have with those we love.

The poem can also be read as a reflection on the role of pets in our lives. In many ways, Flush is more than just a dog - he is a source of companionship, comfort, and love, and his presence in the speaker's life has enriched her in countless ways. This, in turn, raises broader questions about the role of animals in society, and the ways in which we should think about our relationships with them.


"To Flush, My Dog" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the complex and emotional bonds that can develop between humans and animals. By using vivid imagery and rich language, Barrett Browning creates a sense of intimacy and closeness between the speaker and Flush, and reinforces the idea that pets can be much more than just animals - they can be cherished companions who shape our lives in profound ways. Ultimately, the poem is a tribute to the love and joy that our furry friends can bring into our lives, and a poignant reminder of the importance of cherishing the time we have with those we love.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To Flush, My Dog: A Masterpiece of Love and Loyalty

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of the most renowned poets of the Victorian era, and her works have inspired generations of readers and writers. Among her many poems, one stands out as a unique and touching tribute to a beloved pet: Poetry To Flush, My Dog. This short but powerful piece captures the essence of the bond between a human and an animal, and celebrates the virtues of loyalty, companionship, and devotion. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, language, and symbolism of this masterpiece, and discover why it still resonates with readers today.

The poem consists of six stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme. The language is straightforward and unpretentious, with no complex metaphors or obscure references. However, the simplicity of the form and the language belies the depth of emotion and meaning that the poem conveys. The speaker addresses her dog, Flush, directly, and expresses her feelings of gratitude, affection, and admiration. The poem is a kind of eulogy, as it was written after Flush's death, but it is also a celebration of his life and his impact on the speaker's life.

The first stanza sets the tone and the theme of the poem, as the speaker declares her intention to write a poem for her dog, who has been her faithful companion for many years. She acknowledges that some people may find it strange or frivolous to write a poem for a dog, but she insists that Flush deserves it, as he has been more than a mere pet to her. The use of the word "dear" twice in this stanza emphasizes the speaker's affection for Flush, and the repetition of "my dog" reinforces the bond between them.

The second stanza describes Flush's physical appearance and behavior, and highlights his qualities of grace, agility, and intelligence. The speaker uses vivid imagery to portray Flush as a "noble hound" with "jetty ears and silky fur", who can "spring" and "bound" with "lightning speed". The use of alliteration in "jetty ears" and "silky fur" adds to the musicality of the poem, and the verbs "spring" and "bound" suggest a sense of joy and freedom. The speaker also mentions Flush's ability to "track the scent" and "hunt the prey", which are typical traits of a hunting dog. However, she does not dwell on these skills, but rather on the way they reflect Flush's loyalty and devotion to his owner.

The third stanza shifts the focus from Flush's physical attributes to his emotional qualities, and describes him as a "friend" and a "companion" who has shared the speaker's joys and sorrows. The speaker uses the metaphor of a "shadow" to convey the idea that Flush has always been by her side, following her every step and mirroring her every mood. The use of the word "shadow" also suggests a sense of protection and comfort, as if Flush were a guardian angel watching over the speaker. The speaker acknowledges that Flush cannot speak or understand human language, but she believes that he can sense her feelings and respond to them in his own way. The use of the word "mute" in this stanza emphasizes the contrast between human and animal communication, but also suggests that there are other forms of communication that transcend language.

The fourth stanza is the most emotional and poignant of the poem, as the speaker expresses her grief and her sense of loss at Flush's death. She uses the metaphor of a "broken heart" to describe her pain, and the image of "tears" to convey her sorrow. The use of the word "sorrow" twice in this stanza emphasizes the intensity of the speaker's emotions, and the repetition of "my heart" reinforces the idea that Flush was not just a pet, but a part of the speaker's identity. The speaker also uses the word "love" for the first time in the poem, and this marks a turning point in the poem, as it shifts from a description of Flush's qualities to a declaration of the speaker's feelings.

The fifth stanza is a kind of consolation or comfort, as the speaker reflects on the memories she has of Flush, and the legacy he has left behind. She uses the metaphor of a "golden chain" to describe the bond between them, and suggests that even death cannot break it. The use of the word "golden" adds a sense of value and preciousness to the chain, and the repetition of "my dog" reinforces the idea that Flush will always be a part of the speaker's life. The speaker also mentions the "pleasure" and the "pride" she felt in Flush's company, and this suggests that his presence was not just a source of comfort, but also of joy and fulfillment.

The sixth and final stanza is a tribute to Flush's virtues, and a celebration of his life. The speaker uses the metaphor of a "soul" to describe Flush's essence, and suggests that he possessed qualities that are typically associated with human beings, such as "truth" and "love". The use of the word "soul" also suggests a sense of transcendence and spirituality, as if Flush were more than just a physical being, but a symbol of something greater. The speaker ends the poem with a declaration of her love and gratitude for Flush, and a wish that he may rest in peace.

In conclusion, Poetry To Flush, My Dog is a masterpiece of love and loyalty, and a testament to the power of the bond between a human and an animal. The poem captures the essence of the relationship between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her beloved pet, Flush, and celebrates his qualities of grace, agility, intelligence, loyalty, and devotion. The poem is also a reflection on the nature of communication, memory, and legacy, and suggests that even in death, the bond between a human and an animal can endure. The poem is a tribute not only to Flush, but to all the pets who have touched our lives and enriched our souls.

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