A Dog’s life described by Woolf !

In 1933, Virginia Woolf published “Flush”, a sort of historical fiction based on the life of Flush, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog.



Elizabeth Barrett Browning

                                                                                                            Virginia Woolf

Flush indeed was a real dog owned by the poet Browning. Browning wrote two poems about the dog, one To Flush, My Dog, excerpted below and the other Flush or Faunus, copied in full.

To Flush, My Dog
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Loving friend, the gift of one,
Who, her own true faith, hath 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…

Flush or Faunus
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused, forgetful of his presence here,
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus, thrust its way
Right sudden against my face,—two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine,—a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove:
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.

Virginia Woolf gives us insight into what that dog’s life might have been like as well as a view of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life. Flush lives with Browning in London and travels with her to Italy, all described from a dog’s-eye-view.

Woolf’s description of the dog’s life reminds me of My Talks with Dean Spanley, by Lord Dunsany, published three years later in 1936 and previously reviewed in this blog. Woolf describes Flush’s early experiences, before his life with the bedridden Browning , in a way similar to Dunsany’s:

“Then what a variety of smells interwoven in the subtlest combination thrilled his nostrils; strong smells of earth, sweet smells of flowers; nameless smells of leaf and bramble; sour smells as they crossed the road, pungent smells as they encountered bean-fields. But suddenly, more lacerating than any-a smell that ripped across his brain stirring a thousand instincts, releasing a million memories- the smell of hare, smell of fox.”

Enjoy a mixture of a dog’s life with a Poet, and a Poet’s life with a dog in this short book.


About Don Segal

See Commentary, Photos, Drawings and Poetry on my blog at donsegal.wordpress.com.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Dogs, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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