Monday, August 30, 2010

A Spaniel And A Water-Lily

From a letter of June 27, 1788, from William Cowper to his close friend Lady Hesketh:

"I must tell you a feat of my dog Beau.  Walking by the river side, I observed some water-lilies floating at a little distance from the bank.  They are a large white flower, with an orange-coloured eye, very beautiful.  I had a desire to gather one, and, having your long cane in my hand, by the help of it endeavoured to bring one of them within my reach.  But the attempt proved vain, and I walked forward.

Beau had all the while observed me very attentively.  Returning soon after toward the same place, I observed him plunge into the river, while I was about forty yards distant from him; and, when I had nearly reached the spot, he swam to land with a lily in his mouth, which he came and laid at my foot."

Cowper thereafter wrote a poem about Beau ("my spaniel, prettiest of his race") and the water-lily: "The Dog and the Water-Lily: No Fable."  Here are the last four stanzas of the poem:

My ramble finished, I return'd.
   Beau trotting far before
The floating wreath again discern'd,
   And plunging left the shore.

I saw him with that lily cropp'd
   Impatient swim to meet
My quick approach, and soon he dropp'd
   The treasure at my feet.

Charm'd with the sight, the world, I cried,
   Shall hear of this thy deed,
My dog shall mortify the pride
   Of man's superior breed;

But, chief, myself I will enjoin,
   Awake at duty's call,
To show a love as prompt as thine
  To Him who gives me all.

                     In memory of Emi (March, 1995 - August, 2009).
                                    She brought us countless lilies.

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