An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog by Oliver Goldsmith
Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,
It cannot hold you long.
In Islington there was a man,
Of whom the world might say
That still a godly race he ran,
Whene’er he went to pray.
A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes;
The naked every day he clad,
When he put on his clothes.
And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
And curs of low degree.
This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad and bit the man.
Around from all the neighbouring streets
The wondering neighbours ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.
The wound it seemed both sore and sad
To every Christian eye;
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.
But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.
Another wonderfully cutting poem, the irony being all the better for being understated. The verse, likewise, has a deliberately simple rhythm to it, an appeal to ‘popularity’ established by the first stanza, where the narrator is cast into the mould of storyteller rather than ‘high’ poet.
Of course, the poem itself is clear enough, and its central character practically a stereotype, but there’s apparently more to it than that – according to the Dictionary of Sensibility,
The dog, as we know, is Friedrich Nietzsche; […] a figure of sensibility, the mad philosopher/prophet/poet who either heals or infects the community.
Well, I didn’t know, but I’ll take their word for it. It goes on to explain the bite as an act that ‘exposes the community’s belief in the harmlessness of corruption’.
P.S. Notes borrowed from an unknown source on the world wide web. Poem is posted here for relish and educational purposes, and is copyrighted to respective Authors and Publishers.