Poem to Rags (not recommended for soft hearts)
‘We called him Rags. He was just a cur, but twice on the Western Line.
That little old bunch of faithful fur had offered his life for mine.
And all that he got was bones and bread, or the leavings of the soldiers grub,
But he’d give his heart for a pat on the head, or a friendly tickle and rub.
And Rags got home with the regiment, but then, in the breaking away,
Well, whether they stole him or whether he went
I’m not prepared to say.
But we mustered out, some to beer and gruel and some to sherry and shad,
And I went back to Sawbones School, where I was still an undergrad.
One day they took us budding M.Ds. to one of those institutes
Where they demonstrate every new disease by means of bisected brutes.
They had one animal tacked and tied and slit like a fully dressed fish.
With his vitals pumping away inside as pleasant as one might wish.
I stopped to look like the rest, of course, and the beasts eyes levelled mine,
His short tail thumped with feeble force, and he uttered a tender whine.
It was Rags, yes Rags! who was martyred there, who was quartered and crucified.
And he whined that whine which is a doggish prayer,
Then he licked my hand – and died.
And I was no better in part nor whole than the gang I was found among,
And his innocent blood was on the soul which he blessed with his dying tongue.
Well, I’ve seen men go to courageous death
In the air, on sea, on land!
But only a dog would spend his breath in a kiss for his murderer’s hand.
And if there’s no Heaven for love like that, for such four footed fealty –
If I have any choice I will tell you flat,
I’ll take my chance in hell!’