The Poetry of Julian Grenfell: To a black greyhound

Audio footage and context of the poem

By Samuel Cooper

Julian Grenfell in uniform with his DSO ribbon


To a black greyhound


Shining black in the shining light,

Inky black in the golden sun,

Graceful as the swallow’s flight,

Light as swallow, winged one;

Swift as driven hurricane –

Double sinewed stretch and spring

Muffled thus of flying feet,

See the black dog galloping

Hear his wild foot-beat


See him lie when the day is dead,

Black curves curled on the boarded floor.

Sleepy eyes, my sleepy-head –

Eyes that were aflame before.

Gentle now, they burn no more;

Gentle now, and softly warm,

With the fire that made them bright

Hidden – as when after storm

Softly falls the night.


God of Speed, who makes the fire –

God of Peace, who lulls the same –

God who gives the fierce desire,

Lust for blood as fierce as flame –

God who stands in Pity’s name –

Many may ye be or less,

Ye who rule the earth and sun:

Gods of strength and gentleness

Ye are ever one.

Dogs in the trenches

This poem, as the title obviates, celebrates the role of dogs in the First World War. They played a vital part in the trenches; communication through the complexities of warfare was often difficult and dogs proved as reliable as soldiers for running messages. Their small form reduced the likelihood that they would be targeted by a sniper, and well trained dogs would undoutedly outrun a soldier.

It is likely that dogs also provided moments of respite in the midst of war, reminding soldiers of the comforts of home.

This page was added on 23/06/2011.

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  • Hi Samuel. This is all very interesting. I am thinking of working on Grenfell with the scouts here in Maidenhead. Do you have or know how to get a copyright on this pic . I wnt to use it and would like to know if I can I would be grateful if you could let me know. Maybe it is copyright free. Deb Snow

    By Deb Snow (09/01/2014)
  • With respect, I do not think this title, or indeed poem, celebrates the role of dogs in the First World War. Firstly, within the poem there is no reference that I can see that relates to any war situation. Secondly, Julian Grenfell loved greyhounds – he owned two when he was a Balliol undergraduate – and, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, this poem was an ode to his favourite one, Slogbottom, and written about 1912 (some two years before the First World War began).

    By James Corsan (24/10/2011)