The Poetry of Julian Grenfell: To a black greyhound
Audio footage and context of the poem
By Samuel Cooper
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.