Lord Byron knew the phrase “man’s best friend” all too well. His Newfoundland hound, Boatswain, the Newfoundland dog who was only 5-years-old at the end of his life. Byron loved his canine companion, and the dog followed him everywhere. Until one day in 1808, Boatswain was bitten by a rabid dog in Mansfield Market Place. At the time, there was no way to treat rabies as the vaccine wouldn’t be discovered for another 80 years.
Byron cared for Boatswain, claiming that the dog wouldn’t attack him as he grew closer to death. The symptoms of rabies were fierce, and in the end, Boatswain succumbed to rabies, ending his short life with Byron at his side.
Lord Byron had this monument built over Boatswain’s tomb, and it stands proudly at Newstead Abbey, Byron’s estate. The monument is larger than Byron’s own tomb.
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one — and here he lies.