Saturday, June 6, 2009

Last Run


He’d fallen over a cliff
And he’d broken his leg.
Just a mustering dog.
And he looked at me, up there on the hill,
Showing no hurt, as if he’d taken no ill,
And his ears, and his tail,
And his dark eyes too,
Said plainly,
‘Well, Boss, what do we do?
Any more sheep to head.
Give me a run.’
But he’d never head sheep any more.

His day was done,
He thought it was fun
When I lifted the gun.

Bruce Stronach

This is a poem I have an affection for as it is one I used to introduce third-formers to poetry. The finality of the last three lines always left a gasp of surprise and horror in the air. Rarely has rhyme been so effective. Town students, boys as well as girls, expressed indignation at the dog being put down. ‘He should have been nursed, sir.” These were the ‘60s and ‘70s. Would today’s students be so sentimental?

Animal death was a fact of my upbringing and to the country students in my classes. While my early wellbeing depended on an economy of fattening lambs and cattle for the works, I recall the pain of loved, trusting dogs having to be destroyed, dogs I had helped rear as puppies.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this Sir, I have always remembered this poem. I think I too may have been introduced to it in third form by a teacher. I felt an urge to read it again and googled the last line of the poem, the line which has left an indelible mark on my psyche, and up came your blogg. Again thank you.

    Its funny, at the time of hearing it I felt deep sympathy for the dog but I don't recall thoughts of outrage towards the farmer. This may have been around 1980. I did own a dog once (he is still alive) a boxer who broke his leg as a pup, this cost my ex wife $5000.00 in vets bills to save and recover the leg. (not insured you see) I imagine farm animals are insured.

    I feel differently about it today, for purely sentimental reasons, I would like to think a loyal hard working dog would warrant a chance at recovery rather than the gun as an immediate solution.

    Any way I wasn't expecting to be passing comment like this when I entered the last line into google, but for what its worth I hope it may have been meanigful for you.

    God Bless you.

    Philip M.