Following are excerpts from the 1881 poem Geist’s Grave by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). Geist was the family’s beloved pet dachshund who died at the age of four. These are the lines that most spoke to me and that I thought would appeal to a wide audience.
Yet would we keep thee in our heart—
Would fix our favourite on the scene,
Nor let thee utterly depart
And be as if thou ne’er hadst been.
And so there rise these lines of verse
On lips that rarely form them now;
While to each other we rehearse:
Such ways, such arts, such looks hadst thou!
We stroke thy broad brown paws again,
We bid thee to thy vacant chair,
We greet thee by the window-pane,
We hear thy scuffle on the stair.
We see the flaps of thy large ears
Quick rais’d to ask which way we go;
Crossing the frozen lake, appears
Thy small black figure on the snow!
Thy memory lasts both here and there,
And thou shalt live as long as we.
And after that—thou dost not care!
In us was all the world to thee.
Yet, fondly zealous for thy fame,
Even to a date beyond our own
We strive to carry down thy name,
By mounded turf, and graven stone.
We lay thee, close within our reach,
Here, where the grass is smooth and warm,
Between the holly and the beech,
Where oft we watch’d thy couchant form,
Asleep, yet lending half an ear
To travellers on the Portsmouth road;—
There build we thee, O guardian dear,
Mark’d with a stone, thy last abode!
Then some, who through this garden pass,
When we too, like thyself, are clay,
Shall see thy grave upon the grass,
And stop before the stone, and say:
People who lived here long ago
Did by this stone, it seems, intend
To name for future times to know
The dachs-hound, Geist, their little friend.
A reading of the verses printed above:
The full poem can be read here.