From Byron to Boatswain to Lloyd, in three easy steps!

Despite being born in London (with a family tree including a father known as ‘Mad Jack’ and a grandfather known as ‘Foulweather Jack’ which is pretty ace), Lord George Gordon Byron is a historical figure clung on to by Nottinghamshire – despite him rarely spending any time in Newstead Abbey, a property he inherited in Nottingham, the local media would have you believe he wandered regularly around our fair county.

That aside, he is obviously famous as a bit of a lothario, and given his tendencies to swing both ways he wasn’t always somebody who was tolerated in 18th and 19th century England – hence he spent a fair bit of time in Europe to avoid the kind of persecution that folks of his persuasions tended to attract, but anyway, I digress, but there is a reason beyond his tenuous link to Nottingham that I bring up the subject of Lord Byron.

Last week it transpired that Lloyd, the eldest of our cockatiels, was feeling under the weather – a trip to the vet revealed it was more than just that, and that he’d lost a great deal of weight, enough to make us fearful for his life. He was duly booked in to the vet again to undergo an xray and a blood test, of which the results were broadly inconclusive. Fortunately in the meantime I’ve managed to lure him into eating rice which has stemmed his weight loss, and indeed, he is showing early signs of regaining his weight and appears much healthier and more like his old self.

I’m cautiously optimistic he’s in ‘recovery mode’ – but it was very upsetting when I wasn’t sure if he’d come back from the vet since he was to undergo an anaesthetic in order to have his tests; you see I’m a soppy git when it comes to animals at the best of times, but to all intents and purposes Lloyd’s a child to me, it’s very difficult for non-animal people to fathom, and indeed non-bird people – you see, cockatiels are very affectionate and have real personalities, so the thought of losing him after only five years (they have a life expectancy of 15-20 years) was quite distressing.

It was during looking up the contact details for our vet (named after Lord Byron) that I came across this poem he wrote as an epitaph for his dog, Boatswain – a Newfoundland Hound actually imported from Canada, who died of rabies. (And people think my naming my bird Lloyd was weird!), and well, it resonated quite strongly given my circumstances at the time, so I thought I’d post it here. For those curious folk, Boatswain’s tomb is still present at the Abbey.

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
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. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by 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 labors, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored 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 smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on, it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one, and here he lies.

Grand words indeed, and if you’ve ever seen Boatswain’s tomb then it’s a pretty grand monument too – one inspired by barely five years of a dog’s life; such is the impact the animal must have had on Byron. Whilst I can’t muster words like these, that would be a fair summary of how I would feel to lose Lloyd – so fingers crossed he’s on the mend!

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