The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog

By Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Summary of The Power of the Dog

  • Popularity of “The Power of the Dog”: The poem “The Power of the Dog” first appeared in 1922 when Kipling turned his attention from the Indian characters to animal characters. Although the subject matter of the poem seems insignificant, it shows how a man finds a good companion in the shape of a dog though his life is often short. The short life of a dog, however, proves that man wants loyalty, love, and tenacity and a dog has all three features. This beautiful short piece about the loyalty of dogs has made it a highly popular poem across the globe.
  • “The Power of the Dog” As a Representative of the Loyalty and Love of a Dog: The poet opens the poem with a piece of advice, telling his readers that they should not invite more sorrows with several others hanging over their heads. This is the sorrow of a dog when he dies. The poet advises his readers to spend some money on a pup to win unflinching love, feed that pup, love him to become a dog, and then win his heart. He is of the view that a dog has a fourteen years natural lifespan, and despite the best care from a vet, the owner has to decide to kill or poison him to get rid of him as he becomes a liability.
    This happens despite the love that the owner showers on his dog and the dog showers on his owner. The love, whimpers, responses, and calls of love become silent forever. This becomes unbearable amid several sorrows that naturally welcome a man, even in the shape of the death of our loved ones. Therefore, even if a person keeps his dog for a long, he ultimately comes to the point where both have to part ways.
  • Major Themes in “The Power of the Dog”: Man and animal combination, loyal and love and sorrow of parting are major thematic strands of the poem “The Power of the Dog.” Kipling has written this poem specifically from the point of a man-animal relationship. Obliquely, he refers to this relationship as one of the best relations in the world though it always ends in the sorrow of man when he shoots dead his own dog dead. Yet, he wins the loyalty and love of that dog that he cannot win otherwise from his simple and human relations. This strong bond of relationship comes to an end when the dog dies or becomes ill in a way that it becomes necessary to kill or poison him, and the owner does this. However, the interesting thing is Kipling compares a dog to a debt that is not good, whether it is a long or a short one, and the man ultimately comes to grief.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Power of the Dog

Rudyard Kipling used various literary devices to beautify this poem and make it impactful. Some literary devices he used in this poem are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It is the use of a reference to a historical, cultural, national, or religious nature to stress upon the significance of the thing alluded to. The poet has used the reference of Christian clay in the last stanza when referring to Heaven.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “There is sorrow enough in a natural way” and the sound of /o/ in “Then you will find—it’s your own affair.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /p/ in “perfect passion” and /c/ in “Christian clay.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /t and w/ in “With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).” and the sound of /s/ in “At compound interest of cent per cent.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Rudyard Kipling has used imagery in this poem, such as “Buy a pup and your money will buy”, “When the fourteen years which Nature permits” and “To lethal chambers or loaded guns.”
  6. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet has used different metaphors, such as sorrow which was painted in different colors, such as a stored thing or love posed as a man that cannot live. Kipling has used other metaphors, such as the dog is a body as well as a spirit that goes away.
  7. Simile: It is a figure of speech in which direction comparison of things is made to clear meanings. The poet used a simile, such as “For, when debts are payable, right or wrong, / A short-time loan is as bad as a long—.” The poet has compared both type sof debts to clarying meanings of one.
  8. Rhetorical Question: This is a type of question that is posed not to get an answer but to stress the main point. The poem shows the use of a rhetorical question, such as “Why do we always arrange for more?

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Power of the Dog

Poetic devices set the mood of the poem and give simple texts an indirect meaning. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem is as follows.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows very good use of formal and poetic diction.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Rudyard Kipling has used end rhyme in this poem, such as buy/lie, fed/head, and fair/tear.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the AABBCC rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues until the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem, with each comprising six verses and the last one having ten verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an exciting, enjoying, advising, moralistic tone until the middle of the poem but a religious tone by the end.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote the importance of a dog in life.

Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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