Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness

Alexander Pope

‘Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog’ is a humorous, playful, and extremely concise poem that presents the dog’s feelings of superiority.


Alexander Pope

Nationality: English

Alexander Pope is one of the most important poets in English history.

Notable works include 'Ode on Solitude and 'On a Certain Lady at Court.'

Key Poem Information

Central Message: The dog of a royal should be treated as well as its owner

Themes: Identity

Speaker: The imagined voice of the titular dog

Emotions Evoked: Amusement, Pride

Poetic Form: Couplets

Time Period: 18th Century

This poem is very amusing, playing up expectations and stereotypes in just two lines.

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Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I gave to His Royal Highness‘ embodies the imagined voice of the Prince of England’s dog, who feels innately superior to all other pets. The poem is very short, stretching to only two lines. While this is unusual for poetry, it’s very common for epigrams.

Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog by Alexander Pope


Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog‘ by Alexander Pope is a tightly condensed and satirical poem that showcases Pope’s keen sense of humor.

Written over just two lines and containing the same number of words as its inflated title, the poem is a paragon of concise poetry. It reads as the inscription upon the collar of a dog, gifted by the Pope to the Prince, which extolls the superiority of the dog that would go on to wear it. The inscription evokes a sense of pride and arrogance, implicitly criticizing any other dogs the Prince’s hound might encounter.


Alexander Pope was a greatly admired poet, translator, and satirist who is closely associated with the Enlightenment era. By the time of his death in 1744, Pope had enshrined his reputation as one of the finest poets of his age, largely for his mock-heroic poem, The Rape of the Lock, which is now regarded as his masterpiece. Kew Palace was a royal residence in West London where King George II and his family spent much of their time. Pope gifted their son, Prince Frederick, a dog and engraved this poem on its collar during the 1730s.

Detailed Analysis

I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

The poem begins with the personal pronoun “I,” which functions as a stand-in for the dog’s name. This serves a practical purpose as, given the dog was a gift to Prince Frederick, Pope may not have wished to name the dog on behalf of the Prince in case he had a preferred name in mind. However, the personal pronoun also serves to juxtapose the use of the direct address at the end of the second line in order to emphasize the symbolic differences between the Prince’s dog and all other dogs.

The reference to the prince’s title and place of residence help elevate the satire because they parody the typical, mundane, but practical information one might expect to find on a dog’s collar. Likewise, the fact the epigram appears to have been written by the dog itself further reinforces the absurdity of the collar, which, ordinarily, is a useful and functional item.

This sense of absurdity is also evoked through the officious language, which is, naturally, incongruous with a dog that is incapable of speech. This continues to present the animal as refined and educated because these are the qualities Pope was attempting to celebrate in the dog’s future owner. The use of the imperative verb “tell” also insinuates the dog possesses a degree of authority, suggesting that the animal shares the power of its owner.

Finally, the use of the rhetorical question ensures the epigram ends with a sense of superiority or disdain, implying that the dog is not only aware of the importance of its owner but that it is able to embody that importance itself when encountering other dogs.


What is an epigram?

An epigram can refer to a witty or clever sentiment, usually associated with individuals like Oscar Wilde. In poetry, it refers to a short, often satirical poem that uses humor to engage its reader.

What is the structure of ‘Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog?’

The poem is written over two lines in iambic tetrameter with an AA rhyme scheme. This simple structure is in keeping with epigrams more broadly, and the rhyme scheme neatly ties off the poem and helps evoke a playful tone.

Why is the poem so short?

Aside from the fact the poem is an epigram, which is normally short anyway, this particular poem had to be small enough to fit on a dog’s collar.

What is “Kew?”

Kew Palace was a royal residence from 1728 to 1818 and, during Pope’s lifetime, was occupied by George II and his family. It is now open to the public and has an impressive garden.

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog‘ might want to explore other Alexander Pope poems. For example:

  • On a Certain Lady at Court‘ – Another satirical poem, this time focused on unrequited love.
  • Ode on Solitude‘ – A beautiful and serene meditation on what it means to pass through life unnoticed.

Some other poems that may be of interest include:

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Joe Santamaria Poetry Expert
Joe has a degree in English and Related Literature from the University of York and a Masters in Irish Literature from Trinity College Dublin. He is an English tutor and counts W.B Yeats, Emily Brontë and Federico Garcia Lorca among his favourite poets.

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