James Merrill Poems

James Merrill was an American poet and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1977. The winning collection was Divine Comedies. His work is usually separated into two categories, formal lyric poems, and epics about the occult. He also wrote plays and essays during his career.

The Victor Dog

by James Merrill

‘The Victor Dog’ by James Merrill is a humorous, yet deep poem that puts the listener in the position of a dog listening to music, hearing but not understanding the complexity of its art.

'The Victor Dog' is one of the best-loved poems by James Merrill, and its use of allusion and wordplay are enough to make this poem a masterpiece. The most unique feature, however, is the division between the humorous, witty tone and the more somber, meaningful mood, which makes this poem either a pleasant little one or a heavy, deep one depending on how long one takes to listen to it.

Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez.

The little white dog on the Victor label

Listens long and hard as he is able.

It’s all in a day’s work, whatever plays.

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