Flush Or Faunus, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Summary & Analysis

"Flush Or Faunus" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a tender and introspective poem that juxtaposes the presence of a beloved pet dog with mythological imagery. The poem explores the emotional connection between the speaker and her dog, highlighting the transformative power of love and the capacity of animals to elevate human emotions.

Flush Or Faunus by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused, forgetful of his presence here,
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus, thrust its way
Right sudden against my face,—two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine,—a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove:
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.


"Flush Or Faunus" depicts a moment of emotional connection between the speaker and her dog, Flush. The speaker recalls a time when she was overwhelmed with tears and emotions, and her dog suddenly lifted his head to comfort her. The dog's presence and gestures, reminiscent of the mythological god Faunus, surprised and uplifted the speaker. She acknowledges that her beloved pet has the power to lead her from sadness to love, much like the transformative influence of the deity Pan on humans' emotions.

Critical Analysis

The poem opens with the speaker recounting how she was lost in thought, seemingly unaware of her dog's presence. However, the dog's sudden action of thrusting its head against her face and using its ear to "dry the spray" of her tears brings the speaker's attention back to the present moment. The description of the dog's head as "hairy as Faunus" draws a parallel between the dog's appearance and the mythological god Faunus, who is often depicted with animal features. The comparison between the dog's head and Faunus' attributes creates a sense of surprise and enchantment, as if a mythical being had suddenly appeared. The imagery of the dog's "golden-clear Large eyes" conveys the dog's attentive and comforting gaze, which meets the speaker's astonished eyes. The dog's actions of using its ear to "flap" the speaker's cheeks, as if to dry her tears, highlights the dog's empathetic nature and its ability to sense and respond to human emotions. The speaker's initial reaction to the dog's sudden gesture is compared to an "Arcadian Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove," referencing the surprise and awe often experienced in encountering a deity. However, as the speaker's "bearded vision closelier ran," she recognizes the dog as Flush and rises above her initial surprise and sadness. The poem concludes with the speaker expressing gratitude to the "true Pan," the mythological god associated with nature and rustic life, who leads humans to experience profound emotions and love through their connections with animals.

Themes of the Poem

  • Animal-Human Connection: The poem explores the deep emotional bond between humans and animals, highlighting the dog's capacity to comfort and uplift the speaker.
  • Transformative Power of Love: The presence and actions of the dog, reminiscent of a mythological god, transform the speaker's emotions from sadness to gratitude and love.
  • Nature's Influence on Emotions: The reference to Pan, a nature deity, underscores the idea that animals and nature have the power to evoke powerful emotions in humans.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery, such as the dog's "golden-clear Large eyes" and the comparison to the mythological Faunus, to create a sense of surprise and enchantment.
  • Allusion: The reference to Faunus and Pan adds layers of meaning to the poem, connecting the natural world and mythological figures with the speaker's emotions.


  • Surprise and Enchantment: The speaker's initial reaction to the dog's gestures is one of astonishment, comparing it to encountering a mythological god. This emotion evolves into a sense of gratitude and love.
  • Emotional Upliftment: The presence and actions of the dog uplift the speaker's emotions from sadness to a higher state of appreciation and connection.


  • Mythological Allusion: The reference to Faunus and Pan adds depth to the poem by drawing connections between the dog's actions and the transformative power of mythology.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythmic Structure: The poem's rhythmic structure contributes to its contemplative and reflective tone, capturing the emotions and experiences of the speaker.

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