We had been talking about the sagacity of our Cumberland collies, “But there is no tale so touching, said my friend [Miss Frances Power Cobbe], “as the story of that Rizpah among dogs, who watched for three months her dead master ‘fade away’ in the ‘savage place’ by the Red Tarn, on Helvellyn. I have been lately collecting from the Classics, from prose writers and poets in many lands, some pictures and incidents of dog-life. The ‘Friend of Man’ has nowhere appeared so human in its tender kindness, so faithful and affectionate in its memory, as in this instance of terrible vigil. (p. 95)
“The unburied corpse with the lobe watcher on the mountain seemed more solemn to my imagination than the graves by which so many dogs have hungered till they died. How one wishes that some record of that heroic little creature could be placed where passers by might see it and ponder.” (p. 95)
“The thing can easily be done,” I answered. “We have but to get leave from the Lord of the Manor to erect a cairn upon Helvellyn overlooking Striding Edge, and build into it a simple slate-stone slab that shall record the fact, and shall serve to remind its readers, of the tragedy, and the pathetic incident which so touched the hearts of three poets in the memorable year 1805. Memorable to Scott for that in the April of that year he gave his ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’ to the world; memorable to Wordsworth because that he finished in mid-May of that year the poem that (p. 95) described the marvellous making of his own mind in ‘The Prelude.’” (p. 96)
So the thing was agreed upon, and the inscription to be engraved was written; and not without much writing in and writing out did it take final shape as follows:—
Beneath this spot were found in 1805 the remains of Charles Gough, killed by a fall from the rocks. His dog was still guarding the skeleton. (p. 96)….
That devotion in the little watcher by the dead, has been long ago crowned with song, and when in memory of—
That strength of feeling, great
Beyond all human estimate!
we toiled up Helvellyn, through the heat of a long Midsummer day—June 18th, 1891—behind the sledge that, not without much difficulty, bore the record of “Fidelity” to the mountain top, we felt that the chains of love that bind man to the so-called brute creatures were stronger than had been thought of, and that the interchange of spirit between two worlds that seem so wide apart, was more possible than had been imagined. (p. 124)
There on the wind-combed mountain-top, above the dreadful precipice where Gough perished, the haulers of stone, the worker of mortar, the builder of the memorial cairn worked hard for a couple of days, and left behind them in what has been called “the Temple of the Winds and of the Sun,” a stone that may with its simple tale, touch the hearts of passers-by, for generations to come, and stand a monument to an heroic vigil, and to the Fidelity and Love, no death could quench, of the humble “Friend of Man.” (p. 124)
(Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Association for the Advancement of Literature and Science, 16 (1892), 95-124)