Sunday, September 6, 2009

A POEM FOR HILL COUNTRY: "The Purple Cow" by Frank Gelett Burgess

by Terry Thornton

We all know little bits and pieces of poems or lines of poems that have been passed on for decades. Such lines and such a poem is the little gem by the American poet Frank Gelett Burgess presented below --- poetry can be fun as you shall see.

Burgess was born in 1866 in Boston, educated at M.I.T., and is forever associated with his poem The Purple Cow which was published in 1895. Burgess died in 1951.

Burgess' Purple Cow inspired others to write on the same subject, "purple cow" became a brand name, spin-off literary works and publications were named purple cow, and my grandchildren's favorite summertime treat to drink at our house are specially made "Purple Cows" (see recipe below). Burgess even wrote a sequel to Purple Cow.

For more information about Frank Gelett Burgess (1866 - 1951), read the article at
The Purple Cow
Frank Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I rather see than be one.

Burgess, Frank Gelett, The Purple Cow, in The World's Best Poetry, edited by Bliss Carman, John V. Cheney, Charles G.D. Roberts, Charles F. Richardson, Francis H. Stoddard.
Philadelphia: John D. Morris and Company. 1904, page 455.

Now, go make a tall purple cow and sit down and enjoy it. As you sip your purple cow, ponder on how such a small little poem from 1895 is considered to be among the best of short poems.

Here's is how to build a purple cow: take a tall drink glass (old-fashioned soda-fountain glass work best but an ice-tea or a water glass will do), an iced-tea spoon, a soda straw for each guest and place it in front of them. Into the glass add a generous amount of rich, smooth, vanilla ice cream. Top the ice cream with grape soda. Drink/eat. Use the spoon and straw --- add more soda because it never comes out even.

See, I told you poetry could be fun.

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