One of the editors – Harm Jagerman – lives in a house with a big side wall. From time to time, he shares poetry on this wall. He uses chalk to write down the poems. He wrote down the poem The Purple Cow by Gelett Burgess on his wall.
The Purple Cow
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!
— Gelett Burgess
Here is what Harm had to say about this poem:
At the end of the day, I decided it was time to share some poetry on the wall of my house. I did this before, with a Dutch poem by Lucebert. Lucebert was one of my favourite poets, until the moment it became clear that he chose the wrong side during World War II.
I decided to write more than one sentence. It should be a complete poem. One that would make people think about the poem. I found the poem “The pink cow” by Gelett Burgess a perfect one.
This poem was first published in 1895 in the magazine The Lark – owned by Burgess. It grew out to be the poem that he is most famous for. The title as we nowadays know it wasn’t the original title. The original title of this poem was “The Purple Cow’s projected feast/Reflections on a Mythic Beast/Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least.”
It’s great to see that this poem, a nonsense poem, has such an impact on people. The poster that came with the poem (or magazine) is now part of a museum collection. Not just any museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This poem combines two things: art (the illustration) and the poem itself. Also a form of art. To be able to write such a poem as “The pink cow” shows creativity from a very different level.
The poem had also some nasty side-effects. People started copying the text, without mentioning that this poem was written by Burgess. His response to these copyright infringements was just awesome. He published the poem “Confession: and a portrait too, upon the background that I rue.” This poem appeared in what would be the final version of The Lark in 1897. Burgess was more than clear:
“Ah yes, I wrote the ‘Purple Cow’ –
I’m Sorry now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I’ll Kill you if you Quote it!”
Not that I am that concerned with this threat made by Burgess. He addressed those who didn’t use his name. As you can see, I wrote his name after the poem. It shows my respect for this marvellous poem.
OK, this is a nonsense poem, but there is a message hidden inside it. You might not want to see some things, but it’s always better to see them than to be the point of attention at sometimes.
I am not a street artist. I am a writer and photographer. Still, I find it very important to do this. It shows that everyone can share beautiful words written by others. It is a good way to share poetry. As long as you mention the name of the poet.
Any suggestion on what to write next on the wall of my house is more than welcome!