Archive for March, 2009

The Cow in American Poetry

March 9, 2009

OK,  let’s get a mooooooooove on.

For some time I have had a general interest in short poems about species other than ours.  Ogden Nash is the premier example in our culture and language over the past century.

And I have, for some reason, had a special interest in poem about cows.  This may have to do with my duties on the farm in Kansas looking after our small herd.  I also “fatted” a calf to care for and “fatten” as a 4H (our very small group was known as the “Happy Hustlers”–and, yeah,  I know, these were the days of relative innocence)  project which led to its being shown at the County Fair.

Also I gathered from my study of literature that cows were often venerated in ancient cultures.  For example, when Homer in “The Iliad” referred to Zeus’s consort Hera as “ox-eyed,”  he was paying her a high compliment.

I have in my most recent posting gotten a comment from Tammy Stephens, in which she includes a poem by Frost, “The Cow in Apple Time,”  which I was unfamiliar with and was very pleased to know (of) it.

Disclaimer:  I wrote a while back quite a few posts about poetry/verse, and part of that was to share with my readers some of favorite cow poems.  But I suppose most did not pay attention and some of you now didn’t get into that kind of stuff.  But let’s start again,  OK?

Back to Ogden Nash.  His poem “The Cow” is short enough to be quickly memorized:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;

One end is moo, the other milk.

Most of you probably remember Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoons.  He is a keeper.  His nearest equivalent in the line of prose writers of columns would probably be Dave Barry of “The Miami Herald.”

In the days before the Chik-Fil-A TV commercials,  Larson had fun and gave us guffaws with his frequent use of animal characters.   One about cow culture you may remember appeared in the May 8, 1994, newspaper.  And here it is.  A cow is standing in what is obviously a classroom and near a bookshelf.  Here is her poem as read to her nine classmates:

DISTANT HILLS

The distant hills call to me.

Their rolling waves seduce my heart.

Oh, how I want to graze in their lush valleys.

Oh,  how I want to run down their green slopes.

Alas, I cannot.

Damn the electric fence!

Damn the electric fence!

Thank you.

RJR

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Yes! The “Golden Trashery of Ogden Nashery”

March 5, 2009

        We’ve had some fun a short ways back exchanging some “punny” stories.  Here is one that I have shared with some “blog buddies” but may still bear repetition, as it probably trumps all others such for cleverness:

Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac?  You know, the guy who stayed up all night worrying about the existence of Dog.

Just a couple days ago, during our visit with our dear family friend,  Marjorie Farmer, she presented me with a gift from our delayed Christmas exchange/get together.

This was the newest collection,  edited by Linell Nash Smith, one of his two daughters, of the verses (I find it hard to call his or most of my similar efforts “Poems”) of Ogden Nash (1902-1971), whose work I have always admired and very occasionally imitated.   I was surprised to learn from Marjorie that she was a “distant cousin” of Ogden Nash’s and remembered that she had heard talk of his family in her early years.

I mentioned to Marjorie that I had especially come to like and admire Nash’s facility and wit during my years as a high school English teacher and had made a habit of sharing his “poems” about species in nature  with my students, even suggesting to them that they try to imitate (if not emulate) such of these as they liked.

In this newest anthology,  “The Best of Ogden Nash,”  I counted 86 examples of his work under the general title,  “The Nashional Menagerie.”  Here are a couple of my utmost favorites for your enjoyment:

THE PANTHER

The panther is like a leopard,

Except it hasn’t been peppered.

Should you behold a panther crouch,

Prepare to say Ouch.

Better yet, if called by a panther

Don’t anther.

THE TURTLE

The turtle lives twixt plated decks

Which practically conceal its sex.

I think it clever of the turtle

In such a fix to be so fertile.

Maybe you have some other favorites in this vein; that is, clever bits of verse about denizens of the natural world.  If so, the time has come to share them!

RJR