Friday, November 5, 2010

Purple Literary Silliness

While I was preparing today's post for my Poems and Paintings blog, I found a plethora of interesting information about Gelett Burgess's well-known poem, Purple Cow.  You all know the one I mean,
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.
According to Wikipedia, the poem was originally 8 lines; and Mr. Burgess added an additional four lines at a later date when he was sick of the poem.  I found several sources that included the preceding two lines that I have included in my other blog,
(Reflections on a Mythic Beast
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.)
 I found one source that included a third preceding line,
The Purple Cow's Projected Feast:
Reflections on a Mythic Beast,
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.
But I didn't find any source that included an eight line original.

Karen's Poetry Spot includes a parody of Purple Cow by Burgess's contemporary, O. Henry.
I never beat a rotten egg,
I never hope to beat one;
But this you'll understand, I beg,
I'd rather beat than eat one.
Purple Cow Parodies includes several parodies that people have done in imitation of famous poets, such as this one by Susan and David Hollander, in imitation of an Edgar Allen Poe original.
One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Project Gutenburg has a wonderful digital copy of the original periodical in which the poem was featured.  The illustrations are wonderful.  If I had money to spend collecting rare books, I think I'd want to possess some of this ilk.

And finally, the later four lines that express Burgess's frustration of the constant use of his original lines,
O 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.

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