‘The Cow’ is one of several short animal-related children’s poems that Nash wrote to amuse. This poem and the others like ‘The Fly’ and ‘The Germ’ are meant to be humorous. He is remembered for his pun-based, short poems and their unusually memorable impact considering how short many are. The animal poems use puns as well as other types of figurative language. This helps Nash create an entertaining picture of the animal’s nature. Some are more thought-provoking, while others are simply good fun.
Summary of The Cow
In the first line of this extremely short piece, Nash describes the cow as belonging to “bovine ilk”. This makes it seem as though he, or at least the speaker he’s channeling for this poem, do not hold the cow in very high regard. In the second line, he reminds the reader through a funny rhyme that one end of the cow is for milk and the other for “moo”.
You can read the full poem here.
Despite its brevity, Nash makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Cow’. These include but are not limited to examples of enjambment, allusion, and alliteration. The latter is concerned with the use and reuse of consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “moo” and “milk”. In the first line of ‘The Fly,’ there is also an example of a caesura. Nash chose to separate the second line with punctuation, creating pauses. This extends the time a reader spends on the line.
Analysis of The Cow
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
In the first line of ‘The Cow,’ Nash introduces the “cow” in simple terms. He approaches this poem in the same way that he did The Fly’ and his other animal poems. The creature is not complex, nor is it given any type of elevated status. If anything, it is simplified down into its based parts. This technique can be seen in ‘The Fly’ when Nash defines it by its annoying buzz, bite, and presence.
In the case of ‘The Cow,’ Nash defines it in the first lines because it belongs to a family of “bovine ilk”. The word “ilk” is usually not used positively and that is the feeling created by its presence in this line. The word “bovine” simply refers to cattle.
In the second line, Nash gives the reader a little more information about the cow, but not so much that the poem becomes more than an amusing rhyme. He adds that from one end of the cow, you can expect a “moo” and the other “milk”. The rhyme at the end of the first line and the second is a perfect way to unite the two parts of this poem and help the reader walk away remembered the phrase, perhaps even memorizing it.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also look into some of Nash’s other poems. For example, ‘The Octopus’, ‘The Fly,’ and ‘The Germ‘. These are some of the many animal poems that he created for a young audience. Some of his other most famous poems include ‘A Caution to Everybody’ and ‘A Word to Husbands’. The latter addresses what husbands need to do to maintain a successful, strong marriage. It includes listening to your partner when they’re right and being humble when you are. The former is one of Nash’s more serious poems. In it, he cautions all human beings against forgetting how to “walk” as we make progress.