H., “Remonstrance of the Cows at Quitting the Boston Common,” Ladies' Magazine and Literary Gazette, July 1831

H., “Remonstrance of the Cows at Quitting the Boston Common,” Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette, July 1831

This quirky, satirical poem is told from the point of view of the cows that were removed from Boston Common after an anti-grazing ordinance was passed in 1830. Of course, they miss their “good dinners,” regard the mower as an “ungifted clown,” and refer to the vegetation reverentially as “tender grass-flowers.” Even funnier: they see themselves as the “muses” who inspired Alvan Fisher (1792–1863), a Boston-based landscape artist, and as Americans who have mooed in patriotic “ardor.” In the last three stanzas, the argument darkens as the cows compare themselves to mistreated Native Americans and threaten doom to the “Vandals” who have treated them with scorn. Alluding to “Naboth’s vineyard,” which was stolen by King Ahab, the poem concludes: “You plunge us thus into exile and despair, / Remember Naboth’s vineyard!—Boston folks beware!”

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H., “Remonstrance of the Cows at Quitting the Boston Common,” Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette, July 1831

Remonstrance of the Cows at Quitting the Boston

What!—Go away! –Is’t possible you’re serious?
     Leave this nice pasture where we’ve roam’d so long?
Good friends, sweet friends, your conduct is mysterious,
     And surely will not shine in epic song:
You prize the precepts of the just and free,
You love to eat good dinners; masters! so do we.

And for the sake of some few tons of hay
     Must we be thus uncourteously ejected?
Such strict economy, we beg to say,
     Is needless, sirs, and not to be respected;
How can ye patronize the ungifted clown,
Tearing with horrid scythes the tender grass-flowers down?

We’ve been an ornament to this rich plain,
     With our sleek sides, and amiable faces,
Fisher will say, lest you should think us vain,
     We were of these retreats the very graces;
And doubtless he must know, whose Attic taste,
Oft with our placid charms his living landscapes graced.

 We loved the prospect.—Park-Street’s hallow’d dome,
     Yon glorious State House peering to the skies,
Proud Beacon’s Row,—the far sea’s billowy foam,
     We fondly scanned with ruminating eyes,
Till patriot ardor in our breast did glow,
And forth our transport gush’d in deep, responsive low.

We hoped out offspring here to educate,
     A virtuous motive—they’re so fond of knowledge!
Our very last congressional debate
     Was between founding a high school or college.
Mothers! Behold out woes! They warn us hence!
Lift up your pleading voice with woman’s eloquence.

We formed an aristocracy,—we Cows,
     And points of genealogy regarded,
Ancestral honors, and a noble house,
     We, like our betters, with high fame rewarded.
Ye men of Athens! our illustrious race
Among plebeians vile, why will ye thus debase?

Your liberal deeds, conspicuous as the light,
     Through every region of the earth are known—
But yet we think ‘tis not so christian quite
     To flaunt in foreign charities alone,
And your own citizens, the bred and born
Within your very walls, to wrong with heartless scorn.

What! Take us hence to some secluded hovel,
     Far from the fresh repast, the fragrant breeze,
With our poor, fretting babes to pine and grovel?
     You treat us worse than even the Cherokees.
What is our sin? Bring forth the flagrant crime
For which ye doom us thus to die before our time.

This was our father’s land. Devoid of fear
     Their horned helms ‘mid these pure shades they sported,
Such family remembrances are dear,
     And patrimonial blessings justly courted.
But still ye drive us hence in Vandal wrath,
Deaf to our righteous claims. Oh! tell it not in Gath.

And must we leave thee, Paradise? ‘Tis hard
     Farewell of these blest trees and founts to take.
Oh, for the tongue of orator or bard!
     Yet if alone for niggard lucre’s sake,
You plunge us thus in exile and despair,
Remember Naboth’s vineyard!— Boston folks, beware!

Hartford, June 16th, 1831.                                                   H. 

Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette, July 1831

Treasure or Turkey?