Two-Headed Calf, by Laura Gilpin


Two-Headed Calf, by Laura Gilpin

According to Richard Williams, the Two-Headed Calf is a small poem that evokes complex emotions in people. It is a brief glimpse of life, expressed strangely. Nature is ephemeral. The poem leaves you with a sense of serenity.



Read and study the poem below:

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.



Laura Gilpin‘s poem “Two-Headed Calf” describes the fate of a two-headed calf.

The speaker acknowledges what will happen to the two-headed calf tomorrow in the first stanza of this poem. The animal does not have a promising future.

It will be wrapped in newspaper and brought into town as a natural phenomenon. The cow, however, is peacefully living alongside its mother in the north field tonight, according to the second stanza.

It is taking in the elements of nature and gazing up at the stars, which are twice as numerous as usual.


Structure and Form

Laura Gilpin‘s ‘Two-Headed Calf’ is a two-stanza poem divided into one set of three lines, known as a tercet, and one set of six lines, known as a sestet.

The poem is written entirely in free verse. This means that the poet does not follow any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.

The words at the end of each line do not have perfect, half, or other types of rhyme. However, the poem has a visual unity. This is achieved through similar line lengths and the poet’s use of similar punctuation.


Literary Techniques

Several literary devices are employed by the poet throughout this poem. Among these are, but are not limited to:



This occurs when the poet ends a line before its natural endpoint. Consider the transition in the first stanza between lines one and two.



When a poet uses particularly interesting examples and descriptions, this is referred to as imagery. Imagery should arouse the reader’s senses, causing them to vividly imagine the scene. “The moon rising over the orchard, the wind in the grass,” for example. And / as he stares into the sky”



Alliteration occurs when a poet uses the same consonant sound at the beginning of several lines. For example, in lines one and two, “boys” and “body,” and in line five, “stares” and “sky.”



Is a pause in the middle of a line of the text inserted by the poet? This can be accomplished through the use of punctuation or a natural pause in the meter. “Field with his mother,” for example. It’s perfect.”



The tone is thoughtful and peaceful. Throughout the poem’s short lines, the speaker acknowledges what lies ahead for the cow and peacefully describes the moments the cow has with his mother before “tomorrow.”



The beauty and fleeting nature of all living things is the theme. The speaker spends the first two stanzas of this poem describing how the world will treat this calf and how they see this animal.

He is “alive and in the north / field with his mother tonight.” They humanize the animal by using personal pronouns and describing the cow looking up into the sky, emphasizing his life and how he deserves to keep it.



The speaker in the poem is someone who is aware of what is happening at a specific farm. They have a lot of sympathy for the two-headed calf and, presumably, all the animals in their or someone else’s care.

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