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Gelett Burgess was a famous American nonsense poet.

He graduated as a Bachelor of Science from MIT, but after 3 years of work in San Francisco, he became sick of science.

He then became an instructor of topographical drawing, which lasted for 3 years.

After instructing, he started up The Lark, a literary magazine which lasted 2 years. In this, he published his famous nonsense poem The Purple Cow, which brought Burgess much fame.

The Lark published nonsense, essays, fiction, drawings, inventions, and more, and the main contributor was Burgess.

Burgess eventually was published in many collections of his work. Aside from The Purple Cow, some examples of his work include:

The Window has four little Panes --
But One have I.
The Window Panes are in its Sash --
I wonder Why!

The Towel hangs upon the Wall --
And Somehow, I don't Care at All.
The Door is Open. I must Say
I rather fancy it that way!

See also automatic poetry.

Frank Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) was an American humorist and illustrator who started out as an engineer and instructor at Berkeley. In addition to founding Lark, he produced many books of humorous verse and illustrations, including Goops and How to be Them (1900), The Burgess Nonsense Book (1901), The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne (1904), Are You a Bromide? (1906), Why Men Hate Women (1927), and Look Eleven Years Younger (1937). His best known works were about what he called Goops, moralistic tales of bad-mannered children. He also added several words to the English language, including blurb.

But he is best known for four lines of nonsense verse, repeated by millions of people who will never know Burgess’ name:

The Purple Cow’s Projected Feast: Reflections on a Mythic Beast, Who’s Quite Remarkable, At Least.

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!

And this is Burgess’ response to the fame of his poem:

Confession: and a Portrait, Too, Upon a Background that I Rue!

Ah, 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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