Began to lick cold stones and mud:
“Dead Cow Farm” by Robert Graves is one of his most famous poems. In this poem the cow is the symbol of stable and harmonious social values cherished by all peace-loving persons. The poet feels isolated and insecure as “the old cow’s dead.”. The poem reveals the chaos, pain and horror imprinted in the poet’s mind due to violence and bloodshed. The poet doesn’t indulge in abstract theories and dry metaphysics to expose the prevailing chaos:
An ancient saga tells us how
In the beginning the First Cow
(For nothing living yet had birth
But Elemental Cow on earth)
Under her warm tongue flesh and blood
Blossomed, a miracle to believe:
And so was Adam born, and Eve.
Here now is chaos once again,
Primeval mud, cold stones and rain.
Here flesh decays and blood drips red,
And the Cow's dead, the old Cow's dead.
The poet is quite convincing to point out that the traditional values are dead nowadays. This is quite true as we see that violence is rampant nowadays as we have forgotten the ancient values of Love, Peace and brotherhood. This is substantiated by so many innocent lives lost during Iraq and Afghanistan war.
Robert Graves is quite right in the above lines that the old Cow, symbol of Nonviolence and Love has been unfortunately replaced by the ferocious
wolf of vengeance and violence. Matthew Arnold lamented in most of his poems that “ The Sea of Faith” no longer exists in the world. It has been aptly remarked that Matthew Arnold’s poetry runs from the world hurt in some vital spot.
The title of Robert Graves’ autobiography “Goodbye To All That” is quite apt as it vividly reveals that the ancient wisdom no more inspires us.
There is no doubt that in the above lines, Robert Graves is full of doubt and mistrust. The lines are ironic at the expense of the poet’s mission itself. Graves has the power of melting words in the furnace of his mind and making them flow into the channels prepared to take them.
In this poem we notice that the old world of humane values has been destroyed, and a new frightening world where “the ignorant armies clash by night” defiling our planet. “ Cow is dead” as we are indifferent toward the wise teachings of ancient sages and philosophers as revealed in the Bible and Vedas.