What Does the Two Headed Calf Poem Say?

The Two Headed Calf Poem can be characterised as bittersweet rather than solely bitter. This implies that the poem lacks a structured pattern of rhyme, as well as a consistent meter or rhythm.

It effectively commemorates the moments of happiness and contentment that can be experienced during our existence, while simultaneously acknowledging, albeit indirectly, the inevitability of mortality.

Upon thorough examination, it can be concluded that “Two-Headed Calf” is a poignant poem that simultaneously commemorates the ephemeral joy that the calf can encounter in the presence of its mother.

Upon thorough examination, it can be concluded that “Two-Headed Calf” is a poignant poem that simultaneously exalts the ephemeral joy that the calf can encounter in the company of its mother.


Who Wrote the Two Headed Calf Poem?

Two Headed Calf Poem
Laura Gilpin Wrote the Two Headed Calf Poem

The literary work entitled “Two-Headed Calf” is a concise poem authored by the esteemed American poet Laura Gilpin, whose lifespan spanned from 1950 to 2007.

If Gilpin had not produced any other literary works apart from this concise nine-line Two Headed Calf Poem, she would undoubtedly be held in high regard by numerous individuals.

In this brief composition, she adeptly encapsulates a considerable amount of intense emotion, comparable to what is often encountered in lengthier poetic works.

The Two Headed Calf Poem revolves around the portrayal of a calf that is born with a rare congenital anomaly, specifically having two heads, which ultimately leads to its impending demise by the morning.

Before delving into our summary and analysis of the Two Headed Calf Poem, it is advisable to peruse the text of ‘Two-Headed Calf’ available at this link.


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How Do I Describe the Two Headed Calf Poem?

In only nine lines of verse, Gilpin manages to convey a wide range of feelings. The poem’s structure, which helps to reveal the poem’s understated melancholy, deserves praise.

To begin, there is a subtle contrast between the first lines of the two stanzas: “Tomorrow…” begins the first, while “But tonight…” opens the second.

It would appear like Gilpin is trying to get us to remember that we spend too much time thinking about the future and not enough time actually living in the present.

The two-headed calf’s death will come much sooner than the rest of us, but the broader point is that many of us can be so preoccupied with planning for the future that we fail to enjoy the beauty and unity of the present (here, it is significant that the calf is with his mother).

The language of the first stanza is almost clinically matter-of-fact, reflecting the outlook of the farm boys who will find the dead calf; the calf’s value as a farm animal has vanished at the moment of his death.

The only sensible decision is to see if the museum will pay some money for his abnormal carcass so the farmer can reclaim something of value from him.

This pragmatic and unsentimental view of the two-headed calf is reinforced by the phrase “freak of nature,” which is then undermined by the second stanza.

The significance of the newspaper cannot be overstated, since it represents the transient nature of the calf’s existence as a result of its genetic abnormality.

The second stanza, in contrast, moves away from this “cold light of day” perspective and instead focuses on the calf’s one night on Earth, highlighting the natural beauty that is symbolised not just by the wind and the moon, but also by the mother-son bond shared by the cow and her calf.

The concluding words of “Two-Headed Calf” make a lyrical push for the ultimate emblem of poetry, the stars, and take on the perspective of the calf, who can see twice as many stars in the sky thanks to his extra pair of eyes.

The poem’s masterful use of enjambment (of which more in a moment) subtly reigns in what could have been a glib, overly neat image, allowing the poem’s tacit ‘moral’ to emerge naturally and gradually.

The calf may be biologically abnormal and destined not to survive as a result, but in his brief moment of life, he can use his abnormality to his advantage and see something special and unusual.


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The Two Headed Calf Poem is structured into two distinct stanzas, with the first stanza consisting of three lines and the second stanza consisting of six lines.

The initial stanza of the Two Headed Calf Poem centres its attention on the impending fate of the calf, which possesses the unusual characteristic of having two heads, thus being deemed a “freak of nature”.

Because bipartite bovines and bovines with other hereditary deformities often only live for fewer than 24 hours, male agricultural workers will likely encounter the recently born creature after it has already died.

The concerned parties will then wrap his corpse in newspapers and take him to the museum, where he will be displayed as an unusual specimen in the hopes of drawing in curious onlookers.

The calf’s vitality is reiterated in the following verse when the poem returns to the present tense, specifically the current night. Gilpin claims that he and his mother make their home in the northern field.

The current weather is perfect for a relaxing summer evening, with the moon shining brightly above the nearby orchard and the melodic sound of the wind rustling over the grass.

When the calf gazes at the nocturnal firmament, owing to its possession of two heads, it perceives several stars that are twice as abundant as the typical observation experienced by other individuals.



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