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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.
The poem became famous, eventually becoming "[t]he most quoted poem in twentieth-century America, after "The Night Before Christmas". In addition to being widely anthologized, it was often transmitted orally without credit to Burgess.
A few years after writing the poem, Burgess wrote another short poem in response titled "Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue" which appeared in the final issue of The Lark, in April 1897:
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!
It was originally published under the title "The Purple Cow's projected feast/Reflections on a Mythic Beast/Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least" Burgess accompanied the first publication of the poem with his illustration, a cow jumping over an art deco fence heading towards a naked human, with both the cow and the human filled in black. A poster version of his illustration is part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Purple Cow is also the name of the ice cream shop found inside many Meijer stores. Founder Fred Meijer would commonly hand out cards for free ice cream at any Meijer Purple Cow to customers or as ice breakers and has reportedly given such cards to Jimmy Carter, Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Marketer Seth Godin has used the phrase "Purple Cow" for the concept of marketing a product as "intrinsically different". The phrase has also been used for the marketing concept of choosing a name which "makes your audience stop in their tracks and wonder why the title was chosen".
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