Bos Locutus Est
Animal Husbandry, Disease, Government, Politics, Animal Behaviour, Class
Responding to the passage of a government bill for dealing with the cattle plague, this poem is written from the perspective of a cow. It begins by doubting whether this legislation will save the lives of cows 'e'en if the plague's got o'er'. The author then reveals that he had hoped that local self-government would be the solution, but then contrasts the power of the 'gentle' Home Secretary George Grey over the 'English roast' to that of the more capricious local authorities who 'read the Council's Orders at their will'. Notes that Grey and Thomas G Baring successfully 'quenched' the more aggressive attempts by the 'squires' to halt the plague, but then describes the conflict between Grey and George W Hunt who attacked self-government on behalf of the squirearchy. Whatever the outcome of Hunt's attempt to rid the country of rinderpest, he and other cows accept that they must suffer the 'burden' and 'pay the shot'. Explains that the price he and other cows have paid is being prevented from changing a field or crossing a road, and complains that while foreign cattle are doomed to die 'where we land', native cattle are 'debarred from cure', and that there is 'No med'cine but the pole-axe'. Notes that new act is so opaque that though they 'are such as cows might draw, / They won't leave their construction to the cows', and ridicules the fact that 'all collective wisdom can achieve' is slaughter. Opines that it is no longer a choice between 'kill or cure', since 'The case has grown past cure, howe'er you kill'. Concludes by noting that the wide coverage of the disease has caused a change from 'panic to paralysis' and led to more acts being introduced to quash the disease.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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