Afternoon with Irish Cows Summary & Analysis by Billy Collins

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"Afternoon with Irish Cows" was written by the American poet Billy Collins. Composed during an academic stay in Ireland, the poem's subject is exactly what the title suggests—some cows in a field. The speaker relates how these cows are part of the daily fabric of life, often visible from the window of the speaker's cottage. Most of the time the cows are chewing grass or merely sitting. Sometimes, however, the cows aren't there, which puzzles the speaker. And on other occasions one of the cows will let a cry so strong and imposing that the speaker feels one of them must be in pain. Rushing out to see the cows, the speaker reinterprets these cries as the cows stamping their authority on their environment—proving their own "cowness."

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