The Flower-Fed Buffaloes By Vachel Lindsay Background • An American poet. • He was born on the 10th November 1879 in Illinois, USA. • He is considered the father of modern singing poetry– verses are meant to be sung or chanted. • He often sold his poetry on the streets in exchange for food. • His poetry was known for its experimentation with sound . Background to the Poem • The population of buffaloes have significantly reduced over the years. • Originally there were about 30-75 million buffaloes roaming around, but they were reduced to only 300 during Lindsay’s time. • As a result of the railroad building, there was a new found sport of shooting them from the windows of the moving trains. • Blackfeet and Pawnees are two types of American native tribes, who alongside the buffaloes, have been driven to the brink of extinction. • They died due to diseases such as smallpox and cholera, but most were hunted by traditional enemies. Themes • The poem can be interpreted in different ways. For one the poem can be about the the destruction of nature by modernization, like the construction of the railroad has disrupted the beauty of nature causing it to slowly die out. • On the other hand the poem can be seen as describing a change. In the case of the flowers, lying low could be a sign of the seeds waiting to spring back. • The poem also has the theme of not only nature and change but also machinery as the “locomotives sing” and the “ wheels and wheels and wheels” spin by. The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring In the days of long ago, Ranged where the locomotives sing And the prairie flowers lie low:— The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass Is swept away by the wheat, Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by In the spring that still is sweet. But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring Left us, long ago. They gore no more, they bellow no more, They trundle around the hills no more:— With the Blackfeet, lying low, With the Pawnees, lying low, Lying low. Literary devices used • • • • Personification Repetition Alliteration Imagery Personification • “Ranged where the locomotives sing” The personification of the trains creates a melodious and pleasant tone to the first few lines of the poem. The word ‘singing’ shows that there was a balance of nature between humans and buffaloes. Imagery • “tossing, blooming, perfumed grass” The poet describes the grass as something which is sweet smelling, which is further changed into “wheat”. Through imagery, he brings the place to life. By using a sense of smell, Lindsay involves the readers more effectively. He creates a nostalgic tone to the poem. The grass which was previously described to be sweetly scented has been “swept away” into something odorless: wheat. Lindsay illustrates this transformation as something inevitable as nature’s beauty can no longer be restored after modernization. Repetition • “wheels and wheels and wheels” Emphasizes how often the railroad is being used, how often trains go by. It also gives us an image of how much the quiet prairie has changed since the buffaloes roamed free. • “They gore no more, they bellow no more , They trundle around the hills no more” This can be seen throughout the last few lines of the poem. Lindsay does this to highlight the buffaloes’ extinction and making it stand out to the readers. The buffaloes “gore”, “bellow” and “trundle” no more. All these actions are all lively movements of the buffaloes. With the repetition of “no more”, it emphasizes how the buffaloes are no longer alive. Alliteration • “Lying low” Also a repetition. This is repeated thrice over the last tree lines. The repetition creates a very threatened tone to the ending. It would mean that along with the buffaloes, these two tribes will also be extinct as an effect of urbanization. The repetition conveys that if modernization does not stop, more elements of nature will face the same fate as the buffaloes. Main ideas • Lindsay gives the poem an edge that makes it feel realistic. With the smell of the prairie grass, the sight of the lumbering buffaloes, and the sound of the train wheels singing he bring the place to life. • 'The days of long ago' adds to the uniqueness to the poem as it suggests a mythical time, when in reality it was less than 150 years ago. Links to other poems • The poem can be linked to Time by Allen Curnow because both poets use literary devices to bring the places in their poems to life. • For example “Perfumed grass” in Flower-fed Buffaloes and “the smell of machine” in Time. • The poem can also be linked to Report to Wordsworth by Boey Kim Cheng in a sense that both poems talk about nature how it is changing/ dying. • For example “prairie flowers lie low” in Flower-Fed Buffaloes and “the flowers are mute” in Report to Wordsworth. • It can be linked to Lament as well because both of them are in a way about destruction of Nature and Lament being about the Gulf was talks about animal life. • Example “ for the hook-beaked turtles”, “ the dugong and dolphin” in Lament and “ the Flower-fed buffaloes of the spring” in Flower fed buffaloes.