Effects & Evidence

Subject (overview)
What is the poem about? Point of view. Significance of the title
The Flower Fed Buffaloes is a poem by Vachel Lindsay that revolves around the destruction of nature as European settlers colonized the western plains of North America.
The title is significant as it gives the reader a sense of visual imagery which causes one to sympathise with the poet’s feelings about the destruction of the land and buffaloes. The buffaloes are in harmony with their surroundings as opposed to humans

(what message is the poet conveying)
The poem implicitly shows how man’s greed can result in natural destruction and the displacement of indigenous tribes. The poem further shows how rapid industrialization can have catastrophic effect on nature. Furthermore, he tells us how the bison, which was an important animal for the indigenous tribes, became extinct leading to the extinction of the tribes themselves.

The poet is nostalgic of the natural beauty of the Western plains. The use of the triad ‘tossing, blooming, perfumes grass’ shows how the poet can actually visualize the beauty of the plains. This further evokes sympathy in us as we can visualize the ‘wheels and wheels and wheels’ literally crushing the glass and the beauty of the rural areas. The poet’s attitude towards the condition the sympathetic as seen by the sentence “Buffaloes… left us, long ago”. The use of the comma in this sentence provides emphasis upon the phrase “left us” and helps bring out an elegiac and mournful tone.
The mournful tone induces a sense of pity and sympathy in the reader, towards the tribal North Americans and creates a sense of hatred towards the European settlers who have so easily crushed the innocence, beauty and nature of the plains.


Structure (includes verse, rhyme scheme)
The structure of the poem is just one verse this makes the reader realize how past actions blend into future catastrophes. It further reinforces how history affects the present, and induces a feeling of regret and sorrow.
The regular rhyme scheme (in lines 1-4) shows how perfect and idyllic things were before. The break in the rhyme scheme (from line 9) emphasizes on the destruction, damage and breaking apart of the Native American civilization. This is evident in the last paragraph wherein the rhyme scheme changes and the lines become more repetitive, the words ‘No more’ and ‘lying low’ are being repeated instead of the rhyme scheme followed in the first two verses. This makes the reader more sympathetic as the repetition creates a tone of finality for the buffaloes’ tragic ending. It gives the poem an echoing effect to emphasise the loss.
Also. In the first four lines alternate lines rhyme, then in lines 5-8 only lines 6 and 8 rhyme, and by line 9 the rhyme scheme is discontinued. The eroding of the rhyme scheme reflects the disappearance of the buffaloes who have been hunted or starved as the natural vegetation no longer exists
Based upon the tone of the poem, it is divided into two distinct halves, despite there being no separate stanzas to it. Line 9 onwards, the reader notices a shift in tone as the poet becomes more elegiac and somber as compared to the tone from Line 1 to Line 8. In the second half of the poem, one can see that the circumstances have changed and hence so does the rhyme scheme which reinforces the idea that something has changed forever. This also signifies the change in the way of their lives.

Line length (end stopped, enjambment, punctuation such as caesura)
The general line length in the poem is fairly short, with most lines consisting of 7-8 syllables (except line 10). This makes the reader seem as though he is merely stating facts. The enjambment used from lines one to eight shows a sense of continuity in the poem paralleling the sense of continuity in the advancement of man and the motion of his ‘wheels and wheels and wheels’ spinning by destroying the plains so easily and swiftly.
The short sentence used in the middle of the poem, breaking the original structure of the verses shows us that the poet is facing the harsh truth. This is seen in the lines “Left us long ago”. Adds a note of finality.
In case of Line 5, the poet uses commas to emphasize upon the beauty of the plains before the arrival of the settlers. Gives a poem a more leisurely pace to reinforce the idyllic setting.
The semi -colon (line 12) is used to introduce the tribes that suffered from the advent of the settlers.
The latter half of the poem is heavily punctuated to add a slower pace to the poem and create a elegiac tone. By slowing down the tempo the poet can be better create a picture of the gloomy atmosphere. This can be seen in “ they gore no more , they bellow no more” the comma separates the two sentences and breaks the line in the middle hence causing the reader to read slowly through the line which gives emphasis upon the words “no more” which is associated with death.

Imagery (sensory imagery, color imagery, animal imagery, nature imagery, similes, metaphors- in general use of figurative language)
The intention of the poet is to induce a sense of sorrow for the buffaloes as well as to gain some sympathy from the readers for the indigenous tribes that were murdered by the European settlers. In order to achieve this, the poet stimulates the reader’s pathos through the use of several forms of imagery
1. Animal Imagery: The central idea here of the pome is the loss of the Bison that inhabited the Plains. In order to evoke a sense of pity for the Bison the poet describes them as slow moving creatures. Diction such as “trundle” and bellow” suggest that they were clumsy and simple creatures. The fact that these Bison were hunted down by the European is used by the poet to portray them as very easy targets that were immediately killed. These makes the readers feel sorry for the animals.
2. Nature Imagery: The central and main idea of the poem is that nature; itself had been destroyed by this. The poet wants the readers to feel the sympathy he feels for mother nature. The use of triple structure “tossing blooming, perfumed grass” suggests that nature was blossoming and paints a calm and serene picture of the grass being tossed around by the wind. The connotation is that life is pleasant. “Swept away” suggests a thoughtless and rash action. The use of “wheat” and ‘grass’ is important to symbolise the difference between the natural fauna and man-made cultivation. The use of “swept away” indicates that the humans hadn’t even thought about their actions and its implications and hence puts the European settlers in a negative light. Through this the poet actually criticizes them. This induces pity in the audience as to how nature was simply “swept away” and run over by humankind.
3. Machine Imagery: Humankind in this poem is symbolized by the wheat and the locomotives. In his case, the locomotive is seen from a negative aspect in “wheels and wheels and wheels spin by” as when followed by the next line, the reader is made to think that the locomotives are actually running over nature. The repetition of “and” emphasizes upon the number of locomotives that go by and hence signifying the number of settlers that colonized the great plains.

(including tone, atmosphere)
Through the use of figurative language the reader gets an overall sense of remorse for the death of the buffaloes. The poet introduces such words related to death and demise such as “no more”, “left us”, “lying low” to induce an atmosphere of sadness and gloom.
The poet’s use of the word “us” further involves us in the tragedy the poet faces. Instead of “me” the poet uses “us”, as an attempt to further involve us and gain our sympathies for the buffaloes. Further, the use of “us” implies that this has been a loss for both the poet as well as us and hence we must feel sorrow.

In the end of the poem, the epiphora “lying low” emphasizes upon the fact that he population of the indigenous tribes has reduced greatly. “Lying low” can be seen from two aspects – either that their numbers have reduced drastically or that they are preparing to fight the settlers. Either way it shows that this colonization have deeply affected the indigenous tribes. The repetition of lying low leaves a tone of ambiguity as the readers know that the past cannot be changed and that now that the buffaloes were gone, it was too late to do anything about the situation.

The implicit meaning of the poem stands out clear , that the rapid expansion of the human race as they set about to build more colonies and take more land for development and urbanization , is destroying nature and its creations , which still applies to today’s scenario. Once the reader fully understands the poet’s message, they begin to think over this which leaves the reader philosophical. “Wheels and wheels and wheels go by” shows how this rapid expansion overran nature. This makes the reader reflect about today’s scenario where we destroy more trees to build more concrete structures.

Summary (go back to the main idea and the overall impact it has on you, the reader)
Overall, I felt rather unhappy with reading this poem for I realize that the poet is merely using the death of the buffaloes and the destruction of nature in the American Plains as a microcosm, to reflect a much bigger picture that the human race has been constantly destroying nature in order to gain more profits and building space. The moral of the story is that actions of the past can affect the present and which holds true even now. If one does not stop this rapid destruction of the environment, polluting rivers, seas, the air the land, it will have profound effects in the future. I really appreciated the poet’s use techniques and his effective use of the line length and the tone and that is what made it a very good read.