Buffalo Bill’s Defunct is a short poem; it tells a story and creates a picture of a hardworking cowboy named Bill. The poem is about a dead, handsome blue eyed cowboy. It is written in the narrative form and in the first person. The author personifies death and he is upset with death for taking away Bill the cowboy: “… and what i want to know is how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death.” (Clugston, 2010) Theme
The theme is about death; however the author did not take the usual path of a sad tone or mournful words.
Bill’s memory is simply about what he does, how he looks coupled with the speed and dexterity with which he accomplishes his task.
The language that the author uses creates the image of a healthy looking blue eyed man sitting atop a silver haired steed, and rounding up the horses in the corral. Buffalo Bill could break/tame five wild horses in a short time.
The words one to five running into each other creates the effect of the speed at which Buffalo Bill executes the horse breaking/taming exercise; “onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat.”(Clugston, 2010) Pigeon is the name for a particular breed of horses that are very wild, dangerous and hard to tame. The author respects Buffalo Bill’s ability to repeatedly accomplish the difficult task of taming pigeon horses with seeming ease and confidence. These horses have a reputation of killing cowboys and it is highly probable that they are Mister Death’s accomplices in Bill’s demise.
Cummings used imagery to tell the story. Culture influenced my response to this piece of work in that I still watch cowboy movies and as a child I used to listen to old cowboy songs. By the time I got to line six; I was drawn into piece. “Buffalo Bill’s…ride a watersmooth-silver stallion.” (Clugston, 2010) Immediately I could visualize the ranch setting, the noise of the horse, cowboy lasso making circles in the air over his head. (Up to that point I thought that Bill was an old man who had stopped working on the ranch). He continued to build on the image by mentioning that Bill is a blue eyed boy. I also pictured that Bill had light brown or blonde hair, was a white well-built man. The author skillfully chose and condensed his words to create this light and easy to read piece about death.
Cummings personifies death but does so with respect when he refers to it as “Mr. Death.” Death itself is an abstract noun but he had to get at someone for taking Buffalo Bill. As a result, Cummings could take a parting low jab at death: “How do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death.” (Clugston, 2010)
The poem carries a sad and angry tone. The narrator is sad that Buffalo Bill is dead and he is also angry at “Mr. Death” for taking him away.
Cummings uses descriptive words such as: “Watersmooth” and “Blueeyed” both as symbolizing Buffalo Bills presence on the ranch. Water symbolizes life and regeneration and blue symbolizes peace. (Clugston, 2010)
Buffalo Bill’s Defunct is a short poem; it tells a story and creates a picture of a hardworking cowboy named Bill. Cummings personifies death but does so with respect when he refers to it as “Mr. Death.” The narrator is sad that Buffalo Bill is dead and he is also angry at “Mr. Death” for taking him away. Bill’s memory is simply about what he does, how he looks coupled with the speed and dexterity with which he accomplishes his tasks. The appearance of the piece is interesting and unusual. It does not conform to the poetic norms; however it is entertaining and it flows straight to the point. I connected with it because of the simple style that Cummings used to tell Buffalo Bill’s story.
Clugston, W. R., (2010). Journey Into Literature, San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education Inc.