The Flower-Fed Buffaloes is a slow and rhythmic poem, which uses many aural effects, emotive language and techniques to create a powerful lament on the destruction of the world. Lindsay often portrays the destruction with scenes from the American ‘Wild West’. Lindsay writes, “Ranged where the locomotives sing and the prairie flowers lie low”. Here he uses personification to project the image of locomotives singing in triumph, after driving the prairie flowers into hiding. The locomotive is a symbol of the greed of man as they cut into the natural environment with no care for the damage they could be making.
This language is powerful because it gives us the idea of the locomotives battling against the prairie flowers and of the greed and lack of consideration of humans as they fight to conquer nature for their own means. The reference to locomotives also brings to our attention the theme of time passing. It takes us back to images of the wild west and Lindsay tries to tell us that this destruction has being happening since a long time ago and is now starting to culminate. This brings the key theme of time passing and a sense of nostalgia, which runs through the poem.
The image of “lying low” is one that is repeated throughout the poem. This repetition forces home the point of nature being driven to the point of extinction. The idea of hiding also shows the theme that nature is in battle with humans and is always losing, despite a preferred reality of humans and nature living well in tandem. Nature loses more and more and is forced into hiding as the “locomotives sing “ and the flower-fed buffaloes leave. Lindsay also uses ‘lying low’ with reference to the Native American tribes.
This is powerful because it shows that we are not only affecting nature with our greed, but also are disrupting fellow human beings. Fellow human beings are being made to feel hunted. As well as this, the tribes are genuine human history, which is being destroyed. Along with references to the tribes, in the final four lines Lindsay uses a clever tri-cola of emotive and image-conjuring words. He writes, “Gore”, ”Bellow”, ”Trundle”. This is initially in reference to the movements of the flower-fed buffaloes and how these will be heard no more.
However, the sounds are also reminiscent of the sounds of the locomotives, and this use of words linking buffaloes and locomotives shows the change from the once magnificent “Bellowing” buffaloes to the now all-conquering “trundling”, polluting locomotives. The use of ‘gore’ and ‘bellow’ also brings up images of the buffaloes being noble and glorious creatures. This makes the image of human destruction more powerful because of the fact that we are humbling such elegant animals. I believe that the entire feeling of the poem is captured in the lines “The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass is swept by the wheat. The wheat, a product used for humans and their needs, is clearing away the natural, pretty grass. “Swept away” shows the disregard for nature as the grass is swept away like rubbish to make way for human greed. The positive adjectives describing the grass compared with the lack of adjectives for wheat also shows the brightness of nature compared to the greed of humans, a theme that is mirrored throughout the poem. The line of “they gore no more, they bellow no more” is probably the most powerful of the poem.
Lindsay uses anaphora of ‘no more’. This conjures up images of desolation and the fact that they have gone forever and that there is no going back. Lindsay inserts a caesura, a break in the middle of the line, and uses the words ‘no more’ to slow the pace and therefore place emphasis on this very powerful line. The slowing of pace is a constant theme and ploy throughout the poem. Along with ‘no more’ it presents the theme of time being drawn out, highlighting the fact that this destruction has been continually occurring for generations.
Time being drawn out results in the poem being slow and rhythmic throughout, almost as if it is supposed to be chanted or sung. This fits with the lament and the sad feel to the poem and shows the fact that the poem is weeping for the destruction of nature because of human greed. The way Lindsay slows the pace down is with a mixture of literary techniques, including caesuras, enjambment, elongated sounds and emphatic stops. The use of elongated sounds creating a sense of time passing and slowing pace is seen in the line, “Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by”.
The ‘ee’ sounds lengthens the line and shows again the theme of time passing. An emphatic stop is seen after ”is swept away by wheat” and enjambment is seen in the lines “But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring left us, long ago”. The use of a caesura in that line is also very powerful as it singles out the words left us and long ago; linking with the passing of time and the fact that the buffaloes were driven away. The way “The Flower-fed Buffaloes” conveys human destruction powerfully is down to emotive language, key themes and literary techniques.
The striking images of the locomotives and the ‘wild west’ coincides with the idea of time passing and being drawn out, which is also reflected in Lindsay’s efforts to slow the poem’s pace. The idea of greed, always a prominent subject, is also noticeably displayed, for example in the line “perfumed grass is swept away by the wheat”. However, I would say that the real power is created by the literary techniques, especially the caesura in the line, “they gore no more, they bellow no more”. This creates heavy emphasis and therefore produces powerful meanings.