Buffalo Bill’s
defunct
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
Jesus

he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

Analysis, meaning and summary of e.e. cummings's poem Buffalo Bill’s

38 Comments

  1. christina says:

    free writes are confusing!

  2. Andy says:

    I’m crazy but sometimes think the second half, beginning with Jesus is a separate poem about Jesus, not B.B. Or that somehow Jesus and B.B. are made equivelent. Both miracle workers in a sense. And if death got them both, that has implications for the whole basis of Christianity. Rejection of the after-life leads logically to adoption of a carpe diem attitude about this one, which would suit cummings.

  3. sam says:

    great name and i thout it was about his death,but not.

  4. mike says:

    im so confused i dont knoe wat it means

  5. Elanor says:

    Now when I first read this poem I thought it was about Buffalo Bill’s death, boy was I off! After my mother giving me some major hint’s I finally understood, the poem is one big metaphor for the “death” of the Wild West. Buffalo Bill as the one intitial figeure that kept the Wild West alive. And the poem is asking so how do you think of yourself now for killing the wild west era and causing a turn of the century were life is harder and more violent, are we better off?

    Wow is e.e. cummings good!!!
    His poems seem so simple but they are so complex you don’t even know it at a first glance.

    Well wish me luck I’m presenting a presentation on this poem tomarro, hope it goes well.

    I hope this analysis will help some of you who are completely confused out there…don’t worry…I think cumming’s secretly wanted us all to have a panic attack from his poems. hehheehehe

  6. Laurie Collier says:

    Buffalo Bill was a complete jerk. I never took the poem to mean what most of the others here believe, that it is an ode to some bygone heroism, yuck. I considered it to be a very sarcastic and biting poem that meant that the entire era that Buffalo Bill represents, with the American myth of taming the wild west and phony heroism, was defunct. I never went to any length to analyze the poem, I like to take poems at face value. Although if I like one I will read it many times, over many years, and it will mean more as I age, (I’m 38).I immediately saw Buffalo Bill as the blue eyed boy, and as Mister Death. Except as the blue eyed boy he represents white America’s lost, supposed, innocence, and he also represents the destruction it wrought as Mister Death.

  7. Amanda says:

    I have to do a Poetry Project for my English teacher. (8th grade)I said this in my commentary on the poem. “The fact that he says that he’s “defunct” is a purposeful misuse of the word. Defunct means to cease to work or function. It doesn’t refer to death. Cummings is implying that Buffalo Bill was a shooting machine who didn’t die; he simply stopped. It’s as if a machine broke down and was thrown out.”

  8. Brenda says:

    According to my English teacher, Buffalo Bill’s defunct is stylistically supposed to be read out loud on a single breath. When it is read in this manner, your breath quite literally dies on the word death, and it gives a whole new meaning to the poem, because it is not only Buffalo Bill dying, it’s yourself, and the American ideal. S.D., I believe that is why the poem is written so “un-poetically”.

  9. Anne says:

    My english teacher made me read this poem, and i kind of like the way that ee-cummings uses his words to catch your eye and not only your ear. I think that He’s saying that Buffalo Bill was a great hero, but “mr death” had to come and take him away. that is all….pole vault

  10. Heidi says:

    This is my analysis from this paper im writing for school. No coppying. Keep in mind im only in 9th grade.

    In the poem “Buffalo Bill’s” cummings explores the death of a hero. Buffalo Bill was a western legend that was famous for being a cowboy, inventor, and soldier. What cummings expresses in his poetry is that Buffalo Bill isn’t just dead. He has become defunct, a word that means obsolete or extinct. Buffalo Bill represents all heroes, and when cummings says that he is defunct, he means that there is no more use for heroes anymore. Of course the reader can’t help but notice cumming’s admiration for Buffalo Bill. He didn’t just ride a horse; he rode a “…watersmooth-silver stallion.” The next section “…and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat” refers to Buffalo Bill’s trick shooting clay pigeons with a six-shooter. cummings only had five pigeons because cowboys who often rode horses would only load five bullets, leaving one empty chamber in case it went off inside the hip holster. The last two lines of this poem seem to bring the poem to a chilling ending, “how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death” cummings seems to say that death seems to have a taste for those who are important or notable, like a “blueeyed boy.” This seems to be the theme of the poem.

    w00t!

  11. James says:

    The last line:

    “how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death”

    I always took this as twisting of the old cliche “How do you like your steak?” That sort of image. I think people often neglect the sarcasm in cummings’ poetry.

  12. Don Berg says:

    Ken Kesey read this poem at a Grateful Dead show in Oct. 1991 speaking about the death of Bill Graham. Hauntingly beautiful, the last line is spine tingling. I suggest you seek out the tapes.

    http://www.davidburn.com/ken.php

  13. david pemex says:

    I liked the poem it was really cool…. but chingen todos a su madre pinches pendejines que estan leyendo poemas comprense una pinche vida no valen verga ee cummings me la pela me pasa por los huevos…PUTOS

  14. Alan Glazen says:

    To me, it’s all about the last line, “…how do you like your blueeyed boy, Mister Death”—-like “death” had coveted this great hero, had stake him out, shared this iconic vision of the man who could shooting onetowthreefourfive pigeons justlike that”….so fate takes this hero, and WE KNOW ALL ALONG—he is only a person, like each of us….so in a sense, the sucker is death, or the devil or fate. We knew all along that Buffalo Bill WAS and still IS (‘s) VALID, as just a man.

  15. Larry says:

    Right off, I have to say that this is one of my favorite poems. My English teacher in Grade 12 read it and sent chills up and down our spines (mine anyway). Onetwothreefourfive – why like that? To illustrate how fast he could shoot clay pigeons. Why five? In the old west they loaded five shots, with an empty chamber so they couldn’t accidently shoot themselves while riding!

    I think Cummings is making a comment on our choice of ‘heroes’. On the one hand, you have the handsome figure who was probably one of the most famous people of his time. But Cummings doesn’t let him die some heroic death. He simply becomes defunct. Like some machine that has past its useful life. ‘how do you like your blueeyed boy’ is a put down I think. Buffalo Bill is a symbol of evil, of a handsome, talented man who didn’t put any of his talent to real valuable use. In the end, he turns out to be mortal and simply becomes defunct. So, what do you think Mr. Death – he’s really just another guy just like the rest of us. I think that is what Cummings is trying to convey. It’s funny that for some reason I stumbled into looking for Buffalo Bill’s lyrics today – the same day I was talking to someone about the search for the ‘Greatest Canadian’ that has been going on. I think Buffalo Bill’s says a lot about pop culture heroes and the disdain Cummings had for our choices of heroes. Similarly, right up there with truly great Canadians are choices that are really totally irrelevant in that yes they may be talented people, but they are doing things that really don’t amount to a hill of beans.

    At the same time though, you read Buffalo Bill’s and it’s almost impossible to not get caught up in admiration of the man. He didn’t just ride a horse, it was a ‘watersmooth-silver stallion’. He wasn’t just a good shot, he could break onetwothreefourfive pigeons justlikethat
    Jesus

    I’ve never thought about analyzing a poem for 29 years and this is the first time I’ve actually posted a comment. So, I’ll dedicate it to my grade 12 English teacher, Miss Lynus. The best teacher I ever had – wish I had been paying attention at the time. Sorry Miss Lynus, I should have put your teachings to better use. God bless.

  16. jeet says:

    the poem is associated with the legend of buffalo bill who was a character associated with power and masclunity during the old western days when honor was real and something which had to be earned. the ways were hard and involved killing sprees …respect was associated with power and such is the legend who can be seen as henchman of death . hence the ironic ending with a rhetoric question as in “how do u like ur blueeyed boy (bill) ; mister death”
    the henchman of death is now dead himself- kinda like mocking death as if saying “what u gonna do now?”

  17. S.D. says:

    I’m not so sure that I like this poem. It looks like it’s a two person poem, but in all there’s nothing that I can see that is poetic about it. It’s like he was rambling. Then that’s my opinion. If anyone actually understands it I would be appreciative if they would share what they feel the meaning is.

  18. Nalani says:

    I completly agree with ENB … its a stylistic choice he made to help set the tone for the poem. I really don’t think anyone should say how the author wrote the poem was incorrect, they knew what they were doing and what they wanted to say and how they wanted to say it. I liked this poem, it was different, fresh, and intersting!

  19. Beck says:

    First of all i think the formatting of the poem is partly what makes it so brilliant. Furthermore, i dont really know if we’ll ever be able to fully understand the poem. Its somewhat vague which adds effect. Perhaps the vagueness is there to let the reader read into it the way they will, rather than try to force some image that we are supposed to see.

  20. ENB says:

    I am in the 11th grade and i am doing a report on Cummings. I think that his particular formatt of this poem is to create an image for the reader about the character of Buffalo Bill. With the words all running together; onetwothreefourfive, I think it expresses his gunshots, shooting clay pigeons. I think his poetry is very interesting, even though it may be harder to figure out than most other poems.

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