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Cowboy Song. How do they add to the reader's enjoyment?
The poet, Charles Causley, and his poem, the Cowboy Song, is about a
lonely ghost cowboy. Gradually the poet is telling the reader through
the stanzas that the cowboy is died, at 20. The cowboy led a sad life
with events like his sister and father fleeing.
Charles Causley does this effectively, and this essay is going to
explain how the poet uses literary effects like onomatopoeia,
alliteration and metaphors, and how these effects add to the reader's
To start with, I am going to tell you about the rhythm and rhyme of
the poem. The rhythm and rhyme give the poem and sort of fell that
makes it fell like a song. We can connect this with the title (Cowboy
Song). There is a steady beat of 8,7,11,6 but this may vary slightly
in some stanzas. Like in the last stanza it is 7,6,8,6. The rhythm and
rhyme actually make the poem quite jolly, though it is a very sad
poem!?! It is a big contrast. There is a strong difference and it is
there to leave us with a moral. Which infact is the whole poem, and
this is what the contrast does.
The first stanza is set at nighttime. In this stanza we can see a
verity of effects like alliteration, metaphors, similes and the effect
you would find in any good poem, rhythm and rhyme.
Setting the scene in Salem County, the poet is already hinting at the
supernatural. Salem is a place where we associate with witchcraft,
ghosts, and unnatural things. One way to back this theory up is a
simile, "sweet as an angels feet". Here he is describing the wheat and
the effect is that obviously no one can touch or taste an angel's
foot, so it makes it odd, and supernatural.
The metaphors are 'blue-bone orchard' and 'marmalade moon'. I believe
the blue-bone orchard is a graveyard. This is because he is awakening
from his grave and it would make sense for someone to get up at the
introduction of a poem, and not at the end for example. Also we have
'marmalade moon'. This is possible when the moon is rising or setting.
But it is not made of marmalade, however the use of this metaphor
gives a jolly effect.
Alliteration highlights the words the poet wants you to fell and take
in, not just read them. For example, 'zithering zephyrs'. We take this
in and think about it better than a simple phrase like 'wind making
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are a reality but the Silver gives the effect of a ghostly place. This
can be connected to Salem County. The idea we go away with from this
stanza is that it is setting the scene.
The second stanza is very sad and may bring a tear to the eye. His
mother died and his father had disappeared sometime in the cowboys
lifetime. Also because of the date - 1873 - we can tell the cowboy
lived in the 19th century. We have a good piece of dialect that we can
translate to start us off.
"My maw (mother) sleeps prone on the prairie
In a boulder eiderdown"
2001 Alex Wilkes
Translated, we can tell his mother is lying face down on a prairie, in
a grave. This part of America is full of wolves and wild dogs who tend
to scavenger in graves for food. Therefore, the graves were covered in
rocks - a boulder eiderdown. We can also see some alliteration 'prone
on the prairie'. Altogether, the literary effects combine to make is
feel sorry for the mother and cowboy.
On the 5th line we also have alliteration. "I haven't seen paw
(father) since a Sunday". The repetition of the 'S' makes the words
stand out. This highlights the fact that his father has gone. The main
job of this stanza is to give some background into the cowboy's life.
My group did stanza 3. This is a real sad part of the poem, but I
wouldn't say it was worse than losing your parents. Yes, he lost his
brother and sister. His sister has 'Fled', or left. Fled gives a big
impact and I suppose this is because of the alliteration with fancy
and florid. We also have some more alliteration - 'weeping like the
willow'. This is a wonderful effect, as it sounds quite jolly, yet his
sister fled crying! This is what alliteration can do when used
correctly, which the poet has done very well.
There is some rhyme of 'dead is the brother I loved like no other'.
Obviously, he was quite close to his brother, and the line that said
his brother shared his pillow, probably backs up this theory. Then
there is a metaphor of 'I fly the florid water'. I am not sure what
florid in this context means, but it could mean red or decorated. If
it was red, it would mean that is was red in an unhealthy way, and if
it were the decorated meaning, it would mean that the water was overly
decorated. I cannot decide.
Another metaphor I located is 'walk, six inches of the ground'.
Obviously he isn't, but because he is dead he is floating around. This
gives a nice feeling, and again it is a mega contrast between jolly
Stanza 4, the 2nd to last stanza, is describing what the cowboy is
getting up to and how he feels. We can see a strong use of imagery in
this stanza, with the poet putting a lot of information across.
1 metaphor we can see is 'map of moonlight'. The cowboy only knows how
to travel at night. Another line is 'In my green glass'. Here we
concentrate on the 'green glass'. The green glass is a timer. Possibly
it is to time the cowboy so he can only travel at night.
He is trawling the sky. Possibly he is searching for his missing
family, especially his dad and sister (see 2nd stanza). The effect of
him searching for his parents is that we feel sorry for him. No one
wants to lose their family after all. Then there is some dialogue:
"The girls go gay in the valley, when the boys come down from the farm"
The girls are very happy when the boys come down to meet them. We may
feel so sorry for the cowboy. There are teenagers meeting with their
partners and he can get no action himself. This adds to our enjoyment
by thinking about it and then feeling so sorry for him, but because
someone else is having fun, there is a great contrast, which we enjoy.
From now on there are no literary effects in this stanza.
“ 2001 Alex Wilkes
The last stanza is a very powerful ending to the poem. We finally find
that the cowboy is dead.
At his resting place he is covered with lilies. There is brass for his
nameplate, and lead to seal his coffin. It is a very sad ending to a
very sad poem, yet some literary effects we can see are quite jolly.
I have concluded that this is a very contrasting poem and I think that
the contrasting elements are what make this poem a joy to read, with
the literary effects adding to our enjoyment.
The main concept of the alliteration was to highlight words that the
poet wants us to discover and take in. These add to our enjoyment, as
it is much nicer to actually take something in than to simply read a
boring old poem.