Literature of the American Cowboy Criticism: Cowboy Poetry And Songs - Essay

John Barsness (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Dying Cowboy Song,” in Western American Literature, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring, 1967, pp. 50‐57.

[In the following essay, Barsness disputes the authenticity of the cowboy songs made famous by such collectors as John A. Lomax, arguing that the songs are overly sentimental and romantic. Barsness asserts that the songs lack authenticity and hardly reflect the life of the real working cowboy.]

Come all you good old cowboys
                    And listen to my rhymes—
We are West of Eastern Texas
                    And mostly men of crimes. … 

—“cowboy” song

For most of the twentieth century the so‐called cowboy...

(The entire section is 3208 words.)

Mark Fenster (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Preparing the Audience, Informing the Performers: John A. Lomax and Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads,” in American Music, Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall, 1989, pp. 260‐77.

[In the following essay, Fenster contends that in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910) John A. Lomax intentionally emphasized the romantic notion of the singing cowboy, and thus contributed significantly to the popularization of this almost mythical image.]

John A. Lomax's 1910 book, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, while not the first collection of such material, was the first widely distributed, full length publication that featured the image of the...

(The entire section is 7870 words.)

David Stanley (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cowboy Poetry Then and Now: An Overview,” in Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher, University of Illinois Press, 2000, pp. 1‐18.

[In the following excerpt, Stanley offers a review of the development of cowboy poetry, beginning in the years following the Civil War and continuing through the early twentieth century.]

When Charles Badger Clark, an Iowan‐South Dakotan living temporarily in southern Arizona, invented “The Legend of Boastful Bill” in 1907, he managed to synthesize half a dozen traditional themes that had long animated the home‐grown poetry of those who spent their working lives with cattle and...

(The entire section is 6981 words.)

Craig Miller (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Nature and Cowboy Poetry,” in Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher, University of Illinois Press, 2000, pp. 226‐38.

[In the following excerpt, Miller focuses on how early cowboy poets depicted their close association with nature, and how these references to the natural environment changed as the encroachment of civilization continued to alter the western landscape.]

The culture and way of life of cowboys and the cattle industry in the American West are inextricably linked to nature and the physical landscape. It is a relationship that has always been at the very soul of the cowboy's existence, for his occupation,...

(The entire section is 3762 words.)