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A Cycle of the West: The Song of Three Friends, The Song of Hugh Glass, The Song of Jed Smith, The Song of the Indian Wars, The Song of the Messiah

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A Cycle of the West rewards its readers with a sweeping saga of the American West and John G. Neihardt's exhilarating vision of frontier history. It is infused with wonder, nostalgia, and a keen appreciation of epic history. Unquestionably the masterpiece of the poet who has been called the "American Homer," A Cycle of the West celebrates the land and legends of the Old We A Cycle of the West rewards its readers with a sweeping saga of the American West and John G. Neihardt's exhilarating vision of frontier history. It is infused with wonder, nostalgia, and a keen appreciation of epic history. Unquestionably the masterpiece of the poet who has been called the "American Homer," A Cycle of the West celebrates the land and legends of the Old West in five narrative poems: The Song of Three Friends (1919), The Song of Hugh Glass (1915), The Song of Jed Smith (1941), The Song of the Indian Wars (1925), and The Song of the Messiah (1935). This unforgettable epic of discovery, conquest, courage, and tragedy speaks movingly and resoundingly of a unique American experience.


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A Cycle of the West rewards its readers with a sweeping saga of the American West and John G. Neihardt's exhilarating vision of frontier history. It is infused with wonder, nostalgia, and a keen appreciation of epic history. Unquestionably the masterpiece of the poet who has been called the "American Homer," A Cycle of the West celebrates the land and legends of the Old We A Cycle of the West rewards its readers with a sweeping saga of the American West and John G. Neihardt's exhilarating vision of frontier history. It is infused with wonder, nostalgia, and a keen appreciation of epic history. Unquestionably the masterpiece of the poet who has been called the "American Homer," A Cycle of the West celebrates the land and legends of the Old West in five narrative poems: The Song of Three Friends (1919), The Song of Hugh Glass (1915), The Song of Jed Smith (1941), The Song of the Indian Wars (1925), and The Song of the Messiah (1935). This unforgettable epic of discovery, conquest, courage, and tragedy speaks movingly and resoundingly of a unique American experience.

47 review for A Cycle of the West: The Song of Three Friends, The Song of Hugh Glass, The Song of Jed Smith, The Song of the Indian Wars, The Song of the Messiah

  1. 5 out of 5

    E.

    Growing up in the northern plains, John Neihardt was convinced that the period from the first exploration of fur trappers through the close of the Indian wars was one of humankind's heroic ages, on a par with the ancient Greece of Homer, the era of Beowulf, etc. So, he set about to write a saga of the west in this collection of five songs published between 1915 and 1941 which were always intended to be combined into one work. It is an incredible achievement. Which left me wondering why it is not Growing up in the northern plains, John Neihardt was convinced that the period from the first exploration of fur trappers through the close of the Indian wars was one of humankind's heroic ages, on a par with the ancient Greece of Homer, the era of Beowulf, etc. So, he set about to write a saga of the west in this collection of five songs published between 1915 and 1941 which were always intended to be combined into one work. It is an incredible achievement. Which left me wondering why it is not an established part of the American literary canon. These are stories I should have had read to me as a child. Images from these songs should be familiar in the national psyche. Lines and phrases should be memorized and quoted in conversation. The cycle opens with The Song of Three Friends about an early fur trading party that explores the upper Missouri. There they encounter an indigenous tribe and a love triangle develops. Things do not go well from there. In fact, this opening song reminded me of a Cormac McCarthy novel. The end is harrowing (Neihardt really knows how to end something, which is a skill many authors lack). Next is The Song of Hugh Glass. I had heard the basic elements of this story before, but Neihardt has turned it into a work of art. I was surprised to encounter a gay love story (Neihardt wrote this in 1915, long before Annie Proulx wrote Brokeback Mountain). Hugh Glass was a real man who endured a horrific episode. Left for dead by friends when he came to, he was unable to walk and crawled his way back to civilization. Neihardt's description of the crawl is also McCarthy-like. I didn't care much for the third song, The Song of Jed Smith, which Neihardt wrote last. I found the language too dense and the structure of it was unnecessarily complicated, I thought. A group of guys is sitting around a campfire years later recalling their stories of exploring routes to and from California, encountering the Great Salt Lake, the Colorado, the Sierras, the deserts. In setting this is more McCarthy-like, but I found the story mostly dull. The Song of the Indian Wars is fourth, recounting stories of Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Custer, Fetterman, and more. This material was most familiar to me and some of it simply read like history. Some of the chapters were nice works of art that could stand on their own, though I found the account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn to be quite confusing. I enjoyed his portrayals of the Native Americans. Neihardt did his research interviewing people who were still alive or the friends and family of his characters, both Caucasian and Native. Finally is The Song of the Messiah which recounts the coming of the ghost dance, the death of Sitting Bull, and the massacre at Wounded Knee. Also familiar material, but here mesmerizingly well told. I think Neihardt is at his best when writing about spiritual visions (e. g. Black Elk Speaks). Two of my favourite passages of this entire cycle came near the end of this song. The death of Sitting Bull is powerfully told (I blogged some favourite lines last night) and then shifts tenderly to the perspective of his horse, who sits down beside his dead master. But no account you've read of the massacre at Wounded Knee prepares you for Neihardt's retelling. If you were horrified reading about it in Dee Brown, you will be more so here. I look forward to reading these stories to my children, so that these great characters and stories can permeate their imaginations.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John Adams

    It's more impressive as a feat than as a reading experience - the rhyming couplets get tedious after awhile, even as the language has transcendent moments, and some of the sentiments haven't aged well. It's more impressive as a feat than as a reading experience - the rhyming couplets get tedious after awhile, even as the language has transcendent moments, and some of the sentiments haven't aged well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Isern

    Reread The Song of Hugh Glass after many years, reading most of it aloud. Neihardt is much more impressive as a poet than as a story-teller. There are epigrammatic couplets that spark like steel on flint. Moreover, his handling of the backstory on Old Hugh is intriguing. The work is most striking as being parcel to the poet's investment of the West with an epic sensibility. Reread The Song of Hugh Glass after many years, reading most of it aloud. Neihardt is much more impressive as a poet than as a story-teller. There are epigrammatic couplets that spark like steel on flint. Moreover, his handling of the backstory on Old Hugh is intriguing. The work is most striking as being parcel to the poet's investment of the West with an epic sensibility.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I have only read Song of the Indian Wars when sitting by a wood burning stove in the mountains without any distractions. The prose is marvelous and brought to life the events and people, especially the Wagon Box Fight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    stellajames

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Chessin

  7. 5 out of 5

    Will Vanarsdale

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeanie

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ocianain

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark Andersen

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Husemoller

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul Wick

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Marshall

  16. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Funk

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Burgess

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tori

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teagan E

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joey Dela Peña

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rk

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jo Schaper

  24. 5 out of 5

    katrina

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert Roy Roy

  27. 4 out of 5

    kate

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann Wilson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Glass

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  31. 5 out of 5

    Doris

  32. 5 out of 5

    George

  33. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  34. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  35. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  36. 5 out of 5

    MB Taylor

  37. 5 out of 5

    Will Kastner

  38. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  39. 5 out of 5

    Neva Stickels

  40. 5 out of 5

    Hall Library

  41. 4 out of 5

    Wolfie Vaughn

  42. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Red-Eye

  43. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

  44. 5 out of 5

    Neill Goltz

  45. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

  46. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

  47. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

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