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Annotator’s Note joe green Marjorie Hope Nicolson once wrote that reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost is “a liberal education.” She could have been writing about John G. Neihardt’s Cycle of the West, for to read Neihardt’s sweeping epic is to learn the history of the American West—in particular, the fur trade, the exploration of the trans-Missouri region and beyond, the conflict between whites and Native Americans for control of the Plains, and the horrific massacre at Wounded Knee. Neihardt ’s chronology, which spans the years 1822 to 1890, is as vast as the Plains themselves, and he populates his landscape with characters worthy of an epic—Mike Fink, Hugh Glass, Jedediah Smith, Red Cloud, Roman Nose, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, George “Sandy” Forsyth, and George Armstrong Custer, to name but a few. Neihardt is remarkably true to history, though he sometimes deviates from the historical record for artistic reasons. After all, he is principally a poet—an artist. He does not merely write history in iambic pentameter; he uses sophisticated language to shape characters and events so that readers will better understand the human condition. Few scholars of western history and literature will need the annotations that accompany the text. High school and college students, however, as well as general readers, may find them useful in understanding Neihardt’s historical and literary allusions, vocabulary, and metaphors. The text retains Neihardt’s original spelling and punctuation , including a few inconsistencies and archaisms. However , these peccadilloes pose no barrier to understanding and enjoyment. I thank the staff at the University of Nebraska Press for guiding this project and for its commitment to Neihardt’s work. To master copyeditor Elizabeth Gratch I owe special gratitude. My interest in Neihardt began many decades ago, when I began teaching at Minden, Nebraska, High School with Stanley C. Smith, a close friend of Neihardt. Thank you, Stanley. xviii annotator’s note ...


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