O Level Literature – “Horses” by Edwin Muir
The titular creatures in “Horses”, despite being rather ordinary animals, are viewed by the poet as shocking, overwhelming, and somewhat divine. Every element of these horses is made to look awe-inspring and godlike, inciting both reverence and fear in the poet.
The opening verse depicts the horses using words like “terrible, “wild”, and “strange”, as well as them being “Like magic power on the stony grange”. Already, we are given an idea of how the poet views these creatures. Throughout the poem , a picture is painted of the horses as being terrifying, mechanical creatures. Their hooves are compared to pistons because of how they move. The somewhat mundane thought of horses ploughing a bare field is made to like something grand and epic, like a ”ritual that turned the field brown,” (line 10). “hulks” (line 11) and “monsters” (line 12) is more terrifying imagery used to portray the horses as massive, otherworldly creatures.
However, not all the imagery describes the horses in a negative light. There is a religious connotation in the third stanza, which depicts them as being “seraphim of gold” (seraphim is a another word for an angel). The entire fourth stanza has a tone of awe and reverence and includes even more religious connotation.
“And oh the rapture, when, one furrow done,
They marched braod-breasted to the sinking sun!,”
Rapture refers to great religious happiness. The poet is filled with divine ecstasy as he watches the horses gallop by the fields.
“The light flowed off their bossy sides in flakes;
The furrows rolled behind like struggling snakes.”
The first line again gives the horses a domineering and divine aura, with the sunlight shining off their bodies. The furrows of the field are compared to snakes that have been stomped on, since the horses ploughed the field.
An important facet to mention is the shift of time in the poem. At the beginning to the second stanza the poet states...