Theme the memory of horses in the poet’s past brings back a range of feelings he has of horses. He finds them magical, other –worldly, admirable and awe-inspiring. Summary



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THEME

The memory of horses in the poet’s past brings back a range of feelings he has of horses. He finds them magical, other –worldly, admirable and awe-inspiring.


SUMMARY

The sight of horses in the present leads the poet to consider his feelings towards horses when he was a child. ‘Perhaps some childish hour has come.’


TONE (attitude of the poet to his subject)
The attitude of the poet is first of awe as he looked at the horses with the eyes of a child. The wonder and awe turned to admiration, to a feeling that the horses were magical and belonged to another world. The final stanza expresses sadness and longing for the past.
STRUCTURE

The poem is in 7 stanzas of rhyming verse. The first stanza is the sight of horses in the present. Each of the remaining stanzas contains a distinct feeling and thought about the horses of his memory.


RHYME SCHEME

The 1st and 2nd lines rhyme and the 3rd and 4th lines rhyme.

The rhymes give a sense of unity to the poem.
IMAGERY
POINT: In stanza 1, the sight of horses in the present leads the poet to remember the horses of his past

QUOTE

EFFECT

Lumbering horses in the steady plough


lumbering’ gives the impression that the horses are moving in a slow, heavy and awkward way so that the plough is kept ‘steady’.

They seemed terrible, so wild and strange

Like magic power

These lines contrast with the description of the ‘lumbering’ horses. Far from being heavy farm horses, they instill awe and cause the poet to think they have magical powers.

Terrible – exciting awe
POINT: Stanza 2 describes the movement of the horses’ hooves.

QUOTE

EFFECT

Their hooves like pistons in an ancient mill

Simile - to compare the up and down movement to pistons give the effect of the power of the horses tramping as well as the regular movement which seemed automatic.

Move up and down, yet seem as standing still.

The apparent contradiction can be understood as the poet is trying to hold the scene in his mind’s eye, to keep it ‘standing still’.


POINT: Stanza 3, the poet admires the strength of the horses. In addition he shows a reverence for them.


QUOTE

EFFECT

Their conquering hooves which trod the stubble down

Were ritual that turned the field to brown

The effect of the word ‘conquering’ brings out the strength of the horses as if they are overcoming a weak opponent.

Ritual’ means religious rite and the effect is that they poet looks on the horses with reverence.



Seraphims of gold

Or mute ecstatic monsters

The poet draws on legendary creatures to compare the horses with. His reverence for the horses continue with the image of angels of gold ‘seraphims of gold’ and rapturous legendary creatures ‘mute ecstatic monsters’.


POINT: Stanza 4 the ‘rapture’ conveys a sense of the poet worshipping these horses.


QUOTE

EFFECT

They marched broad-breasted to the sinking sun!

The effect is similar to that in the earlier line of ‘conquering hooves’. The horses are conquerors who march in triumph at the end of the day as their work is done.

The light flowed off their bossy sides in flakes;

The effect of the glow from the setting sun on the horses’ sides is that they are bathed in gold.


POINT: In stanza 5, the poet sees the horses as mysterious and magical.


QUOTE

EFFECT

They seemed gigantic in the gloam

Again the poet refers to the enormous size ‘gigantic’ which echoes the earlier description of ‘great hulks’ .

And warm and glowing with mysterious fire

That lit their smouldering bodies in the mire.

He continues the idea in the earlier stanza that they looked golden in the sunset (‘gloam’). ‘Glowing with mysterious fire’ links with ‘magic power’ in stanza 1.

Smouldering bodies continues the image of the horses looking as if they were on fire.

The effect is of the magical and awesome appearance of the horses.



The furrows rolled behind like struggling snakes

Snuggling snakes give the sense of the power of horses.



POINT: Stanza 6 presents the horses as powerfully destructive in a religious way.


QUOTE

EFFECT

Their eyes as brilliant and as wide as night

Simile – the effect echoes the earlier impressions of the horses as powerful and mysterious

Gleamed with a cruel apocalyptic light

This is a new idea that the horses are cruel with the ability to destroy as seen in the biblical reference ‘apocalyptic light’

Their manes the leaping ire of the wind

Lifted with rage invisible and blind.

The image of the destructive power of the horses continue with their manes flying in the wind. The wind is personified as feeling wrath

The manes ‘lifted with rage’ continues the idea of intense anger that is ‘blind’ or without cause.




Apocalyptic - predicting disaster or total destruction
POINT: Stanza 7


QUOTE

EFFECT

Ah, now it fades! It fades!

The repetition ‘it fades’ suggests loss, the fading of his memory.

And I must pine

pine’ means to feel a lingering, often nostalgic desire.

Dread country crystalline

The poet tries to hold on to the memory of the country that he held in awe and which was still crystal clear in his memory.

Were bright and fearful presences to me.

The last line sums up the feelings of the poet toward his past country life – happy (bright) and full of awe and reverence (fearful).

Dread (used in the archaic sense) to hold in respectful awe



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