Analysis of a poem- Horses by Edwin Muir It is said that one should
forget the past and live in the present
It is said that one should forget the past and live in the present.
However, Edwin Muir’s ‘Horses’ is a poem of past memories only. The
interesting part is that it deals with many conflicts and issues which
are prevalent even today. It is thus a bridge between the past and
present and is expressed in the form of a piece of literature. Muir
himself said that in writing about horses in this poem, he was
reflecting his childhood view of his father’s plough horses, which
must have seemed huge, powerful and mysterious to a boy of four or
five. Some of his poems, including ‘Horses’, have a close equivalent
in passages from his autobiography, suggesting that seeing these
horses reminded him of certain events.
The poem begins with the poet transcending reality and reminiscing of
one of his childhood memories. In this case it is one of when he as a
child, watched a team of horses ploughing the stubble back into the
field, during a rainy day which got progressively stormier. In the
first two verses, the poet gives the reader a meaningful hint into
what the circumstances of his times were. This was most probably, the
hardships of a period of war. The few references Muir makes to an army
such as in cases where the horses “marched” and the word “conquering”
further strengthen this issue of war.
“Their hooves like pistons in an ancient mill”
This line brings up another issue which is plaguing the third world as
we know it. In the same verse he refers to a “childish hour” in which
he also compares the horses’ hooves to pistons in an ancient mill.
This refers to how child labour in factories was existent even then
and how these dark memories were etched in his mind. We can suggest
these memories to be dark not only by his imagination but by the
“fearful” way he sees these images of the past.
Under the “great hulks” of these creatures he sees is however another
truth. The way these symbols of “power” trod, allows the reader to
infer another thought. Muir talks about the “ritual” of trodding
hooves turning the field beneath to brown. This can relate to the
nuclear tests taking place, the desire for power and how it would
destroy the earth just as the horses’ trodding was literally
destroying the earth underneath. The line, “Gleamed with a cruel
apocalyptic light,” has an even greater significance when he talks as...