‘HORSES’ by Edwin Muir — The use of imagery

In the Poem Horses, Edwin uses lots of descriptive words to describe the horses as terrible, wild animals. The horses were ‘lumbering’ in a ‘steady plough’ on the ‘bare field’, ‘through the blackening rain’ – this immediately creates an image of dark, petrifying horses moving in a heavy, awkward way, ploughing their hooves into the ground (as if the ground couldn’t support their weight), as a band of wild horses gallop across the bare field with wind and rain blowing against them.

Their conquering hooves which trod the stubble down
Were ritual that turned the field to brown,
And their great hulks were seraphim’s of gold,
Or mute ecstatic monsters on the mould.

And oh the rapture, when, one furrow done,
They marched broad-breasted to the sinking sun!
The light flowed off their bossy sides in flakes;
The furrows rolled behind like struggling snakes.

But when at dusk with steaming nostrils home
They came, they seemed gigantic in the gloam,
And warm and glowing with mysterious fire
That lit their smouldering bodies in the mire.

Their eyes as brilliant and as wide as night
Gleamed with a cruel apocalyptic light,
Their manes the leaping ire of the wind
Lifted with rage invisible and blind.

Ah, now it fades! It fades! And I must pine
Again for the dread country crystalline,
Where the blank field and the still-standing tree
Were bright and fearful presences to me.

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