Please provide a comparison of “The Horses” by Edwin Muir and “Hunting Snake” by Judith Wright by addressing the use of poetic devices.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In both poems, "The Horses" by Edwin Muir, and "Hunting Snake" by Judith Wright, the authors use poetic devices. In "The Horses," the speaker describes the effects of war on his community, and on the world. They live in silence, finding themselves thankful for silence—relieved that there is not even news of the war on the radio. They abandon tractors and use the old plows of bygone days, with the oxen to pull them. Almost like the frozen world of a snow globe, life is suspended—until the "strange horses" arrive. When they come, they arrive with sound, so contrary to the silence in which the community lives:

We heard a distant tapping on the road,

A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again

And at the corner changed to hollow thunder. 

In these lines, the author uses sensory details (appealing to the sense of sound), onomatopoeia and imagery. Poetic devices (also called literary devices) provide poems with a musical sound when read aloud (as they are meant to be). They are all forms of figurative language (using figures of speech)—language that is used to create imagery: mental pictures. These pictures become more effective with the use of imagery.

The sounds of the horses galloping closer first tap. This is onomatopoeia: a word that mimics the sound it represents. "Drumming" is another example. "Hollow thunder" is an example of imagery, describing the echoing sound of thunder.

In "Hunting Snake," Wright also uses figurative language, including imagery and personification.

The great black snake went reeling by.

Head-down, tongue-flickering on the trail

he quested through the parting grass...

The author uses imagery to describe the "great black snake" that reels by. Its head is down as if it is in a race. "Tongue flickering" also relays a vivid mental image. A "quest" is...

...a search or pursuit made in order to find or obtain something.

Animals are not conscious beings—they are non-sentient creatures. They respond to instinct, but are not emotional; they do not try to "obtain" or "own" things, which the word "quest" infers. However, the intent of the snake is conveyed more precisely in giving it human characteristics of focused pursuit.


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