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How does James Wright in his poem "A Blessing" use figurative language to enhance its...

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a-student-who... | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM via web

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How does James Wright in his poem "A Blessing" use figurative language to enhance its meaning?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 11, 2012 at 10:35 PM (Answer #1)

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James Wright's experience as he traveled along a highway was so momentous to him that he gave the title of his poem a spiritual, almost religious connotation: "A Blessing." The poet narrates an unforgettable experience which eventually translates into the metaphysical.

The poem notes that the scene takes place “just off the highway” which intensifies the gulf between the manmade road and the beauty of the natural world. It is difficult for the reader not to hear the wheels spinning on the highway as background for the poet's desire to shut out the world even as he soulfully embraces it, by becoming something usually regarded as beautiful yet mindless - a blossom.

It is late in the evening but the scene is filled with the sensory experience of the bounding hooves of the two small ponies. Seeing the men move into their world, the horses come happily out from the  trees. As they move toward the men, an oxymoronic phrase surprises the reader:

And the eyes of those two Indian ponies

Darken with kindness.

The word darken implies something evil or wrong; however, the horses' pupils enlarge with affection as the they realize that the men are coming into their world.

Ironically, these beautiful horses who appear wild and free are enclosed with “barbed wire” which the men step over. The wire seems so out of place in this natural setting. Filled with the luscious imagery, the poet sees the horses ripple their muscles as horses do. Grazing all day and lonely, they long  for attention. It seems as though they can hardly contain their joy in seeing people. 

The author uses a striking visual simile that registers pure, unvarnished love. The poet compares the touching of the heads of the horses to swans as they bow their heads toward each other forming a heart shape; obviously, the horses love each other. Their loneliness appears boundless, yet when they are together they are at home.

Changing to the auditory senses, the ponies begin munching on little tufts of the spring grass. The slender pony walks to him and nestles his nose in the poet's hand.  The narrator wishes that he could hold her.  Black and white, her mane falls on her forehead wildly. Employing another delightful simile, the softness of the horse’s ear feels as soft as the skin on a girl’s wrist.

Shifting to the use of  the alliterative “b” sounds of the last three line sequence ("body"--"break"--"blossom") gives an allusion of sound to this process of spiritual regeneration. It seems as though the man will "pop" into bloom.

The inexplicable joy of the moment delights the poet because the experience is no longer just a metaphysical scene, but a revelation…he can hardly contain his joy. He feels a part of the world and connected to the moment in time.

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