In "A Blessing" by James Wright, how does the author use diction to support his theme and his tone?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“A Blessing” by James Wright comes from an actual experience of the poet.  He and a fried were driving down the highway in Minnesota and passed a field where two ponies were standing. The beauty of the moment impressed Wright; and he returned to the field, got out, and went to the fence containing the horses.  The poem reflects his impressions and feelings in the encounter with the animals.

Diction in a literary work refers to the vocabulary choice, the imagery provided, and the ordinary or unusual context of the words. Diction is especially important to imagery poetry since it is the words that provide the pictures and sounds reflected by the reader. 

Every image in the poem speaks beauty.  The poet’s vocabulary provides the perfect image to visualize the horse encounter.


Twilight [The early evening] bounds [leaps] softly [quietly] out on the grass [the fields].

They [the ponies] have come gladly [eagerly] out of the willows [trees]

The ponies want to engage with the men so---

They step over the barbed wire [a barrier which may not just keep the horses in but may intend to keep the men out of the area]

The horses have been alone all day doing what horses do---nibble at the grass.

The man notices that the eyes of the two Indian ponies [which conveys that they are pinto horses or spotted] grow darker with gentleness as the men come closer.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness. Another exact image when the horse ripples his muscles [horses often do this after a long run or ride]…the horses and the men can barely hold in their joy.

When two swans touch foreheads, their heads and necks form a heart shape. How beautiful!

Yet they are so cut off from humanity.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness   

That we have come.

They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.

There is no loneliness like theirs

One of them is particularly draw to the speaker. 

Of the two ponies she is the thinner of the two---

Here is one of the beautiful images Wright gives to the reader:

The pony nuzzles his left hand…sheiis  black and white….her mane falls wildly on her forehead.

The author’s word choice paints the picture exactly, so the reader can see the pony in his mind’s eye. 

With the man standing near to her, the pony feels wants him to caress her ear which is a compliment to the man…the horse in a few minutes trusts him.

The horses begin to graze again near to the men…..

After experiencing these wonderful moments in nature, the man feels as though he comes out of his body and blossoms…possibly like an exquisite flower.  His metaphor completes the poet’s time with the ponies…as he watches the horses eat the tufts of sprigs of grass in the growing darkness, this becomes a joyful moment in God’s natural world.

The theme can be stated simply as experience life…do not let the moments of beauty pass by. Enjoy them.

The tone comes from the poet’s heart as he watches, touches, and realizes what a special time this has been.