How is Nature portrayed in the poem "Horses" by Edwin Muir?
Please incorporate points about tone/mood, literary features, theme and person; give evidence from the poem for each point.
Note that the poem in this case is simply "Horses" and not "The Horses". Edwin Muir has two similar poems.
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Nature, in the poem "Horses" by Edwin Muir, is portrayed as a stark, raw, and vibrant force. This is initially evident in the second line of this 28-line poem. "Horses" is a rhyming poem of seven stanzas. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB, CCDD, and so on. The second line in the first stanza portrays the field in which the horses plough as "bare." There is no indication of a lush, verdant, blossoming and alive landscape. In addition, this field is described by the poet as a "stony grange."
The reader immediately senses the tone/mood of the poem as one of barrenness and plainness. The tone/mood is also one of wildness and strangeness, as this is how the poet sees the horses out on the field. This is his 'in the moment' impression of these creatures. The harshness and power of Nature is exemplified by the poet's choice of words in the second stanza of the poem. He relates that he fearfully watched the field and the horses through
"the blackening rain,"
Again, the barrenness of the landscape is evident when the poet says that the horses are pounding the stubble of the field down. The poet, via the narrator in the poem is a person who is reminiscing about watching these powerful and magnificent animals as they went about their daily work for man. The field is turning to brown under the horses' relentless ploughing; this further illustrates the poet's view of this bare and stark field. In essence this is an indication of his mood.
The theme of this poem is the loss of youth and vitality as the narrator in the poem alludes to memories of a time when he looked upon "the blank field and the still-standing tree." These were powerful and fearful images to him then, as they are now as he remembers those times of the horses working in the field. Those times were also a time of vigorous life to the narrator in the poem.
Literary features of the poem, aside from its formal components of end rhyme and such, include significant imagery, alliteration, as well as internal rhyme. These all contribute to the forward movement of the horses and the poem itself, and the pensive mood of the poem.
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