What is the analysis/meaning of the line "gleamed with a cruel apocalyptic light" in the poem Horses by Edwin Muir?
Note that there are two poems by Edwin Muir - The Horses and Horses. The poem spoken of is Horses.
The analysis/meaning of the line "gleamed with a cruel apocalyptic light" in the poem "Horses" by Edwin Muir encompasses thoughts of mortality. The poet trumpets, throughout the poem, the regal beauty and inspiring strength of the horses. However, right at the very beginning of the poem, in the first stanza, Muir describes the horses as such:
They seemed terrible, so wild and strange,
Even in their majesty he sees the horses as something intimidating. He watches - fearful - as the horses perform their duties in the field. It is evident that on this day and at this time, the poet sees something more 'terrible' about the horses, probably something he has not perceived during previous times he's watched the horses. This alludes to the poet's state of mind, more than the reality of what is going on with the horses. Therefore, the poet's mindset is influencing his perceptions of the horses.
Eventually, as the horses complete their furrowing and their work is done, they head for the barns. The poet sees ...
Their eyes as brilliant and as wide as night
Gleamed with a cruel apocalyptic light,
It is as if the poet sees the end of all things in the gleam of the horses' eyes. Even in their raw natural beauty and power, there is an end to their physical existence as there will be to humankind's physical existence.
In the last stanza of the poem, Muir alludes to the fact that he is reminiscing of the horses, when they used to be stalwarts in the fields of his youth. Now, the memories are fading and he longs for those days when the horses worked in the field that was an awesome presence to him, along with the tree that is still standing there as a testament to an earlier more wonderful time. Therefore, in essence, the apocalyptic light in the horses' eyes foreshadowed this present time, when the majesty of the horses is just a fading memory.