What does the description of the horse tell us about the speaker?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The presence of the horse reminds us of the obligations that the speaker has yet to fulfill on his life's journey. He still has miles to go before he sleeps, before he comes to the end of his life, and he can only carry on with his journey by horse...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The presence of the horse reminds us of the obligations that the speaker has yet to fulfill on his life's journey. He still has miles to go before he sleeps, before he comes to the end of his life, and he can only carry on with his journey by horse (i.e., if he keeps his promises). Without the horse, without the obligations that it represents, his life would effectively be at an end.

As the speaker pauses to survey the silent, wintry scene, the little horse shows its impatience by jingling its harness. Somehow, it seems to understand that the journey must continue and that the speaker must keep his promises. It is notable that it is the horse, the nagging sense of obligation that eats away at the speaker, that provides a rare sense of movement to the poem. For the speaker remains inert, seemingly unable to choose whether he should give up the ghost or continue on with his life with all its obligations.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It seems like the speaker might be just a little lonely based on the way he talks about his horse. He attributes a great deal of understanding to the horse, assuming that the horse is thinking that it is odd for them to be making an unscheduled stop in the woods, nowhere near a farmhouse, and totally alone in the night. Further, when the horse shakes its head, the speaker assumes that the horse is purposely jingling his harness bells in order to question him about the reason for the stop and if he has made some error. Other than the horse, the speaker is alone, and he says that he still has "miles to go" before he can rest. This sounds like a bit of a lonely road he travels, and so his descriptions of the horse make it seem as though he thinks of the horse almost as another person in order to be less lonely.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team