The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Dream Horse” is a short poem in free verse; its thirty-six lines are divided into six stanzas of varying lengths. The title suggests that the poem concerns itself with the agency of dreams. On reading this difficult poem for the first time, the reader’s impression almost certainly will be that the poem incorporates dreamlike images to further its examination of reality and the imaginative world as well as the ideas of disintegration and regeneration.

The first stanza begins with the speaker referring to his own reflection, his “looking-glass image.” The speaker’s narcissistic vision of himself, “with its passion for papers and cinemas, days of the week,” is an illusion, a simple reflection in a mirror. His isolation is evident as he peers into this mirror to gain a sense of wholeness and self-esteem in an otherwise hellish life. The speaker refers to his “hell’s captain” and says that he will write “the clauses, equivocally sad,” that will trigger a variety of emotions.

The attention of the speaker is directed toward his daily life as he “drifts between this point and that,” searching for the words that will lend some order to his depressing existence. He absorbs the words of the common people around him with a self-exorcising attentiveness, hoping to find relief from his meaningless routine. A note of surprise is added when the speaker states that the advice he hears might be “glacial and deadly.” Apparently, his life allows no other choice. The speaker likens his predicament...

(The entire section is 627 words.)