The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Horse Show at Midnight,” by Henry Taylor, is part dream, part fantasy, and part wish fulfillment. This 104-line poem relates the same story from two different points of view; part 1 relates the story from the perspective of the horse rider, and part 2 is told from the horse’s point of view. From the opening lines to the eerie conclusion there is an air of the otherworldly, of a time and place not fixed nor even fixable. This is fable and fairy tale narrated by the id.

Set in a horse-show ring at the mystical hour of midnight, a rider summons sleeping horses from the stables with thought-commands and instructs them to perform beyond their waking abilities. As judge he commands them; then, transformed, he is also the rider. The horseman mounts the horse and strains to become one with it. They take “the fences one by one/ Not touching the poles or the ground.” Horse and rider achieve a kind of perfection that the poem suggests is not possible in the world of the everyday. It takes a bit of the “willing suspension of disbelief” to enter the poem’s altered state of consciousness, but once inside it is disorientingly fascinating

When the ride ends, the horse disappears, leaving the rider “Left behind by one horse that [he] love[s].” Almost desperately the rider seeks the horse, but it is gone. The rider sinks to his knees “Kneeling in nothing but bones.” Horse flesh, and worse, spirit, have departed. The perfection...

(The entire section is 595 words.)