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Heri J. Albertorio

Essay 1: The Horses, by Edwin Muir

posted Mar 10, 2010, 9:28 AM by Heri J Albertorio Pizarro   [ updated Mar 12, 2010, 8:49 AM ]


The Horses

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still                                                                                            5
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day                                                                            10
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,                                                                           15
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.                                                                              20
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.                                                                  25
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
'They'll molder away and be like other loam.'
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.                                                                                                           30

And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads                                                                                                                      35
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield.
Or illustrations in a book of knights.                                                                                             40
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought                                                                                  45
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads                                                             50
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.
 

Edwin Muir: The Archetypal Poet

     When I ask people who Edwin Muir is, I always get the same reaction: “Who?” It is unfortunate that not many people know of Muir seeing as he, along with David Jones and Edith Sitwell, were important modern poets. However it’s not surprising that these poets were not that noticed seeing as the poet who was famous at this time was none other than T.S. Eliot, a considerable shadow to get away from. But, fortunately, I have re-discovered Muir and it will be my pleasure to bring this poet to his rightful place.

     I have never been good at poetry or reading it for that matter. I may read one poem 10 times and never actually find out what it means. But, when I began reading Muir’s poems I was able to understand them instantly after having read them once. Right then and there, I began to feel this connection between me and Muir. Part of it was that his narrative style of writing was quite approachable to an amateur reader of poetry. However, what cemented my connection with Muir was the fact that he uses Jungian Archetypes in his poetry, something I was quite familiar with. Jungian Archetypes are “universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge(Stevens). With this said, one could go forth and try to identify different archetypes within Muir’s poems. To demonstrate my point I will be using the poem titled The Horses. With this paper, I will go deep into the core of Muir’s imaginative writings and decipher what he is saying through an analysis of meaning and sound, with a few insights on archetypes.

     In The Horses, it is a year after the seven-day war that almost destroyed humanity. The few that remain try and pry themselves from technology as they go back to a rural way of life. Then, wild horses appeared, and man and beast were reunited in Nature once more. With this poem, you get a sense of Muir’s desire to go back to the natural ways and leave behind all that is new and technological. For you see, it was the abundance of technology and the absence of the human soul that made this world as it is. What's more, further along the poem we see that humanity wants to sever all ties with everything that is modern and technological. This can be seen in lines 15 through 20 when they talk about what they would do if the radios started working again:

… But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again. (Muir)

     However desperate they may be, this change from the world of the technological to a more natural does not come smoothly. This can be seen in lines 5-6 were it says: “But in the first few days it was so still/ We listened to our breathing and were afraid(Muir) After reading this, you can sense that humanity has gotten so wrapped up with their modern lives that they have forgotten what their breaths sounds like.

     As you keep reading, you will notice that this poem has no rhyme scheme. There is an absence of sound, or better yet, an abundance of silence throughout the text. Right from the beginning, in line four to be exact, silence makes its presence known where it says “By then we had made our covenant with silence,(Muir) Other examples of this abundance of silence can be found in lines eight, “The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer(Muir), and lines 34-35, “A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again/And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.(Muir); Hollow thunder being used here as an oxymoron. The point for all this silence is to give the reader a feeling of what it was like before the “noise” of technology. All was quiet, and all the sounds that were produced were tuned in with Nature.

    Now, you might be wondering where archetypes fit within my understanding of the poem? Well, if given a chance to study up on them, one could identify that the main archetype being shown in this poem is that of the Shadow through the image of the wild horses. To be more specific, these horses represent the shadow archetype for the entire human race. Seeing that the shadow is a part of the unconscious mind that “may be, in part, one's link to more primitive animal instincts (Jung), of which are replaced throughout childhood by the conscious mind. We, as thinking humans, begin to learn other things that are not “natural” and forget about our given, core knowledge of the more natural things in life. This could be seen in lines 41-44 where the remaining survivors describe how they felt when they saw the horses:

…We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship. (Muir)

     What Edwin Muir is trying to do with this poem is quite simply letting you into his world, into his desires of wanting to go back to a place where he, and the reader as well, feels at peace with everything and everyone around him. This poem will appeal to certain audiences of the modern times who have either become bored and tired with their monotone or hectic lifestyles, and those of which who are not completely happy or satisfied with what they are doing with their own lives. Therefore, we sometimes have to get away from it all and just listen to the deep drumming of the charging horses, in order to appreciate what we have been missing all this time.



Works Cited

Jung, Carl G. Wikipedia. 10 March 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)>.

Muir, Edwin. "The Horses." Ramazani, Jahan, Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair. The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2003. 424-425.

Stevens, Anthony. Wikipedia. 2006. 8 March 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_archetypes>.

 

Walt Whitman Presentation

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:08 AM by Heri J Albertorio Pizarro

Here's my Walt Whitman Presentation!! I tried to place on Google docs, but I got pretty frustrated with it so for now I'll do it like this. Enjoy!

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