The Horses- Edwin Muir
‘The seven day war that put the world to sleep. ‘ The opening creates an image of total devastation, wiping the whole state clean. This could be viewed as a chance to reflect on the past and use it as a learning experience to improve the future. In these first two lines the world is described as being ‘asleep’ there seems to be a sense of forgiveness in this choice of wording in that it is not a permanent arrangement such as death. Suggesting the world will be a better place when it reawakens, hence the destruction of the world symbolises the dawn of a new era where the world will wake up from this temporary slumber and become a better place.
Floating constantly in the background of the poem, although never directly stated is the possibility that God is angry with man. This could be a contribution to why God let such a thing happen to create a fresh start in relation to the bible story of Noah’s Ark. Man has tried to play God with its technology but has only succeeded in destroying it as quickly as it has been made. The ‘seven day war’ also reminds us of God’s creation of the world in that time. In reference to the fact that it has been destroyed by technology as quickly as it was created.
Fundamentally the poem is an ironic statement that we as a human race are victims of out own technology. Our life is changed; their coming our beginning,’ the poem symbolises a world they are trying to escape from, the one in which we are currently living. Although It is viewed in a fairly negative light we can draw form it positives in that a disastrous event can also be considered a learning process, in reflection of events we are able to establish what is wrong and attempt to put it right although this is not always carried out.
This brings the poem into the concept of the title ‘The Horses’ and more importantly ‘the long lost archaic relationship’ the old companionship between man and horse. The horses appear somewhat alien to us similar to ‘illustrations in a book of knights’, however not so long ago they were an important part of everyday life. Technology has signalled the world’s destruction so the Scottish Islanders have gone back to nature being the horses as their relationship with them is that of appreciative one, in contrast to the empty feelings they now have for machinery, due to the fact it is technology that has destroyed everything.
In the initial part of the poem there is a diary like format in that it starts a sentence with ‘on the second day’ and the next, ‘on the third day’. However this is quickly disrupted by the jump form the third day to the sixth, implying reflection on the whole situation. The ‘seven day war’ puts an end to the machine dominated civilisation in an attempt to put it back to how it was when the horses were apparent instead of machinery. The way in which the poem is phrased helps to contribute to the dramatic effect of the poem and puts emphasis on important words.
An example pf this is the concept of ‘nothing’ where the short sentence is split and nothing begins the new line, creating the effect of, ‘thereafter… nothing’. This creates more of an impact, an unexpected shock. Another example of a break in the line is to symbolise a new stage used later on in the poem, ‘and then, that evening late in the summer the strange horses came’, where it starts a new line before late symbolising a new stage and the poem going off in a different direction. It was talking about the past and the break in line is significant as it is now going on to talk about the future in reflection of the past.