Background• Muir was born in 1887 on a farm in theOrkney Islands where he lived a happy childhood.• At the age of 14, he moved with his family toGlasgow, which he came to regard as a descent fromEden into hell.• He became a critic and a translator as well as a poet.• He died in 1959.
Summary• The sight of the horses now, in the present,leads the speaker to consider his feelingstowards horses when he was a child:• “Perhaps some childish hour has come again.”• Find a quote to justify this point.
Stanza 1• Look up the meaning of “lumbering” and thenconsider the way it contrasts with thedescription in lines 3-4.• Look closely at the meanings of “terrible”,“wild” and “strange.”
Stanza 2• There is a shift in time in Stanza 2.• The rest of the poem deals with the speakersrecollection of his feelings as a child.• What impression do you feel is created by thesimile of the “pistons”?
Stanza 3• In this stanza there are references made to thepre-industrial age.• Can you find any examples?• “conquering hooves”, “ritual”, “seraphim ofgold” and “mute ecstatic monsters”.
Stanza 4 and 5• What do you think about the tone in stanza 4.• List all the words that are used to describe thehorses, what does this reveal about thespeakers attitude?
• What contrast is signaled by the use of “Butwhen at dusk…” at the beginning of stanza 5?• What do you make of “mysterious fire” hereand the “magic power” attributed to thepresent day horses in stanza 1?
Stanza 6• Analyze the effectiveness of the imagery: the“cruel apocalyptic light” of their eyes and thepersonification of the wind.
Stanza 7• Read the whole poem again in pairs.• Having studied closely the previous stanzas,how do you now feel that the final stanzashould be spoken?• How does the tone here differ to the tone inother parts of the poem.