Sunday, June 27, 2010

Horses, past and future?

The Horses by Edwin Muir

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
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
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,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listn, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.

Photo taken by my uncle, James H. Swearingen, in 1923 on "family transcontinental trip by auto"



La Belette Rouge said...

There is an archetypal power, beauty and nobleness in horses that never fails to touch me. I never see a horse and have an 'eh' reaction. Rather I always feel a little jolt of energy fill me when I see one. Indifference is impossible in the face of beauty. Love this line: yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.

Gorgeous photo!

Freda said...

A beautiful poem with all sorts of warnings and promise and hope at the same time. Thank you for posting it.

Owen said...

I think that's wonderful that you have a photo, or photos, done by an uncle back in the 1920's ! A gold mine...

Rhiannon said...

This poem writing is so profound and it says so many things and is yet blended all together in an essence of understanding...our fears, our hopes, our sadness, and yet nature still coming back...horses traveling to where we are, to remind us that "life shall continue on" least that is what I felt from this poem..thank you so much.

As I think you know I have a great love of horses...for many reasons, but also maybe a bit from the mythology of Welsh "mare" Goddess "Rhiannon" and her wonderful epic of mythology stories..

It seems to be cooling down a bit here now, hope so for your area also. We've had a fairly cool summer so far until now.

Stay fresh and cool,



Phivos Nicolaides said...

Very nice, beautiful poem! Have a new great week ahead!

Lydia said...

La Belette Rouge~ I love your expression of feeling for horses. Everything you wrote is so beautiful.
I love Uncle Jim's photo, too.

Owen~ It really is a gold mine to be in possession of these family treasures. I have his journal kept on that trip, plus all the original photos. Not many Americans had driven cross-country at that time (Ken Burns did a documentary on one of them), and it was my grandmother with her three sons and my young mother just on the road and camping along the way! I hope to have ready a clip from a recorded memory of the 4th of July that my uncle did when he was elderly, but my husband and I have had troubles with the program all day. I'll also show more photos he took on the trip from time to time.

Rhiannon~ It really is a poem for a Rhiannon to love and relate to! I couldn't believe it when I found it last night, and fell in love with it instantly.
Hot here today but expected to be a cooler week. Nice when it's in the 70s. xoxo

Phivos~ I love the beautiful poem also, and am wishing you a wonderful week. :)

Lydia said...

Freda~ When I saw your comment over in my email folder just now I thought: I don't remember replying to her along with the others... so came back to check and, sure enough, I'd somehow missed doing so. It certainly wasn't for lack of loving your comment, which I most definitely appreciated!

Melinda said...

Lydia, One of the things I love most about visiting your blog is being introduced (or reintroduced in some cases) to the wonderful poetry, videos, and photos you seem to come up with. I have always loved horses--like most little girls, I fell in love with them growing up in Montana. Visiting here today reminded me of that time. Wonderful!

Looking to the Stars said...

Love the picture and the poem was outstanding!
(I was finally able to get to your post without it kicking me out, alas, I am still having problems getting Darlene's blog to load for me)

take care :)

kj said...

OMG lydia, this is beautiful. stunning. heart wrenching.

free servitude. what a wonderful concept, what a gift given and received. i think the trick and beauty is in the recognition.

thank you for this very special post. god i wish i could write like that.

love you, lydia,


Lydia said...

Melinda~ Thank you for liking it here. :) I had a horse collection when I was a little girl...and now would like one of those miniature horses that can be happy in a backyard! Very unlikely to happen. :(

Looking to the Stars~ Glad you enjoyed this and am really glad you were able to get here. I wonder what is going on that you are blocked from some blogs... hope the problem is solved asap.

kj~ I know exactly what you mean about the poem; I marvel at this kind of writing...another type of "gift given and received." This post gets to stay another day because we all feel strongly about it.
Love you too.

izzy said...

Wow! Muir is popping up everywhere recently! ( there are no coincidences)- I am island hopping today, some horse related, some poetry - 'I flit, I flee'
Thanks for posting this. I have the beginnings of pieces (on my blog page) but no knowledge of computers to speak of) I can't link--yet-
I do own 2 lovely Shetlands. After a lifetime of involvement with horses; I am retreating from the expense of 'keeping' them. But never retiring from loving and admiring their mystery.

Phoenix said...

Gorgeous poem. It really relays the complexity of war and our relationships to what has lived past such conflicts but now seems so alien and strange to us.

I came over here from Maggie May's blog because I saw that you had to sing "Onward Christian Soldier" in Christian Science Sunday School class - I'm a Christian Scientist and I had to sing that awful song too! lol just had to share that with you. It's really an awful sentiment, isn't it? Ugh.

Lydia said...

izzy~ You, and Phoenix behind you, kind of made my day by both being new to my blog and leaving great comments. Please flit by anytime! I visited your link and it looks to me as if you are quite active in the blogosphere, with such nice variety.
It's wonderful that you actually have two Shetlands; wow!
I agree with you about coincidences and their possibilities...

Phoenix~ Thank you for making the day special with your personal comments relating to a topic at Maggie's blog (and relating it back to the war theme of this marvelous poem). Yes, the song is an awful sentiment indeed. It sounds as if you stayed and grew with your religion, making you the first Christian Scientist I've met online! My grandmother was devout all her life, and she had a very sweet life all-in-all.

Roxana said...

such an amazing poem, i especially love:

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
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.

and the picture!!! suddenly i have become (painfully) aware of everything that got lost in our lives... we tend to forget such things too often -

Lydia said...

Roxana~ Do you know that your comments are as soulful and beautiful as your photographs? Well, they are!

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

All the tired horses in the sun, how'm i s'posed to get any riding done?


Lydia said...

Who Am Us Anyway?~ Love that song and this was a great video.

Our mouse is driving me crazy because it sometimes takes over and highlights full pages. That happened just now when I was viewing the video and I was clicking around to see if I could disengage its control, and it seems I clicked on "flag as inappropriate." Totally unintentional if that really did happen and I am not sure how to check to see if it was indeed flagged. :(
Damn Logitech mouse...



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