Horses: Edwin Muir - English teaching resources

Friday, 17 July 2015
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
Horses: Edwin Muir
Read the poem
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
• TASK 1 List all the adjectives and figurative descriptions used
of the Horses.
Consider your lists
• The adjectives have been carefully chosen to create effect.
• Can you group the adjectives into ideas? Fire? Power?
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
• What effects are there?
Leaving this and looking at the poem:
Can you suggest a time period – a season, perhaps?
Where is the persona in relation to the Horses?
What descriptors stand out in the “memory section” of the
• Why do you think “blackening” and “black” are used alongside
images such as the “eyes as brilliant and wide as night”?
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
• The persona serves to provide memory of the Horses.
• Move from adult mind to childish and back again. How is his
emotion presented in the final stanza?
• TASK: How does the childish mind perceive the horses?
• TASK: each table focuses on a single stanza – 2-6. Using the
description of the Horses, what is running through the
persona’s mind? Is it perhaps, awe, fear, excitement, pride…?
• Feedback.
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
The setting may be threatening and
bleak, next: Character.
The persona only travels back in time
The Horses are the action…
“Lumbering” and “Steady” in stanza 1…
What other verbs or images are used by Muir to create effect?
TASK: Find the verbs and comment on the effect of the
• Make a table…
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
Verb/ Image
Lumbering, steady
Dull and slow moving. Nothing impressive, nothing exciting
Seemed introduces memory – new ideas suggest what memory will explore.
Hooves like pistons in an ancient mill
“pistons” suggest machinery and power. The “ancient” mill suggests not just
industry, but industry going back ever further in the mind.
Conquering hooves
Military? Powerful
An everlasting, regular event with religious connotation. Focuses on continuum
of seasons
Vast size seen as Almost Angelic creatures – from a spirit world with immense
value and colour of fire and glory?
Great hulks were seraphim of gold
Mute ecstatic monsters
Furrows rolled behind like struggling snakes
Pride in a military bearing – horses like great soldiers
End of day – End of useful life metaphor? Or just an ever-turning world?
What is left seems to have magical property -
Steaming Nostrils/Smouldering bodies
Seemed Gigantic
Mysterious fire
The natural effect of breath and perspiration is given a magical twist – like
great engines coming to a platform – seem enormous in the half light. The
“fire” is imaginary: connotations of passion and force?
Eyes Brilliant …wide as night
Cruel apocalyptic
Can darkness be brilliant? Milton thought so… Or stars… endless depths
Recalls the image from 3 of Seraphim – 4 Horsemen?? Power and danger,
threat and excitement.
Dread country crystalline
Childish fears are crystalline – delicate and amazingly beautiful – engaging.
Marched broad-breasted
Sinking sun
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
Seemed terrible, so wild and strange
• Simple: 7 quatrains AABB (etc) rhyme scheme
• Does it change? Look for the variation… Why might this be?
• Caesura in Stanza 1: “On the bare field – I wonder why, just
now” double caesura slows down the pace as we enter
• Highly figurative in the memory
• Framed by present but with significant change of perception:
“Ah, now it fades! It fades!...” Repetition, strong punctuation
and ejaculation of grief suggest almost physical longing for the
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014
• Childhood allows imagination – adults lose this and feel pain of loss when
reminded • State of innocence allows fear and dread and magic to be imposed onto the
mundane world • The ordinary can be rendered as extraordinary – Hunting Snake, Pied
Beauty, Pike, Westminster Bridge
• Cycle of time and seasons – Continuum, Summer Farm
• Adults struggle to connect with imagination and rely on the ordinary and
controlled. Planners, City Planners, Where I come from, Westminster Bridge
• Task: See if you can find other links across the 2015 poems?
• Now go to Horses You tube presentation or the John Lyon
English Department You tube channel for more videos.
JOnathan Peel JLS 2014

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