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Horses by Norman McCaig – Poem Analysis Essay Sample

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Horses by Norman McCaig – Poem Analysis Essay Sample

Norman McCaig writes the poem, summer farm in a metaphysical style. His poem talks about the more complicated questions of existence and life itself, that can not be explained by the physical realm of things. His poem begins describing the farm that surrounds him, and then changes subject as his mind wanders seeking to answer metaphysical questions that are lingering in his head. The first verse of the poem is a general description of the farm. However his thoughts seem to be in a pattern, picking out the unevenness of the world. He uses a range of similes in the first stanza. His first line says “straws like tame lightnings lie about.” The comparison illustrates the uneven zig-zag pattern of the straw. Later on he creates another simile where he refers to water being, “green as glass.” This simile confuses the reader. Though water may be murky and therefore green, glass is not usually described as green. This simile adds to the pattern of unevenness and also serves to create a vision in the readers head that connects water and glass by the smooth flatness of the two. The next part of the stanza describes “nine ducks,” as they “ go wobbling by in two straight lines.” This also seems to have a pattern of unevenness. Firstly, the fact that there are nine ducks would make one line longer than the other and therefore uneven.

Secondly, the fact that the ducks are wobbling in a straight line gives un uneven effect. Bringing out the unevenness of the farm in the general description leads the poet to question why as the poem progresses. The second verse goes into more specific description as certain things in the farm begin to catch his eye. The two subjects of this description are a hen and a sparrow. “A hen stares at nothing”, say’s the poet, and “then picks it up.” The other description says “a swallow falls and flickers through the barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.” The motion of the two animals are used as metaphors of the poets metaphysical thought process as he try’s to answer life’s questions. His mind is blank until suddenly there is a hint of an answer and then he loses it. This motion of thought is similar to the sparrow and the hen. This verse is a continuation of the poets use of patterns in his writing. It is alo the beginning of his use of animals as metaphors for his thoughts, which is continued in the next verse. The third verse seems to ignore the farm as the subject shifts to the poet himself. The poet seems afraid to let his mind wander, not wanting to be tormented by the unanswerable.

He just wants to focus on the farm, but seems less able to control his train of thought. He says “ I lie not thinking… afraid of where a thought might take me.” He is trying not to think but merely observe. Then suddenly he looses control and his mind begins to drift into metaphysics. He illustrates this inability to control his thoughts as a metaphor comparing himself to a grass-hopper. He says “the grasshopper… unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.” This describes his mind, as it suddenly jumps from thought into some kind of imaginary space, from which he can observe life from a third person point of view, so that he can answer his questions. The last stanza brings out the metaphysical idea’s that have been haunting the poets mind, as he falls into space and observes the world from a third persons perspective. This verse talks about what the poet can see when his mind is able to view the sequence of time on which life exists. The poet talks about his vision of himself from space. He says “self under self, a pile of selves I stand.”

This line talks about the metaphysic belief that there is not just one present, but an identical past and future. Seeing the time sequence allows him to realise that this fact as he sees numbers of himself. He talks about how all the different realms of the same moment are “threaded on time,” and thereby connected. He also uses his “metaphysic hand” to look through the farm and the entire setting around him. He sees “farm within farm.” Therefore viewing every parallel moment in time “and in the center” he sees himself. The last verse of the poem changes the poems tone entirely. It startles the readers as they listen while the poet discovers the truth about time, realizing that he is the product of generations before however, after reading the last stanza it becomes clear that every animal he describes has a deep meaning and correlation to the poet’s thought process. This poem finds depths of philosophy out of a simple description. Just observing a farm allows the poets mind to discover what he believes to be the secrets of existence, and through the poem, his beliefs become clear to us.

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