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 listen, 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.
Edwin Muir's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (The Horses by Edwin Muir )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
Mary Elizabeth Frye
(13 November, 1905 - 15 September 2004)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
- Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mary Elizabeth Frye
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
- No Man Is An Island, John Donne
- Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- XVII (I do not love you...), Pablo Neruda
- Alone With Everybody, Charles Bukowski
- What Is A Son?, Robert Edgar Burns
- Wingfoot Lake, Rita Dove
Poem of the Day
- Tocaña, Nassy Fesharaki
- Haze your Dream, Antonio Liao
- With gun yielding, hasmukh amathalal
- Along with many, hasmukh amathalal
- No other culture, hasmukh amathalal
- A Splendor Beauty, Hanh Chau
- With all, hasmukh amathalal
- It isn't to launder my clothes, Mark Heathcote
- Tell Me, Amanda Purczynski
- For My Countrymen, Ibrahim Lawal Soro