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Horse Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Horse by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
  2. The Stallion by Walt Whitman
  3. Barberry by Hilda Conkling
  4. The Man and His Horse by Anne Kingsmill Finch
  5. The Horses by Edwin Muir
  6. No Buyers by Thomas Hardy
  7. Excerpt from "A Country Boy in Winter" by Thomas Hardy
  8. The Horses by Katherine Lee Bates
  9. Commandeered by L.G. Moberly
  10. The Blood Horse by Bryan Waller Procter
  11. The Last Leap by Adam Lindsay Gordon
  12. Waterin' Th' Horses by Margaret E. Sangster
  13. The Horseman by Walter De la Mare
  14. Wild Horse of the Prairies by Isaac McLellan
  15. Who Would Hurt a Horse or Tree by Annette Wynne
  16. Keep Your Ears Ahead by Douglas Malloch

  1. Horse

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    His bridle hung around the post.
    The sun and the leaves made spots come down;
    I looked close at him through the fence;
    The post was drab and he was brown.

    His nose was long and hard and still,
    And on his lip were specks like chalk.
    But once he opened up his eyes,
    And he began to talk.

    He didn't talk out with his mouth;
    He didn't talk with words or noise.
    The talk was there along his nose;
    It seemed and then it was.

    He said the day was hot and slow,
    And he said he didn't like the flies;
    They made him have to shake his skin,
    And they got drowned in his eyes.

    He said that drab was just about
    The same as brown, but he was not
    A post, he said, to hold a fence.
    "I'm horse," he said, "that's what!"

    And then he shut his eyes again.
    As still as they had been before.
    He said for me to run along
    And not to bother him any more.

  2. The Stallion

    by Walt Whitman

    A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
    Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
    Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
    Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

    His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
    His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

    I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
    Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
    Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.

  3. Barberry

    by Hilda Conkling

    I'm going to have a horse
    Named Barberry,
    His coat the color of barberry leaves
    In autumn:
    Russet red he will be
    With flylng mane,
    Strong and wiry,
    His head slender and haughty!
    Touch him . . . feel the life and joy within him
    Run through you like fire!
    He will be free as wind:
    He will take me through forests away from people,
    Past lakes, across rivers, into the mountains:
    He will go galloping across corn fields by twilight
    He will find me a coral beach.
    His eyes will snap with joy of always being free.
    People may give me their best horses . . .
    Barberry for me, against them all!

  4. The Man and His Horse

    by Anne Kingsmill Finch

    Within a Meadow, on the way,
    A sordid Churl resolv'd to stay,
    And give his Horse a Bite;
    Purloining so his Neighbours Hay,
    That at the Inn he might not pay
    For Forage all the Night.

    With Heart's content th' unloaded Steed
    Began to neigh, and frisk, and feed;
    For nothing more he car'd,
    Since none of all his Master's breed
    E'er found such Pasture, at their need,
    Or half so well had far'd.

    When, in the turning of a Hand,
    Out comes the Owner of the Land,
    And do's the Trespass eye;
    Which puts poor Bayard to a Stand,
    For now his Master do's command
    Him to return and fly.

    But Hunger quick'ning up his Wit,
    And Grass being sweeter than the Bit,
    He to the Clown reply'd;
    Shall I for you this Dinner quit,
    Who to my Back hard Burdens fit,
    And to the Death wou'd ride?

    No; shou'd I as a Stray be found,
    And seiz'd upon forbidden Ground,
    I'll on this Spot stand still;
    For tho' new Riders shou'd abound,
    (Or did Mankind this Field surround)
    They cou'd but use me ill.

    Urge no Man to despair; lest in the Fit
    He with some Counterblow thy Head may hit.

  5. 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.

  6. No Buyers

    by Thomas Hardy

    A Load of brushes and baskets and cradles and chairs
    Labours along the street in the rain:
    With it a man, a woman, a pony with whiteybrown hairs. — The man foots in front of the horse with a shambling sway
    At a slower tread than a funeral train,
    While to a dirge-like tune he chants his wares,
    Swinging a Turk's-head brush (in a drum-major's way When the bandsmen march and play).

    A yard from the back of the man is the whiteybrown pony's nose: He mirrors his master in every item of pace and pose: He stops when the man stops, without being told,
    And seems to be eased by a pause; too plainly he's old,
    Indeed, not strength enough shows
    To steer the disjointed waggon straight,
    Which wriggles left and right in a rambling line,
    Deflected thus by its own warp and weight,
    And pushing the pony with it in each incline.

    The woman walks on the pavement verge,
    Parallel to the man:
    She wears an apron white and wide in span,
    And carries a like Turk's-head, but more in nursing-wise: Now and then she joins in his dirge,
    But as if her thoughts were on distant things,
    The rain clams her apron till it clings. —
    So, step by step, they move with their merchandize, And nobody buys.

  7. Excerpt from "A Country Boy in Winter"

    by Sarah Orne Jewett

    I like to hear the old horse neigh
    Just as I come in sight,
    The oxen poke me with their horns
    To get their hay at night.
    Somehow the creatures seem like friends,
    And like to see me come.
    Some fellows talk about New York,
    But I shall stay at home.

  8. The Horses

    by Katherine Lee Bates. WWI - "Thus far 80,000 horses have been shipped from the United States to the European belligerents."

    What was our share in the sinning,
    That we must share the doom?
    Sweet was our life's beginning
    In the spicy meadow-bloom,
    With children's hands to pet us
    And kindly tones to call.
    To-day the red spurs fret us
    Against the bayonet wall.

    What had we done, our masters,
    That you sold us into hell?
    Our terrors and disasters
    Have filled your pockets well.
    You feast on our starvation;
    Your laughter is our groan.
    Have horses then no nation,
    No country of their own?

    What are we, we your horses,
    So loyal where we serve,
    Fashioned of noble forces
    All sensitive with nerve?
    Torn, agonized, we wallow
    On the blood-bemired sod;
    And still the shiploads follow.
    Have horses then no God?

  9. Commandeered

    by L.G. Moberly

    Last year he drew the harvest home
    Along the winding upland lane;
    The children twisted marigolds
    And clover flowers, to deck his mane.
    Last year—he drew the harvest home!

    To-day—with puzzled, patient face,
    With ears a-droop, and weary feet,
    He marches to the sound of drums,
    And draws the gun along the street.
    To-day—he draws the guns of war!

  10. The Blood Horse

    by Bryan Waller Procter

    Gamarra is a dainty steed,
    Strong, black, and of a noble breed,
    Full of fire, and full of bone,
    With all his line of fathers known;
    Fine his nose, his nostrils thin,
    But blown abroad by the pride within!
    His mane is like a river flowing,
    And his eyes like embers glowing
    In the darkness of the night,
    And his pace as swift as light.

    Look,—how 'round his straining throat
    Grace and shifting beauty float!
    Sinewy strength is in his reins,
    And the red blood gallops through his veins;
    Richer, redder, never ran
    Through the boasting heart of man.
    He can trace his lineage higher
    Than the Bourbon dare aspire,—
    Douglas, Guzman, or the Guelph,
    Or O'Brien's blood itself!

    He, who hath no peer, was born,
    Here, upon a red March morn;
    But his famous fathers dead
    Were Arabs all, and Arab bred,
    And the last of that great line
    Trod like one of a race divine!
    And yet,—he was but friend to one
    Who fed him at the set of sun,
    By some lone fountain fringed with green:
    With him, a roving Bedouin,
    He lived, (none else would he obey
    Through all the hot Arabian day),
    And died untamed upon the sands
    Where Balkh amidst the desert stands.

  11. The Last Leap

    by Adam Lindsay Gordon

    All is over! fleet career,
    Dash of greyhound slipping thongs,
    Flight of falcon, bound of deer,
    Mad hoof-thunder in our rear,
    Cold air rushing up our lungs,
    Din of many tongues.

    Once again, one struggle good,
    One vain effort;—he must dwell
    Near the shifted post, that stood
    Where the splinters of the wood,
    Lying in the torn tracks, tell
    How he struck and fell.

    Crest where cold drops beaded cling,
    Small ear drooping, nostril full,
    Glazing to a scarlet ring,
    Flanks and haunches quivering,
    Sinews stiffening, void and null,
    Dumb eyes sorrowful.

    Satin coat that seems to shine
    Duller now, black braided tress
    That a softer hand than mine
    Far away was wont to twine,
    That in meadows far from this
    Softer lips might kiss.

    All is over! this is death,
    And I stand to watch thee die,
    Brave old horse! with bated breath
    Hardly drawn through tight-clenched teeth,
    Lip indented deep, but eye
    Only dull and dry.

    Musing on the husk and chaff
    Gathered where life’s tares are sown,
    Thus I speak, and force a laugh,
    That is half a sneer and half
    An involuntary groan,
    In a stifled tone—

    ‘Rest, old friend! thy day, though rife
    With its toil, hath ended soon;
    We have had our share of strife,
    Tumblers in the masque of life,
    In the pantomime of noon
    Clown and pantaloon.

    ‘With a flash that ends thy pain,
    Respite and oblivion blest
    Come to greet thee. I in vain
    Fall: I rise to fall again:
    Thou hast fallen to thy rest—
    And thy fall is best!'

  12. Waterin' Th' Horses

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    I took th' horses to th' brook—to water 'em you know,
    Th' air was cold with just a touch o' frost;
    And as we went a-joggin' down I couldn't help but think,
    O' city folk an' all the things they lost.

    O' cause they have their lighted streets—their Great White Way an' such,
    O' course they have their buildings large an' tall;
    But, my! they never know th' joy o' ridin' ter th' brook,
    An' somehow I don't envy 'em at all!

    Perhaps I'd like it—for awhile—to hear th' songs an' laughter,
    But somehow, I don't know exactly why;
    I'd feel th' country callin' me; I'd long again fer silence,
    An' fer God's mountains, blue against the sky.

    I took th' horses to th' brook—to water 'em you know,
    Th' day was pretty as a day can be;
    An' as we went a-joggin' down I couldn't help but think,
    O' city folk an' all they never see!

  13. The Horseman

    by Walter De la Mare

    I heard a horseman
    Ride over the hill;
    The moon shone clear,
    The night was still;
    His helm was silver,
    And pale was he;
    And the horse he rode
    Was of ivory.

  14. Wild Horse of the Prairies

    by Isaac McLellan

    For other scenes their lights expand,
    Out in the savage western land,
    Where wildernesses lone and grand,
    Their awful glooms extend;
    Far where the Rocky Mounts upthrow
    Their pinnacles of rock and snow,
    White cones, whereon the sunset's glow,
    Its roseate hues doth blend.

    Around them, woods primeval press,
    Around them, pastures measureless,
    Waved by the idle wind's caress,
    Reach th' horizon's edge.
    In dark ravine and gulch the bear
    And tiger-cat have made their lair,
    The bison range the meadows there,
    To browse the bending sedge.
    O'er open plain, in leafy dell,
    In hollow vale, on upland swell,
    The wild steeds of the prairies dwell,
    Free as the mountain wind;
    No iron bit or curb have they,
    No galling spur, no trappings gay,
    No rider to control their way,
    Their untam'd limbs to bind.
    Free as the eagle cleaves through space,
    They curvet or they join in race,
    Fleeter than wild beasts of the chase,
    A vast unnumbered throng;
    They crop the dewy grass at will,
    In ice cold waters drink their fill,
    Scour the wild plain or sweep the hill,
    Unscarr'd by whip or thong.
    Yet comes at times a yelling crew,
    The savage with his wild halloo,
    The painted Blackfoot or Sioux,
    All greedy for the spoil;
    It were a thrilling sight to see
    Those lawless riders fierce and free,
    Each swinging with a madden'd glee,
    The lariat's twisting coil.
    On, on the frantic horsemen sweep,
    On, on the snorting wild steeds leap,
    Down flowery slope, o'er wooded steep,
    Pursuers and pursued;
    Then far th' unerring noose is thrown,
    The stately bay or lusty roan
    Fall captive, panting, with a groan,
    All vanquish'd and subdued.

  15. Who Would Hurt a Horse or Tree

    by Annette Wynne

    Who would hurt a horse or tree
    Does not deserve good company.
    Who would hurt a bird that sings
    Is meanest of all earthly things.

  16. Keep Your Ears Ahead

    by Douglas Malloch

    On the tote-road, on the street, on the trail or tram,
    I have known a hoss or two, teamster that I am:
    Steppers with Kentucky blood, ordinary plugs,
    Ev'ry kind of animile ever wearin' tugs;
    Mustang pony, Percheron, goer, thoroughbred—
    But the only hoss worth while kept his ears ahead.

    When a plug becomes a plug ain't when he gits old;
    For a plug may be a plug from the day he's foaled.
    When a critter to the back slants them ears of his,
    Then you know the bloomin' brute, know the brute he is.
    For he'll either bite or balk, loaf, or bolt instead;
    Never trust a hoss unless he keeps his ears ahead.

    But a hoss that is a hoss, of the proper kind,
    Doesn't listen all the while for the whip behind.
    He is lookin' down the road, sniffin', an' all that—
    He is takin' interest in the work he's at.
    Work is joy to such a nag, farm or fancy bred;
    Life is somethin' to a hoss that keeps his ears ahead.

    Man is somethin' like a boss, with his work to do;
    On the tough old trail of life how is it with you?
    Do you put your shoulder then in the collar square?
    Of the load we have to pull, do you pull a share?
    Are you full of pep an' steam, or is your spirit dead?
    Are you livin' in the past, or are your ears ahead?

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