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The poem The Horse who Looked at Me

The poem The Horse That Looked at Me has no shape and is classified as a sestina, while the poem An American Pastime has form and is classified as a sestina. This is attributed to the poem's six stanzas of six lines each and a final stanza of three lines. The first feature in poetry is the speaker's voice. The speaker of the poem The Horse That Looked at Me is a horse ridder who is riding a horse pulling a carriage through the streets. He/she has a repentant yet mildly indifferent tone. The rider does not agree with the horse's cruel and painful life. This is illustrated in the second stanza, which states: When your eyes met mine
Was it anger I felt from the reddened rims

Or patient dullness from the hazed corneal glimmer

Or something else not human at all

In An American Pastime a football player is trying to share his experiences while in the football field with the readers. The speaker uses a zealous tone which creates an attitude of determination and perseverance. For instance the speaker says;

Ambitious projects show themselves in small

Deceptions carried in the air by all

Who want to move me, keep me from my task?

My stubborn stance is firm, my will endures.

This shows that the football player is determined to accomplish his task no matter what difficulties come his way.

The second element is the use of symbolism or figurative imagery. Symbolism has been used widely in both poems. Symbolism is the use of one thing to indirectly represent another. This is where the reader has to deviate from the face value of the poem and search for deeper meanings. In the poem The Horse Who Looked at Me the author has used the horse to represent human beings. According to the author what the horse goes through can be equated to what some human beings go through in life. The speaker might be trying to imply that some people are treated in inhumane ways as others. This might be a situation where a worker is being overworked by his master. To the eyes of the master there is nothing wrong with it since he/she provides his slave/worker with food clothing and a place to sleep in. for instance the author says;

I want to tell you I don’t approve

But I think ‘This is not a bad life

For a horse: food every day and night

A dry stable to sleep in

People to look after you

There is further proof that the author believes that horses can be equated to human beings since the poem starts with a quote which states that, “We are all of us horses, to some extent!”

In the first stanza of the poem An American Pastime the speaker says;

then throw myself onto that common field

where wind and sky contends, containing all.

In the two lines the author is talking about a football pitch or a stadium where fans came to watch a football match. There is further use of imagery when the speaker says;

Men wish for home but homelessness endures

unless I fail in my appointed task.

The phrase, “men wish for home” is used to represent the act of football players wanting to make a touchdown. The phrase “unless I fail in my appointed task” has been used to imply that the speaker’s task is to try and prevent the team controlling the ball from making a try. There is further use of figurative imagery or symbolism where the speaker says;

Homesickness in the midst of play endures

around this clay trimmed, chalk-lined grassgreen field.

The phrase “homesickness in the midst of the play” represents the act of each team trying to advance with the football into the opposing team’s end zone to make a touchdown. It is therefore evident that symbolism has been used extensively in both poems.

The final element is the use of imagery. In the first stanza of The Horse who Looked at Me the speaker says;

Waiting for the whip of commerce

To drive you once again

Through these tourist streets

A carriage behind you

And ahead

Another stop, with its passing

Lookers

Here the reader is prompted to create an image of what is happening in the mind. The words create images in the mind of the reader subconsciously.

In the sixth stanza of An American Pastime the author says;

Ambitious projects show themselves in small

deceptions carried in the air by all

who want to move me, keep me from my task.

My stubborn stance is firm, my will endures.

Each jarring conflict on my chosen field

convinces me to stay behind my mask.

Immediately the reader can see a football match going on in his mind. Throughout the poem the reader is visualizing what happens in a football match thanks to the use of imagery by the author.

The Horse Who Looked at Me is an allegory of what some people go through in life. The author is discussing the issue of slavery or generally the hardships some human beings go through in the hands of others. The author has used a horse symbolically. He is trying to justify the issue of slavery or forced labor to some extent by stating;

But I think ‘This is not a bad life

For a horse: food every day and night

A dry stable to sleep in

People to look after you

On the other hand The American Pastime is an allegory of what football players go through. The author is discussing the theme of resilience. No matter what hardship a football player goes through he will always try his level best to perform his task.

Works Cited

An American Pastime

The Horse Who Looked at Me

July 24, 2021

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