Wednesday, March 9, 2011

edwin muir

Edwin Muir's Collected Poems was published in 1965 (Oxford U. Press)—

with a preface by T. S. Eliot, which ends by noting

"that great, that terrifying poem of the 'atomic age'—
The Horses."

That 'atomic age' seems quaint, but the Times Book Review this past Sunday quotes a new book claiming that even a limited nuclear war in the mideast would cause the famine death of hundreds of millions of people around the globe. I wonder if Colonel Ghaddafi is reading Muir this morning.

Midway in the book (p. 142) is this sonnet:


The rider Victory reins his horse
Midway across the empty bridge
As if head-tall he had met a wall.
Yet there was nothing there at all,
No bodiless barrier, ghostly ridge
To check the charger in his course
So suddenly, you'd think he'd fall.

Suspended, horse and rider stare
Leaping on air and legendary.
In front the waiting kingdom lies,
The bridge and all the roads are free;
But halted in implacable air
Rider and horse with stony eyes
Uprear their motionless statuary.