Sunday, 10 November 2013

John Peck's 'A Twenty-Fourth Poem About Horses': "Ambassador From the Eldest Kingdom..."

Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Escuestre, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Photo © Clarissa Aykroyd, 2013

Horses are one of my long/longer/longest obsessions, one which sometimes goes nearly dormant, but which has been with me more than twenty-five years and will certainly never go away entirely. It's certainly in resurgence at the moment - I've done particularly well in the last few years, with visits to the Royal School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, Spain; Royal Ascot, and both Olympic and Paralympic dressage last year; a long overdue visit to the famous Olympia show coming up in December (where I will see my friends from Jerez again), and so on.


I came across this lovely and powerful horse poem very recently. The title and epigraph make reference to the ninth/tenth-century Chinese poet Li Ho, whose twenty-three poems on horses I have yet to read.

Curiously, 'A Twenty-fourth Poem About Horses' reminded me of Archibald MacLeish's 'You, Andrew Marvell'. This has something to do with the forward momentum and rush of the poem, along with references to the rise and fall of great empires. Here, the horse is a physical presence both calm and violent, a metaphor for human endeavour, for accomplishments and atrocities. I think that there is a realisation that the role of the horse in history has not been fully acknowledged or explained, and that people make unwise assumptions about the survival of species both animal and human, and about what they should do with the powers that they so blithely and unthinkingly harness.

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