Many kinds of equine characters grace these pages, from magnificent war horses to cowboys’ trusty steeds, from broken-down nags to playful colts, from wild horses to dream horses. We encounter the famous Trojan horse in Virgil’s Aeneid, only to see it from a quite different perspective in Matthea Harvey’s whimsical ‘Inside the Good Idea’. Longfellow shows us Paul Revere defying an empire from the back of a horse, while Shakespeare’s Richard III vainly offers his kingdom for one. Robert Burns’s ‘Auld Farmer’ dotes affectionately on his ageing mare, while Paul Muldoon’s ‘Glaucus’ is devoured by his fierce young fillies. Robert Frost’s little horse stopping by the woods is gently puzzled by human behaviour, while Ted Hughes is dazzled by a stunning vision of horses at dawn, ‘grey silent fragments/Of a grey silent world’.
Mythical and metaphorical horses cavort alongside vividly real ones in these poems, whether they be humble servants, noble companions, beloved friends or emblems of the wild beauty of the world beyond our grasp.