two poems comparitiva analysis

The Horse that looked at me is poetry in free form. It does not have a standard meter and its rhyme structure does not exist. On the other hand, the poem An American Pastime is formed and graded as a sestina. This is because there are six stanzas, each of six lines and a final stanza of three lines. A speech and a speaker are the first features in poetry. The person telling the poem The Horse That Looked at Me is a horse rider who drives a carriage through the streets full of visitors. He/she has a remorseful, but mildly dismissive tone. He/she does not approve of the harsh and difficult life the horse is going through. This is evident in the second stanza where he/she clearly states that:

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 their experiences while in the football field with the readers. Therefore the voice speaking in this poem is that of a football team member. The speaker uses a zealous tone which creates a theme of determination and perseverance. For instance in the sixth stanza they say:

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 depicts that the football player is well aware of his/her role and is determined to accomplish his/her main task no matter what difficulties come on the way.

The second element is the use of symbolism, or figurative imagery. It 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 people go through in life. The speaker might be trying to imply that some of them are treated in inhumane ways by others. This might be also a situation where a worker is being burnt out from all the tasks given by the boss. To the eyes of the latter one 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 distinctly states that, “We are all of us horses, to some extent!”

Symbolism is evident in the first stanza of the poem An American Pastime, where 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 come to watch a game. There is further use of imagery as the speaker continues:

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 speaker is using the word “home” to illustrate the end zone where football players make touchdowns. The phrase “unless I fail in my appointed task” implies 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 grass green field.

The phrase “homesickness in the midst of the play” represents the act of each team trying to advance in the game 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. It is conspicuous throughout these two poems. Both writers have used words which appeal to the senses of readers. In the first stanza of The Horse who Looked at Me the speaker states:

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


Here the reader is prompted to create an image of what is happening. The words create images in the mind of the persuer subconsciously. The author managed to make the readers visualize the whole scenario in their minds.

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/her mind. Throughout the poem he/she is visualizing what is happening in the game described, thanks to the use of the imagery by the author.

Although both poems are different in structure and classification they have some similarities in terms of elements of poetry used. There is extensive use of symbolism and imagery in both poems. Both of them force the reader to search for hidden meanings and not just the face value. It is therefore clear that poems vary a lot when it comes to styles used by authors, but still they often share some similarities.

Critical Response

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 that some have to deal with in the hands of the 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

The author has managed to highlight the real picture of what is happening in the real world with regards to the relationships between workers and their bosses or masters. On the other hand, The American Pastime is an allegory of what football players go through. The author is discussing the theme of resilience and perseverance. No matter what difficulty a football player goes through he/she will always try his/her possible best to perform the task perfectly. Just like in the other poem the reader is forced to search for deeper meanings in order to understand the theme of this one. The author is highlighting and encouraging resilience and dedication to what people are tasked with.

Works Cited

An American Pastime

The Horse Who Looked at Me

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