I love this poem Donald Hall wrote in tribute to all the years of horses who lived on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire. . . He speaks to them all as one right up until the end, and then he gives them the dignity of their individual names. My favorite part is the tenderness in the lines in which the horses keep giving to the farm even after they are buried- they make the goldenrod grow&flourish. . . There's a matter-of factness in the way the horses must be put down when they are old & in too much pain that keeps it from being a sicky sweet poem, but it is a homage to how hard these creatures work with humans. . . I especially admire the way Hall uses hard sounds like CK's and B's to create the sound of claclity clacking equipment in the opening stanza but then uses soft S's etc to show the ease of Sundays. . . The lyrical golden rod stanza has a different metrical scheme so that it sings against the more workaday sounds of the other lines. . . It is quite a nice piece of craftsmanship, this poem. It reminds me of how I feel sometimes in getting Finn fleetingly confused with Raleigh or Tally looking like Buff, one of our childhood goldens. . .
The Names Of Horses- Donald Hall
All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.
In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;
and after noon's heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.
Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.
When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,
and lay the shotgun's muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.
For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground - old toilers, soil makers:
O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.