Donald Hall

(20 September 1928 - / Hamden / Connecticut)

Name Of Horses


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Thursday, June 30, 2011

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  • Susan Williams (9/16/2014 9:41:00 PM)

    I wish more people would read this with their hearts. Up to a hundred years ago, the history of mankind was written atop the horse or from behind the horse on a plow. Into the Valley of Death Rode the 600, this poem, the novel Black Beauty are some of the pieces of literature that hold up a mirror wherein we can see the reflection of man's harshness toward his fellow travelers through life. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (9/16/2014 9:36:00 PM)

    I wish more people would read this with their hearts. Up to a hundred years ago, the history of mankind was written atop the horse or from behind the horse on a plow. Into the Valley of Death Rode the 600, this poem, the novel Black Beauty are some of the pieces of literature that hold up a mirror wherein we can see the reflection of man's harshness toward his fellow travelers through life. (Report) Reply

  • Hatch Graham (10/2/2010 5:34:00 PM)

    For a lover of horses (and dogs) and an understanding of their utility and history, this poem is one of the most gripping and memorable of all. When I read it at gatherings there are many tears shed and there's always a catch in my throat. I love it.. (Report) Reply

    Susan Williams (9/16/2014 9:41:00 PM)

    I wish more people would read this with their hearts. Up to a hundred years ago, the history of mankind was written atop the horse or from behind the horse on a plow. Into the Valley of Death Rode the 600, this poem, the novel Black Beauty are some of the pieces of literature that hold up a mirror wherein we can see the reflection of man's harshness toward his fellow travelers through life.

Read all 6 comments »

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