Friday, February 13, 2015

John Muir on his horse, Nob...

It's winter break and the grandkids are out of school.  I'm looking forward to reading and commenting over the weekend.  We are challenged this week by Gay Cannon to write a poem in the iconic form used by Robert Frost in  Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.   I chose to paraphrase another writer's story in the form and this is the result:

From John Muir's Story from his Boyhood and Youth


Nob was a great horse, writes John Muir,                                                                        
She knew when we talked about her
She understood everything;
we played in our barn and pasture

He wrote of Nob, remembering
one hot, sultry summer evening -
in town, twenty four miles away
there was a revival meeting

Father rode her hard that long day
she breathed heavily all the way
So tired and wilted from the heat
she drooped when I unhitched her rein

The next day the doc came to treat
her lungs were inflamed, she was beat,
Same pneumonia symptoms as me -
I bathed her head; she would not eat

The next day we let her go free
with playmates she wanted to be
Her trembling and beseeching eyes
were heartbreaking for us to see

A most faithful horse, true and wise
I pet her head to soothe her cries
As the family gathered 'round
She lay down bleeding - then she died

In farm life real knowledge is found
Kids grow and thrive outside school bounds
Respect for mortal souls gains ground
learned godlike sympathies abound


  1. nice...none of the rhymes really feel forced and it scans well as a story poem kathy...
    that makes the form work for me....we have stables nearby
    and go down to watch the horses run occassionally...

  2. What an achievement! Wow! You upped the form! Love how you did it too. Like that you took the last two stanza form repeat much as frost repeated the last two lines.

    You wrote it in tetrameter - you might want to edit your notes. .. the form is meant to be in four foot lines (natural mistake, everything else,it seems, requires pentameter). Kathy this is just beautiful. You captured the story and simultaneously plumbed its emotional depths. Wonderful!

  3. I am so sad for the poor horse! What a tale, so well told. Loved the rhythm of this piece.

  4. A faithful horse - such a sad story of her passing, beautifully told with smoth rhymes and soft rhythm - there is a parallel to th clopping of the hooves here.

  5. Very cool story — wish I knew the original. Well done in this succinct verse. The deep lessons of farm life shown well!

    Amazing, I counted syllables and you kept to 8 per line without showing effort — superb.

    Your third line was the only exception (perhaps oversight? or have I counted wrong?)

    I'd be curious in the story: The child also had pneumonia? At that time, or earlier? With that line, I was expecting a twist at the end where the child died but the horse survived -- OR, the dying child was imagining her/himself as a horse in her last moments. I'll follow comments to hear your thoughts.

    1. Thanks. John Muir's book on his childhood is full of stories like this. He was a naturalist, instrumental in the preservation of nature.

      In the third line I counted 4 syllables in "everything" that makes 8. But I counted pneumonia as 3...go figure.

      Yes, in the story the boy had pneumonia earlier..I could have rephrased that to read "like the pneumonia I once
      had"..then I would have to have changed the subsequent rhymes.

  6. oh sad that she died... farm life reminds us of mortality in an immediate way... i remember staying at my uncle's farm as a kid and i was there when a little calf was born - and then it died - i cried so hard....

  7. Growing up on a farm or ranch, children do get much more prepared for the rigors of life perhaps, certainly in terms of understanding more about death, as natural & inevitable. You switch up with the two extra stanzas was bold & cool; like Brian said, your story out-shined the form; which is essential to eradicate that sense of sing-song verse. I, change the stresses as I recite my poetics, but just to read them, it can be tricky to escape the form; you were very successful.

  8. animals gives us their all until death... their loyalty is unmatched... beautiful and sad write... the last stanza really brings it home; what we learn outside of school is just as--if not more--important than what is taught in the classroom.

  9. Nicely done. A traffic tale, but very true that farm kids do get some pretty real life lessons.

  10. 'Tragic' tale. Sorry.


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