A Beast for Perseus

Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hooves in the receiving Earth.
William Shakespeare

Aphorisms from On Horsemanship
Xenophon (431-354 BCE)

In the hour of danger, it is certain, the owner has to consign himself, life and limb, to the safekeeping of his horse. 

The golden rule in dealing with a horse is never to approach him angrily.

The hollow hoof rings like a cymbal against the solid earth.

It is the long steady course rather than the frequent turn which tends to calm a horse.

What a horse does under compulsion he does blindly, and his performance is no more beautiful than would be that of a dancer taught by whip and goad.
The majesty of men themselves is best discovered in the graceful handling of horses.
A prancing horse is a thing of beauty, a wonder and a marvel, riveting the gaze of all who see him, young and graybeards alike. So long as he displays his splendid action, I venture to predict, they will never turn their backs or weary of their gazing.

The Runaway
Robert Frost

Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, "Whose colt?"
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted to us. And then we saw him bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
Like a shadow across instead of behind the flakes.
The little fellow's afraid of the falling snow.
He never saw it before. It isn't play
With the little fellow at all. He's running away.
He wouldn't believe when his mother told him, 'Sakes,
It's only weather.' He thought she didn't know!
So this is something he has to bear alone
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone,
He mounts the wall again with whited eyes
And all his tail that isn’t hair up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
"Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When all other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in."

from "The Horse Show"
William Dean Howells

In all times the horse has been the supreme expression of aristocracy. They had distinction; they were patrician; they were swell. They felt it, they showed it, they rejoiced in it; and the most reluctant observer could not deny them the glory of blood, of birth, which the thoroughbred horse has expressed in all lands and ages. Their lordly port was a thing that no one could dispute, and for an aristocracy I suppose that they had a high average of intelligence, though there might be two minds about this. They made me think of mettled youths and haughty dames; they abashed the humble spirit of the beholder with the pride of their high-stepping, their curveting and caracoling, as they jingled in their shining harness around the long ring.

from "Evolution of the Horse"
Thomas Huxley

Among the works of human ingenuity it cannot be said that there is any locomotive so perfectly adapted to its purposes, doing so much work with so small a quantity of fuel, as this machine of nature's manufacture—the horse. And, as a necessary consequence of any sort of perfection, of mechanical perfection as of others, you find that the horse is a beautiful creature, one of the most beautiful of all land animals. Look at the perfect balance of its form, and the rhythm and force of its action.

adapted from Henry V
William Shakespeare

I will not change my horse with any that treads but on four pasterns. Aha! He bounds from the Earth, as if his entrails were hares: the flying horse, the Pegasus with breath of fire. When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk. He trots the air; the Earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.

He's of the color of nutmeg and of the heat of ginger. It is a beast for Perseus; he is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him, but only in patient stillness while his rider mounts him; he is indeed a horse, and all other jades you may call beasts. It is the prince of palfreys, his neigh is like the bidding of a monarch, and his countenance enforces homage.

The man hath no wit that cannot from the rising of the lark to the lodging of the lamb vary deserved praise on my palfrey; it is a theme as fluent as the sea. Turn the sands into eloquent tongues, and my horse is argument for them all. 'Tis a subject for a sovereign to reason on, and for a sovereign's sovereign to ride on, and for the world, familiar to us and unknown, to lay apart their particular functions, and wonder at him.

Photography by Wayne T. Allison



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