In the poem The White Horse, Gwendolyn MacEwen uses imagery, symbolism, contrast, and some punctuation to bring out the ideas and style of her work. Throughout the poem, MacEwen also utilizes religious ideas from the Bible in order to provide insight and depth. These techniques and ideas are used to help to imply the search for everlasting peace in a corrupt world of war and conflict. The first stanza introduces the style of the author’s writing and how her use of symbolism and imagery are used to present the basis of the poem. The first line mentions of a “[white] horse [coming] into the world”.
This can relate to an event in the Bible, where in the book of Revelation, Jesus rides a white horse down towards the earth. Jesus and the colour white can be symbols of divinity, peace, and purity. The imagery created from the phrase “field of dizzy sunlight” is confusion and unstableness in the world; an unclear vision of peace and tranquility. The statement the horse’s eyes “huge with joy and wisdom” may exemplify the all-knowing and just character of Jesus. The purpose of Jesus coming to earth may be the proclamation of a path to eternal peace and paradise – affiliated to the stories in the Bible.
The part where it says, “wondering why you are wondering” may suggest thought of the horse, referred to as Jesus: Why are you, the people, surprised that I am here? This thought based on the quotation before can relate to the promise of Christ’s return to earth, which is the conclusion of the book of Revelation. These details contribute to the foundation used for the reader’s understanding throughout the poem; the white horse as the symbol of purity, divinity, Jesus; and the “white horse” possessing the answer to everlasting peace.
In the second stanza, imagery, contrast, and punctuation are used to emphasize the unpleasantness of “wars” to intensify the longing for peace. The rare punctuation in this stanza gives the reader a quickened pace, which emphasizes the chaos in the world. In comparison, the first stanza aforementioned had many commas, allowing pauses to accentuate the brilliance and heavenliness. This suggests change in the tone of the poem; from heavenly to infernal. Words in the text such as “shrapnel, wars, invaded, bombs, limbs, broken countries” create imagery of hostility and destruction; far from attaining harmony in the world.
“Broken countries” such as “Ireland and Lebanon” may be “broken” because they are countries that do not have faith in Christ, God. This can be explained with the quotation “the universe where this horse has never been”; spiritually, Christ Jesus has never been to those nations. It is as if the only way to gain peace is through the horse, or figuratively, Jesus. The haplessness of this stanza creates a great yearning for peace; without peace, there is no hope. The next body of the poem concentrates on the divine nature of the “white horse” and its connection to peace. Imagery and symbolism develop a clearer interpretation of this section.
The first line of the stanza says “you reach out your hand to touch it”. “You” can be described as in a faithful believer and “it” as the white horse, or in other words, Jesus; the way to peace. The person’s effort in reaching for “it” permits “for the first time”, an experience of things they have never before – perhaps a taste of serenity. The five senses touch, sight, smell, taste, and sound are used to demonstrate the proximity of peace when near the horse. This explains the religious idea of when being spiritually close with God, one will have hope discovering peace.
The last two stanzas acknowledge the greatness of the white horse by applying the use of imagery. “But hasn’t the brilliant end come, you wonder… ” relates to the common belief that good things always come to an end, therefore the person is wondering “[shouldn’t] the world [be] still burning? “. On the other hand, there is a demand to announce “it is morning”; a new start, a new beginning. The image of divinity and purity is again illustrated by the horse and the “colour of seafoam”. Again, it states tat the horse is “the first horse that the world has ever seen”.
The repetition of this line in the first and last stanza may suggest that this horse is the only horse in the world. This adds to the religious idea of there being only one almighty Jesus, God. “[Christ] which stands now watching you across the field of endless sunlight”. The faith in him will grant “endless” peace and paradise. Through the use of imagery, symbolism, contrast, punctuation, and religious reference from the Bible, Gwendolyn MacEwen suggests that even in a troubling world like this, there is always a hope for eternal peace and harmony.