At the end the girl calls the knife her own, as if she has appropriated this symbol of boyhood, which has stretched her dress, disordering the symbol of girlhood. Rob Roy, he pulled some clover as we crossed the field, I told her. Stanza 4 The first word in stanza 4 indicates some contrast with the immediately preceding statement that the girl went down to the canal on her own feet. My feet on the clean linoleum left ghostly toes in the hall. Can it be there was only one summer that I was ten? All of these add to the allusion Swenson makes to the Centaur.
The poem is constructed in two identical, curved columns, read separately. Stop or I will sink in farther said the knife. The literal, surface level of meaning is the only one. It appears that now she is both girl and horse, understood as two separate identities that are nonetheless one. Individual poems have the kinetic ability to spill over diagonally into stanzaic receptacles, embody the shape and spirit of paintings by De Chirico, and spin like a top around a still center. Doubled, my two hoofs beat a gallop along the bank, the wind twanged in my mane, my mouth squared to the bit. The least memorable are skillfully designed trinkets that don't reach beyond the observed to attain the metaphorical transformations of her greatest work.
In this stanza the speaker describes how the dust hid her toes and covered her horse's hoofs. My hair flopped to the side like the mane of a horse in the wind. She quotes her favorite line several times with a chuckle. It subsequently appeared in several other collections of Swenson's poetry, including the posthumously published Nature: Poems Old and New in 1994. Crumbley argues that this indicates acceptance by the mother, and perhaps it does, though her reply is not given and Swenson herself, discussing this poem in an interview reprinted in Made with Words, says that in the closing stanzas the mother is scolding the girl. However, these are not true metaphors used to describe the girl or the branch but signs of a transformation going on in which the branch becomes a horse, and the girl becomes a centaur.
It must have been a long one then— each day I'd go out to choose 5 a fresh horse from my stable which was a willow grove down by the old canal. The oldest child of ten born to Swedish immigrant parents who settled in Utah, she was raised with a rigid set of expectations of how boys and girls should behave. This double existence is eerily magical. She says that she would go each day to choose a different horse from her stable. One cal tell that the speaker adored riding her wooden horse by the descriptions she uses in the poem. Doubled, my two hoofs beat a gallop along the bank, the wind twanged in my mane, my mouth squared to the bit. Poetic Devices: Allusion: The horse really being just a tree branch.
Flock, where do we fly? Now the church nods reverentially to a nominal degree. The ambiguities and paradoxes of Swenson's poetry result from basic contradiction between our illusion of permanence and an underlying certainty of fatality. She liked to write them as well as to solve them—the harder the better. What childhood magic she captures in those first 4 lines! Paul Crumbley, writing in Body My House, notes that this was the actual canal near where Swenson lived as a child. Then the rider and horse wheel and gallop. Therefore in The Centaur by May Swenson, the meaning of the poem that women are longing for freedom in living life however they want to but are stopped by society in doing so, is conveyed through the simple language, horse imagery, chronological structure, and nostalgic point of view throughout the poem. Stanza 19 Stanza 18 having ended with a period, marking another break, stanza 19 introduces a new character, the speaker's mother, who promptly asks the girl where she has been, a typical maternal question.
You're white in patches, only mostly Rose, buckskin and saltly, speckled like a sky. The poem is written in free verse, without rhyme. Here, the poet, in the guise of a high flying bird, considers the divisions between the individual and humanity: Out on the edge, my maneuverings, my wings, think they are free. This would mean that since she was the horse and since her mouth is green now, she was chewing on the grass herself. Her boyish, close-cropped hair is a constant on the dust jacket of each new book.
Nothing by Robert Paul Smith, published in 1957. Nature: Poems Old and New contains 183 poems selected and ordered to emphasize her affinity with the out-of-doors. Line Endings The poem is written in a form of poetry in which no formal meter is used without any rhyme scheme, though perhaps with a rhymed couplet at the end and some internal rhyme at the beginning, but it is not as free as in some of Swenson's other poems. In addition, various points of view accent a child's carefree abandonment for her real world situation. Also, the point of view is that of an adult reliving the summer when she was ten. Also in 1958, Swenson won the Prize of the Poetry Society of America. I'd go on my two bare feet.
In the Celtic tradition there was the I realize that I am the only person in the world to want to find myself a very sturdy soapbox, step up on it, and proclaim my belief that the church is lopsided. The poem is a flashback to a happy time in the girl's life when she was free and innocent and full of fantasy. My feet on the clean linoleum left ghostly toes in the hall. Her imagination begins to run free, whereby not only is the branch a horse, but she is also a horse. In addition, the use of past tense throughout The Centaur creates a sense of nostalgia. In 2007, it was published separately as an illustrated children's book. First published in the Western Review in 1956, it was reprinted the following year in the collection New Poems by American Poets 2 and then appeared in Swenson's second book of poetry, A Cage of Spines, in 1958.