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The Old Brown Horse – W.F Holmes

The poem laments the state of being ignored because one is ageing. The horse in the poem was once his master’s dear and flash in the dust. His master was proud to ride on him and he was proud too. Now the horse has become old and infirm. His master too is old so he chose a motor car to travel and the horse forgotten. Now, whenever someone passes, the horse wishes to be noticed, loved and cared for.

Bit/Bits

  • The poem tells the tale of an old brown horse who is now feeling lonely and retiring.
  • He had seen better days when he was young.
  • Now as he has grown old, he stands near the fence and looks over as if exhausted and tired.
  • He seems to be speaking to the people who pass by the field that he had had his day and now he was just watching everyone go about doing his jobs unconcerned about the horse’s existence.
  • No one seems to be bothered about the horse for now they drive their motor cars and no longer need the services of a horse; more so if he is old lame and half blind.
  • So he is left to fend for himself. His coat appears unkempt now whereas once he was well taken care of by a master who was fond of him.
  • Now that the passage of time had rendered him useless, his master chose to drive about in a motor car.
  • This is what saddens the poor horse. As he had grown old and unfit, his master was ignoring him.
  • He recalls his pleasant past and the time he and his master spent together.
  • Once in a while when a considerate person happens to pass by notices the weary horse resting his head on the topmost bar of the fence.
  • The person takes pity on the horse and speaks a kind word or two, soothing the horse’s agony.
  • The person touches his mane or the sagging coat. The horse lets out a sigh for he doesn’t mind this act of kindness just like he doesn’t mind others’ indifference.
  • As the reader moves towards the end of the poem, the poet asks the reader to stop for a little while if she/he happens to pass by the field where the old brown horse stands and speak a few affectionate words.
  • The poet remarks that the horse was once as young and lively as the person.
  • The horse would love the generous touch of the person’s young hands and would be much grateful for the kind concern shown to a horse who had had his day.

Analysis

The old brown horse looks over the fence
In a weary sort of way.
He seems to be saying to all who pass:
“Well, folks, I’ve had my day-
I’m simply watching the world go by,
And nobody seems to mind,
As they’re dashing past in their motor-cars,
A horse who is lame and half-blind.”

  1. How does the horse look at the passersby?
    The horse looks over the fence in a weary sort of way. It doesn’t look for anything particular but simply watching the world go by.
  2. Why is the horse sad?
    One reason why the horse is sad is it reminisces its glorious past when it used to be active and vigorous, loved and cared for. With old age conquering him and abandoned by his master, he feels sad.
  3. The horse feels lost in the passage of time. Explain.
    A few years ago the horse was well loved by its master. It was wanted and loved. Now ageing has cornered him and reduced his life to no amount of concern in the deserted stable.
  4. Frame sentences with the words/phrases below:
    1. Dash past (pass swiftly) : A pack of wolves dashed past the tree on whose branches we slept the last night.
    2. Have one’s day (retire) :  After having had his prime days, our grandfather appeared less cheerful.
    3. Go by (move/pass) : She spends her evenings watching life go by in the bazaar outside.
    4. Weary (tired) : After ten hours’ restless work, the boys sat down, exhausted and weary.
  5. The old brown horse feels:
    1. Angry with the world,
    2. Upset with the world,
    3. Tired of the world,
    4. A longing for the world.
  6. The horse is abandoned because:
    1. Its master died in a accident,
    2. It is very lazy,
    3. It is aged and is not its master’s choice,
    4. It’s master hates it.

The old brown horse has a shaggy coat,
But once he was young and trim,
And he used to trot through the woods and lanes
With the man who was fond of him.

But his master rides in a motor-car,
And it makes him feel quite sad
When he thinks of the days that used to be,
And of all the times they had.

  1. Why, do you think, is the horse’ coat shaggy?
    The horse is now in an utterly abandoned and disowned state. When he was his master’s dear, the horse was washed and well groomed but labeled ‘useless,’ the horse is no more attended with any care.
  2. How did the old horse spend its youth?
    The horse, in its youth, trotted through jungles and lanes, carrying his master.
  3. An alliteration is the presence of words that begin or end with similar letters. Note that the three words on line 5, his master rides also alliteration. In the second line above, ‘horse has’ is an alliteration. The ‘fool fell ill’ is also another alliteration. Pick out alliterations from line 3.
    ‘Trot through the’ is an alliteration with t starting each word.
  4. The master drives in a motor car probably because he too is old and weak as the horse is yet the horse is sad about that. Why?
    The horse pride was for the singular reason that he could carry his master through woods and lanes in lighting speed but now it is no more able to run with his master. The horse is old and weak and his master prefers a motor car that has a better horse-power.

Sometimes a friendly soul will stop
Near the fence, where the tired old head
Rests wearily on the topmost bar,
And a friendly word is said.

Then the old brown horse gives a little sigh
As he feels the kindly touch
Of a hand on his mane or his shaggy coat,
And he doesn’t mind so much.

  1. Whose is the tired head? Why is it tired?
    The horse’ is the tired head. It’s head is tired because it is old and had travelled a long way. Besides, the horse is constantly ignored and all it yearns is love and consideration.
  2. Who is said to be the friendly soul? 
    A friendly soul is anyone with a spark of pity for the horse, ready to spend some time with it in its miserable state.
  3. What does the friendly soul do for the tired old head?
    A kind-heart, friendly passerby have a kind word with the horse and passes his fingers through its shaggy mane.
  4. Why doesn’t the horse so much mind the touch on his mane?
    The old brown horse craves for love from anyone who passes by. Ignored by his master and infirm with old age, the horse appreciates any act of pity upon him.

So if you pass by the field one day,
Just stop for a word or two
With the old brown horse who was once as young
And as full of life as you.

He’ll love the touch of your soft young hand,
And I know he’ll seem to say
“Oh, thank you, friend, for the kindly thought
For a horse who has had his day.”

  1. What is the poet’s request to the passersby?
    The poet requests his readers to stop for a word or two with the aged horse.
  2. What message does the poet want to leave?
    The poet wants his readers to express concern and sympathy for the aged and retiring.
  3. What is the rhyme scheme of the above stanzas?
    1. ABCD
    2. ABAB
    3. ABCB
    4. AABB

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