A comparison of “The Horses” and “Icarus Allsorts”

This essay will be looking at “Icarus Allsorts” by Roger McGough and comparing it to “The Horses” by Edwin Murir. First it will analyse “Icarus Allsorts” then look at “The Horses.”

This poem begins with an introduction of what had happened to start a war. It explains about a meteorite crashing into the sea and setting of a mass panic and launching a huge counter attack on Russia.

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The main aspect the reader notices of “Icarus Allsorts” is its rhythm. By tapping out the beat of it you could class it as a nursery rhyme. Although like a nursery rhyme it has no resemblance to happiness and putting kids to sleep. In fact the complete opposite, a black comedy. When reading the piece you have a laugh at the rhymes for instance

“There were even missile jams”

An obscene vision to imagine thousands of missiles lined up like cars. After reading the poem and realising it is about nuclear war and although exaggerated the thought becomes a horrible image of destruction.

Euphemisms are used in both poems.

“nations lying asleep”

“The people fell”

The first one is taken from “The Horses” and second from “Icarus Allsorts.” By using these words as a replacement for dead or died brings a more restrained ease on the readers thought.

Direct speech is the used causing the poem to become more personal towards the reader.

“House!” cried the fatlady”

“Raus!” cried the german butcher.

Using the small description of them it shows that everyone is different in their own way and emphasises the title “Icarus Allsorts” is using liquorish allsorts, they are a popular brand of sweets which contain a variety of different colours tastes and shapes. Just the same as humans. It carries on to comment on the rich and the poor, the queen and civil defence volunteers.

Coming towards the end of the poem it suggests about C.N.D supporters. Campaign for nuclear disarmaments,

“‘I told you so’ in the dust”

A very powerful statement stating that if people and governments over the world would have listened to these people then they would not have destroyed their selves.

The poet then ends on a very dark and serious note. He gives out a large figure thousands of millions peoples death then writes

“He should have got the sack”

He is talking about the general sitting at the radar station who pressed that button to launch the counter attack. Cleverly he makes the reader ask him/her self but would that bring all those people back. Finishing on a glum, solemn and depressing note.

Although based on the same themes, of nuclear war, as the above poem that is about the only similarity to it that “The Horses” has.

The first thing that is noticeable is the how it begins. It starts off not by given us an introduction of how the event happened or how the Scottish islanders survived it in fact it is set a year after it happened. The poem uses no humour and in comparison with “Icarus Allsorts” basically no rhyming or beat. This seems to make it more gloomy and in a strange way quiet as the other poet used a more lively and up beat approach.

Still dealing with the theme of wiping out nearly all human civilisation the poet uses it to talk about the use of machinery and how these survivors completely discarded technology

“We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs”

Going back to almost Biblical times this is the best way to farm without the use of technology. Another good example of showing the determination of how they have learned from their ancestors errors is

“we would not have it again”

They would not let the use of technology engulf then gradually destroy the world again. It has so many times been said and films have brought the suggestion that one day we will destroy ourselves so the way the poet brings this out is very effective towards the reader. Using a very good simile

“like dank sea-monsters crouched and waiting”

The tractors sitting in the fields like they are ready to be turned on and thrive off polluting fumes. They will slowly rust though.

The poems deal with nuclear war very differently. Roger McGough using action and description of what happened. Edwin Murir using the aftermath to try and express how the earth needs a new start. They are both effective in their own ways as all poems.

The endings of “The Horses” is amazingly powerful. It deals with the coming of white horses. They appear from nowhere the only place it suggests that they came from is when the poet write

“come from their own Eden”

This means a sort of different dimension or world like they had been sent to help them, from god? We do not know. They are not just your ordinary horse though

“illustrations in a book of nights”

They look noble almost shining with holiness. There entrance being very dramatic as well. They rush starting form a distant tapping to a roar of thunder. The most dramatic thing is the surprise of it. A bleak world of nothingness then suddenly a mass surge of horses appear from nowhere. It is very strong and effective.

Another large aspect to notice is the language of the two poems. Icarus using very clever short and not to descriptive lines and versus. Where as Horses using detailed and strong language in almost every verse and line. Both effective in their own ways.

The survivors use the horses for re-building an agricultural need and co-operating with nature as we are animals to. New beginnings is what “The Horses” are all about, optimism of learning from our mistakes. “Icarus Allsorts” ends on a non optimistic view of how the world abolished itself all over a small meteorite.

I enjoyed both of the poems but “The Horses” was more for me as the language and general meaning of it was more effective and in some way touching towards my thoughts of war and civilisation.