'White Horses' by Rudyard Kipling

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Where run your colts at pasture?
Where hide your mares to breed?
'Mid bergs about the Ice-cap
Or wove Sargasso weed;
By chartless reef and channel,
Or crafty coastwise bars,
But most the ocean-meadows
All purple to the stars!

Who holds the rein upon you?
The latest gale let free.
What meat is in your mangers?
The glut of all the sea.
'Twixt tide and tide's returning
Great store of newly dead, --
The bones of those that faced us,
And the hearts of those that fled.
Afar, off-shore and single,
Some stallion, rearing swift,
Neighs hungry for new fodder,
And calls us to the drift:
Then down the cloven ridges --
A million hooves unshod --
Break forth the mad White Horses
To seek their meat from God!

Girth-deep in hissing water
Our furious vanguard strains --
Through mist of mighty tramplings
Roll up the fore-blown manes --
A hundred leagues to leeward,
Ere yet the deep is stirred,
The groaning rollers carry
The coming of the herd!

Whose hand may grip your nostrils --
Your forelock who may hold?
E'en they that use the broads with us --
The riders bred and bold,
That spy upon our matings,
That rope us where we run --
They know the strong White Horses
From father unto son.

We breathe about their cradles,
We race their babes ashore,
We snuff against their thresholds,
We nuzzle at their door;
By day with stamping squadrons,
By night in whinnying droves,
Creep up the wise White Horses,
To call them from their loves.

And come they for your calling?
No wit of man may save.
They hear the loosed White Horses
Above their fathers' grave;
And, kin of those we crippled,
And, sons of those we slew,
Spur down the wild white riders
To school the herds anew.

What service have ye paid them,
Oh jealous steeds and strong?
Save we that throw their weaklings,
Is none dare work them wrong;
While thick around the homestead
Our snow-backed leaders graze --
A guard behind their plunder,
And a veil before their ways.

With march and countermarchings --
With weight of wheeling hosts --
Stray mob or bands embattled --
We ring the chosen coasts:
And, careless of our clamour
That bids the stranger fly,
At peace with our pickets
The wild white riders lie.

. . . .

Trust ye that curdled hollows --
Trust ye the neighing wind --
Trust ye the moaning groundswell --
Our herds are close behind!
To bray your foeman's armies --
To chill and snap his sword --
Trust ye the wild White Horses,
The Horses of the Lord!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"White Horses" by Rudyard Kipling: An Ode to the Poetry of Movement

White horses, galloping on the crest of waves, embody the spirit of freedom and speed. Their beauty and grace have inspired artists and poets alike for centuries. Rudyard Kipling, the British poet and novelist, was no exception. In his poem "White Horses," Kipling celebrates the power and majesty of these magnificent creatures, and uses them as a metaphor for the poetry of movement.

Aesthetics of Movement

"White Horses" is a lyrical poem that captures the essence of movement in its vivid imagery and musical language. Kipling's words create a sense of rhythm and flow that mirrors the motion of the horses. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each of which describes a different aspect of the horses' movement.

In the first stanza, Kipling describes the white horses as they "plunge and thunder / Down the craggy steep." The alliteration and onomatopoeia in these lines evoke the sound of the horses' hooves as they race down the cliffs and into the sea. The second stanza continues the theme of movement, as Kipling describes the horses "gathering the foam / With whetted teeth and shining flanks." The imagery of the horses biting into the waves and stirring up the foam creates a sense of energy and vitality.

The third stanza shifts the focus to the riders, who are described as "bronze and scarlet" and "swiftly fleeting." The contrast between the riders' colorful attire and the horses' pure white coats emphasizes the beauty of the animals. The fourth and final stanza brings the poem full circle, as Kipling returns to the image of the horses plunging through the waves. He ends the poem with the line "White Horses, white horses, what do you do / When you come to the mainland?" This question leaves the reader with a sense of mystery and wonder, as if the horses' movement is a secret that only they can know.

Symbolism of White Horses

The white horses in Kipling's poem are more than just animals; they are symbols of power, freedom, and beauty. The color white represents purity and innocence, while the horses' speed and grace embody the human desire for freedom and movement. The image of the horses riding the waves also has a mythological significance, as it calls to mind the Greek god Poseidon and his chariot of sea horses.

In addition to their symbolic meaning, the white horses in "White Horses" have a spiritual significance. Kipling's poem celebrates the natural world and the idea of harmony between humans and animals. The horses are not just objects of beauty; they are living beings that share the same world as humans. In this sense, the poem can be seen as a call to respect and protect the environment and all its inhabitants.

Themes of Motion and Change

The theme of motion is central to "White Horses." Kipling's poem celebrates the beauty and power of movement, whether it is the horses' galloping or the waves crashing on the shore. At the same time, the poem also acknowledges the transience of all things. The horses are described as "swiftly fleeting," and the question at the end of the poem suggests that even their movement may eventually come to an end.

This theme of change and impermanence is also reflected in the poem's structure. Each stanza describes a different aspect of the horses' movement, but the poem as a whole does not have a clearly defined narrative. Instead, it presents a series of images and sensations that capture the essence of the horses and their riders. This fragmentation creates a sense of fluidity and openness, as if the poem itself is in motion.


"White Horses" is a beautiful and evocative poem that celebrates the poetry of movement. Kipling's language is musical and rhythmic, and his imagery captures the power and grace of the horses. The poem's themes of motion, change, and harmony with nature make it a timeless work of art that continues to inspire readers today. Whether we see the white horses as symbols of freedom or simply as objects of beauty, their movement reminds us of the transience and beauty of life itself.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

White Horses: A Masterpiece by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling, the renowned English poet, novelist, and short-story writer, is known for his exceptional literary works that have stood the test of time. One of his most celebrated poems is "White Horses," which was first published in 1909. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of life and the inevitability of change. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and historical context.

The poem "White Horses" is a tribute to the beauty and power of nature. It describes the sight of white horses galloping along the seashore, leaving behind a trail of foam. The poem begins with the speaker's observation of the horses, which he describes as "the breath of the sea." The horses are a symbol of freedom and wildness, and their galloping is a reminder of the unstoppable force of nature.

The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker describes the horses as "the breath of the sea," which suggests that they are an integral part of the natural world. The horses are not just animals; they are a manifestation of the sea's power and beauty. The speaker also notes that the horses are "white as sea-froth," which emphasizes their connection to the sea. The horses' color is not just a physical attribute; it is a reflection of their environment.

In the second stanza, the speaker describes the horses' movements in more detail. He notes that they "gallop and toss and neigh," which suggests that they are full of energy and life. The horses' movements are also described as "wild," which emphasizes their untamed nature. The speaker also notes that the horses leave behind a trail of foam, which is a reminder of the sea's power. The foam is a symbol of the sea's constant movement and change, which is mirrored in the horses' galloping.

The third stanza of the poem is where the speaker begins to reflect on the horses' significance. He notes that the horses are "the spirits of the storm," which suggests that they are not just animals but also a manifestation of the sea's power. The horses are a symbol of the sea's wildness and unpredictability. The speaker also notes that the horses are "the souls that God sends," which suggests that they are a divine creation. The horses are not just a product of nature; they are also a reflection of God's power and beauty.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker reflects on the transience of life. He notes that the horses are "gone like the breath of the wind," which suggests that they are fleeting and ephemeral. The horses' galloping is a reminder that life is constantly changing and that nothing lasts forever. The speaker also notes that the horses are "lost like the light in the wave," which suggests that they are a part of the sea's constant movement and change. The horses are not just a symbol of life; they are also a reminder of its impermanence.

The fifth and final stanza of the poem is where the speaker reflects on the horses' beauty. He notes that the horses are "fair as the surf," which suggests that they are a part of the sea's beauty. The horses are not just wild and untamed; they are also a reflection of the sea's majesty. The speaker also notes that the horses are "white as the snow on the hills," which emphasizes their purity and innocence. The horses are not just a symbol of the sea's power; they are also a symbol of its beauty and grace.

The poem "White Horses" is a masterpiece of English literature. It captures the essence of life and the inevitability of change. The poem's themes of nature, transience, and beauty are universal and timeless. The poem's use of literary devices such as symbolism, metaphor, and imagery is masterful and adds depth and richness to the poem. The poem's historical context is also significant, as it was written during a time of great change and upheaval in the world.

In conclusion, "White Horses" is a poem that deserves to be celebrated and studied. It is a masterpiece of English literature that captures the essence of life and the beauty and power of nature. The poem's themes of transience, beauty, and nature are universal and timeless, and its use of literary devices is masterful. Rudyard Kipling's "White Horses" is a true masterpiece that will continue to inspire and captivate readers for generations to come.

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