The Centaur

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A Childhood Revisited In May Swenson's poem "The Centaur," various elements of imagery, language, point of view, and structure convey great meaning in the poem. Imagery and language depict the playful, imaginative nature of a child. Similarly, point of view and structure illustrate the joyous, carefree thoughts and feelings associated with childhood. Various examples of imagery demonstrate Swenson's recollection of a memorable, aesthetic childhood experience. The poet remembers a time when she would play with an imaginary "fresh horse" (l. 6) out of her fictional stables. In the poem, Swenson arrives at a "willow grove" (l. 7) and metaphorically carves her fictional horse out of a branch, with the aid of her "brother's jack-knife." (l. 10) These images illustrate the carefree innocence of a child who believes her fictional horse is real. In addition, when she finishes carving out her horse, the simile "like the mane..." (l. 30) compares Swenson's hair to that of a horse's mane flopping in the wind. This image intertwines the poet and the horse into one being, demonstrating her imaginative escape from the real world. Furthermore, the personification "I was the horse" (l. 38) emphasizes Swenson's inability to detach her human qualities from the horse. This image continues the poet's gradual immersion into her fantasy; she begins to think and act as a Centaur. Correspondingly, various examples of language underscore Swenson's imaginative childhood fantasy of becoming a Centaur. When Swenson first arrives at the old canal, she brings her "two bare feet" (l. 9) along. This realistic diction provides perspective into the habits of a playful, lighthearted ten-year-old girl. Later in the poem, her "forelock [swings] in [her] eyes." (l. 31) Furthermore, her neck becomes arched and her mouth snorts as a horse would. These choices of words imply Swenson to be a carefree child living her fantasy to the fullest; she has no interest in any of the mundane matters surrounding her life. She also describes her "head and neck" (l. 27) as being in the shape of a horse. This diction further emphasizes the innocent aspects of Swenson's behavior; she believes the horse and her have become one. In addition, various points of view accent a child's carefree abandonment for her real world situation. Swenson is unable to distinguish fact from faction. For instance, the poet believes she can "[shy], [skitter], and [rear]," (l. 33) as if she's a horse. She has the point of view that she and the horse are a single corporeal being, with her hooves beating a "gallop along the bank." (l. 42) Moreover, Swenson feels a "twanging in [her] mane" (l. 43) as she and the horse ride across the field. However, when the poet returns home to mother, she begins to differentiate reality from fantasy, albeit slightly. She tethers her horse "to a paling" ( l. 50) and begins to explain herself to mother. When her mother presses for answers, Swenson still maintains her fantasy and answers as if she had been riding on a real horse. This demonstrates the continuous carefree, thoughts and feelings of a little girl trying to maintain her means of escape from reality. Finally, the structure of "The Centaur" enables the imaginative, carefree thoughts of a little girl acting out a fantasy to be depicted realistically. The poem is written in free verse, without rhyme. This allows the poem to sound as a narrative, and avoid the monotonous repetition of rhyme. For example, the poet recollects in a rhetorical question that there was only one summer when "[she] was ten" (l. 3) The use of enjambment accompanied in tercets further adds to the narrative effect of Swenson's fantastical illusions. After the poet ar

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