“A Blessing” by James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
James Wright composes “A Blessing,” by introducing a narrator who recalls a memory about an experience he had with a friend on a trip around Rochester, Minnesota. On this trip, the narrator and his friend encounter two Indian ponies, one of which appears to make a pronounced impact on the narrator. Rather than describe what the scenery may look like or how his friend is feeling about the trip, the narrator instantly speaks of the ponies and continues to speak of them for the remainder of the poem. However, “A Blessing” leaves many questions to be asked. Why does James Wright decide to only sex one of the two ponies his narrator encounters? Why does he fluctuate between the physical and the mental, which divides the themes in his poem? What does Wright try to accomplish by packing “A Blessing” with alliteration, assonance, and consonance? Is there any identity to be found within his carefully placed lines and what does the reader take away from the varying tenses throughout Wright’s poem? Wright fills several lines of “A Blessing” with assonance to create varieties of structure for his poem. Wright believes that the moment between his narrator and the ponies is precious and delicate. Therefore, he used one stanza to craft his poem because he does not want to interrupt their meeting. If the poem would have been constructed into varying stanzas, the poem would be broken rather than one conscious thought or action. By keeping the poem as one stanza the narrator’s interaction with the ponies is untouched. It is kept whole and beautiful. The structure of the poem is a direct comparison to the spiritual relationship between the narrator and the ponies. Wright begins with this delicate theme with the soft “o” sound in “softly” and “ponies” in lines two and three. The soft sound connects softly and ponies and by doing so sets the scene for the reader that the kindness the ponies display to the narrator and his friend is the beginning of the impact they make on the narrator. Wright provides textual evidence of this compassion by telling the readers, “And the eyes of the two Indian ponies / Darken with kindness” (3-4). Wright continues with alliteration in lines five through eight with the “w” at the beginning of “willow,” “welcome,” “we,” “wire,” and “where.” When spoken aloud, the repetition of the “w” sounds like the snorting a horse makes, which can be displayed as a greeting towards the narrator and his friend. The alliteration continues in lines nine through twelve with repetition of the “th” sound in “they,” “that,” “there,” and “theirs.” The “th” sounds like the thumping on the ground of the pony's hooves while they move towards the narrator. The movement of the ponies is a sign of openness and welcome. Nearing the end of the poem, Wright comes back to the “o” sound again in “forehead,” long,” and “over.” This sound softens the moment between the female pony and the narrator. This distinction helps the reader comprehend the intimacy the narrator feels with the...
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