My brother, sister and I rode horses to primary school. The experience affected us differently. My sister still believes “four legs good, two legs bad” as a means of transport, while when my brother got a dairy farm he rounded up the cows on a motorbike rather than ever again have to get onto a horse (he regards horses as second-rate motorbikes). I was glad when I never had to ride a horse again; but when I meet one now, I am always struck by the fact that, though it is an alien creature, it is possible to have a relationship with it. It is not hard to believe that there is a connection between horses and gods throughout human history.

Some years ago, I wrote, or rather compiled, the poem below. The inspiration for it was the book The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery, by Richard Elliott Friedman. This remarkable book is in three parts. The first details how the Jewish scriptures (and the subsequent development of both rabbinical Judaism and Christianity) record the gradual withdrawal of God from human affairs. The second is a detailed account of the man who said “God is dead”, Friedrich Nietzsche, whose life and work imitated art (specifically that of Feodor Dostoevski) to a remarkable extent. The third and (to me) least satisfactory part compares the creation account in the Kabbalah with the Big Bang theory.

None of the words of the poem were written by me. The first stanza is from Friedman’s book; the remainder, in some sense a commentary on the book, interweaves words by Dostoevski from Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Patti Smith from Horses, Pete Townshend from Horse’s Neck, and Jim Morrison from Horse Latitudes. If this encourages you to read their words, I will be content.


Nietzsche ran to the horse,
put his arms around its neck,
passed out,
and was never

This is a gift from God


very beautiful horses …
being unable to do without them

Then suddenly
across the shining strip
of surf-glazed beach

the sound of horses
splashing and thudding on the sand


Legs furiously pumping
their stiff green gallop

in mute nostril agony

The terrified animal
was running
in a mindless circle

The horse’s fetlocks were bleeding
its body slowly starving

Pure white like a death mask

This is a gift from God

The horse is beautiful.
Its mane is flowing and clean,
its coat brushed and smooth.

I walk behind the creature
and, brushing aside the tail,
slide deeply into it.

he drove it in
he drove it home
he drove it deep

It bares its teeth once again
and then licks my cheek.


God is dead.

“Whip her, whip her!
Why are you stopping?”

In his fury
he no longer even knows
what to hit his beast with

and reaches for a long heavy shaft
at the bottom of the wagon

He sees it get whipped
on the eyes,
on the eyes!

The eyes
of a horse

He takes the bloody head
into his hands
and kisses it,
kisses it
on the eyes,
on the lips

That was all his answer

The lips
of a horse

“She’s dead”
someone in the crowd shouts

and kisses the little grave

and he wakes up.

God is dead.

but the movie kept moving as planned

started crashing his head
against the locker

he’s been surrounded by


“Can’t you show me nothing but surrender?”

Good God, can it be?

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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1 Response to Horses

  1. GMHurley says:

    Hello Peter

    Something you might like, if you’ve not come across it before (from Browning’s “Artemis prologizes”)

    Poseidon heard, ai ai! And scarce the prince
    Had stepped into the fixed boots of the car
    That give the feet a stay against the strength
    Of the Henetian horses, and around
    His body flung the rein, and urged their speed
    Along the rocks and shingles at the shore,
    When from the gaping wave a monster flung
    His obscene body in the coursers’ path.
    These, mad with terror, as the sea-bull sprawled
    Wallowing about their feet, lost care of him
    That reared them; and the master-chariot-pole
    Snapping beneath their plunges like a reed,
    Hippolutos, whose feet were trammelled fast,
    Was yet dragged forward by the circling rein
    Which either hand directed; nor they quenched
    The frenzy of their flight before each trace,
    Wheel-spoke and splinter of the woful car,
    Each boulder-stone, sharp stub and spiny shell,
    Huge fish-bone wrecked and wreathed amid the sands
    On that detested beach, was bright with blood
    And morsels of his flesh; then fell the steeds
    Head foremost, crashing in their mooned fronts,
    Shivering with sweat, each white eye horror-fixed.

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