“Ode to the Horse” by Ronald Duncan

“Ode to the Horse” by Ronald Duncan

(Poem @ Ronald Duncan Estate. Painting “The Horse Fair” by Rosa Bonheur 1883-1885)

The Horse

Where in this wide world can
man find nobility without pride,
friendship without envy or beauty
without vanity? Here, where
grace is laced with muscle, and
strength by gentleness confined.

He serves without servility; he has
fought without enmity. There is
nothing so powerful, nothing less
violent, there is nothing so quick,
nothing more patient.

England’s past has been borne on
his back. All our history is his
industry; we are his heirs; he
our inheritance.

– Ronald Duncan (1954) (lived 1914-1982)

“The horse is, like man, the most beautiful and most miserable of creatures, only, in the case of man, it is vice or property that makes him ugly. He is responsible for his own decadence, while the horse is only a slave.” Rosa Bonheur (lived 1822-1899)



  1. Jo James
    May 19, 2023 / 11:03 PM

    I met Ronald Duncan’s daughter yesterday, the very talented sculpturer, Briony Lawson and I bought a card that had the poem written by her father there. What a talented family and the poem optimises the role that the horse has in our lives. Beautiful poem for a beautiful creature.

    • Kip
      May 20, 2023 / 11:47 AM

      Thanks so much for your comment, it really is a powerful poem isn’t it? I didn’t know about Briony and just looked her up, what an interesting style she has. Thanks for bringing her to our attention!

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