'To canter with the Sagitarre': Burns, Byron and the equestrian sublime

Leask, N.J. (2011) 'To canter with the Sagitarre': Burns, Byron and the equestrian sublime. Byron Journal, 39(2), pp. 117-133. (doi:10.3828/bj.2011.17)

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Abstract

Concentrating on manifestations of the 'equestrian sublime' in the work of Burns and Byron, and especially in 'Tam o'Shanter' and Mazeppa, this essay suggests that while both poets use the 'wild ride' as a metaphor for liberty, their horses acquire a life beyond serving as metaphors for the difficult relationship between reason and passion, culture and nature. Byron's Mazeppa is the more elaborate in refining a moral lesson: Mazeppa learns a middle course between wildness and repression, manifest in the care he lavishes on his well-trained steed. Burns's 'Tam o'Shanter' remains 'whaur extremes meet', its human protagonist a feckless creature compared to his 'noble Maggie', and the poem employs the civilised pleasures of imagination to defy the supernatural interdictions of Calvinism. Nevertheless, the abiding image of both poems is not so much the hard-won wisdom of riderly experience as the frisson of the 'wild ride' itself. It was this that so enthralled the nineteenth-century public and ensured the enduring popularity of these two equestrian poems.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Leask, Professor Nigel
Authors: Leask, N.J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies
Journal Name:Byron Journal
ISSN:0301-7257
ISSN (Online):1757-0263

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