The poem depicts an early morning horse ride.
At the beginning of the poem, the persona and the horse are completely still. The poem opens with an absence of movement and light, shown in the opening line “stasis in darkness”. This represents the seconds of calm anticipation in the stillness of night before the ride begins.
After these seconds of stillness, the poet creates a rapid sense of movement. The poem describes the horse ride in great detail. This begins in the second line: "Then the substanceless blue." The horse gallops at great speed, frightening the persona.
The persona describes how the land rushes past her, as she gets glimpses of ploughed grass and black berries flashing past. During this process, the persona feels disconnected from the real world. She hears everyday sounds, such as a crying child, but is moving so quickly that these sounds become blurred. The rider compares herself to an arrow to emphasise how quickly and frantically the horse is moving.
The poem ends with the horse continuing to run, at great speed, towards the rising sun. (“The red eye, the cauldron of morning.”) This poem does not have a positive conclusion, but I charged with action and suspense that is not resolved.
Overall, the poem portrays a horse ride that began in the early hours of the morning while the world is still dark and continues into sunrise. The poem does not present this morning ride as a calm or enjoyable experience, rather, it is frantic, terrifying and characterised by a rapid sense of action.
This poem was based on a real life experience. Once, when Plath was enjoying her weekly ride at dawn, the horse bolted, the stirrups fell off, and she was clinging to the horse’s neck. This frightening experience clearly inspired the events of the poem.