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16 The Horse

hexagram-16-horse‘A HORSE CAN unseat a prince and get away with it, so long as the prince is neither
a child nor scared of his people.’

Never yet recorded, the closest secret is earthed when a rider dismounts:
it retreats to the columbarium of mysteries. Two riders who meet in a
hayloft may occasionally borrow that passion. No one sees the food pass, the
smuggled sugar lump, the muzzle’s heartbreaking nudge. Brimming with
poignant intelligence, the eye balances a tear on its melancholy shelf.

1st – The Dream Horse
Such was her yearning, she climbed through a hedge one day and leaped
bareback onto a pony, which threw her. Her treasured charm, a gift from
a groom, is a currycomb. Sometimes she’ll flare out her nostrils, whinny,
then jump over a log in the woods. ‘Stroke my mane. Bring me apples.’

2nd – The Wild Horse
On the interminable steppes, from the Urals to Mongolia, horses are
born of the lamenting wind. We conjure their ungainly grace, glimpsed
in a brutal fondness. The feral sparks off the wild with the farrier’s iron
dedication. Wild peace is one of our most cherished and distant dreams.

3rd – The Fearless Horse
Swimming is prescribed for a horse over-fattened on grass. There’s a
circular moat, the trainer on a small island. Nature is more extreme, with
terror a half-turn from the beach. Withers in foam show the mount heroic,
its rider more monstrous than the sea. War serves its baleful summons.

4th – The Pale Horse
All eyes are down for the rodeo of colour, the blessing in the litter of the
lost when a stallion mates with its daughters. The full chestnut paws the
ground; the weakling cremello weeps for its neural defects. And here’s
the palomino, yellow and white, fated accident, gold coin of the parade.

5th – The Industrial Horse
Circus buyers swarm around horses in poverty, boys in tears. So much
is wrong with this paddock of the desperate auction. Don’t imagine pit
ponies in sepia here. They were stabled underground, and only on certain
holidays blinked in the sun, the drunken village reeling all around.

6th – The Meat Horse
Wizards at their revels squeeze dung from intestines, to be stuffed with
fat and flesh – a yearling that baulked at its cab, a sadsack competing for
grain with men under siege. A tub of blood is left for the dogs. Such horse
magic has quit our shores – vanished on the hook or on the hoof.

All six – The Winged Horse
We’re unlikely to succumb to privilege: unless entranced, we withhold
our love. The hero is a professional in a loincloth, bred for celestial polo.
His horse has inherited galaxies. At first, however, it refuses to fly. One
word, whispered in its ear, breaks down its resistance: ‘Excelsior.’


Introduction to Six-Way Mirror | The Index of Hexagrams and Cantos


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