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20160327

A group of survivors rebuild their lives on a small island that's been spared from global nuclear apocalypse, "the seven days war that put the world to sleep". They've turned their backs on technology. Tractors, abandoned in fields, turn to rust; radios sit silent and ignored in the houses.

Then, late one evening, the islanders hear hooves on the road. Strange horses arrive from nowhere, "stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent/ By an old command to find our whereabouts". They offer themselves in service to the humans, to bear loads and pull their ploughs, restoring a lost relationship between man and beast.

Edwin Muir's career was bookended by two poems with almost the same title - 'Horses' and 'The Horses' - and these two poems encapsulate Muir's life and work. 'Horses' was published in his debut collection in 1925 and evokes Muir's childhood home on the tiny island of Wyre in Orkney. 'The Horses', his post-apocalyptic fable, comes from his final collection published in 1956. Yet both poems highlight the same theme: a lost paradise.

In this programme Kenneth Steven visits Wyre to explore the fears and dreams Muir distilled into those two poems. At the age of fourteen, Muir was forced to leave Orkney as his father sought work in Glasgow. The shock of encountering Glasgow, in his eyes an industrial Hell, had a profound effect on him. Worse still, his parents and his two brothers died in quick succession within a few years of moving to the city. Muir saw Glasgow as part of a fallen world and it brought about a breakdown from which he never fully recovered.

This programme is the story of Edwin Muir's Orkney, real and imagined, and how it came to symbolise the lost Eden which was the recurring theme throughout his work. Kenneth Steven visits Wyre and Glasgow to unravel the two Horses poems and, through them, Edwin Muir's life. Kenneth talks to poets, theologians and a psychologist. And we hear the voices of Orkney - including Muir's childhood home on the island of Wyre - reading his masterpiece, The Horses.

Presenter: Kenneth Steven

Reader: Paul Young

Producer: Jeremy Grange.

A group of survivors rebuild their lives on a small island that's been spared from global nuclear apocalypse, "the seven days war that put the world to sleep". They've turned their backs on technology. Tractors, abandoned in fields, turn to rust; radios sit silent and ignored in the houses.

Then, late one evening, the islanders hear hooves on the road. Strange horses arrive from nowhere, "stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent/ By an old command to find our whereabouts". They offer themselves in service to the humans, to bear loads and pull their ploughs, restoring a lost relationship between man and beast.

Edwin Muir's career was bookended by two poems with almost the same title - 'Horses' and 'The Horses' - and these two poems encapsulate Muir's life and work. 'Horses' was published in his debut collection in 1925 and evokes Muir's childhood home on the tiny island of Wyre in Orkney. 'The Horses', his post-apocalyptic fable, comes from his final collection published in 1956. Yet both poems highlight the same theme: a lost paradise.

In this programme Kenneth Steven visits Wyre to explore the fears and dreams Muir distilled into those two poems. At the age of fourteen, Muir was forced to leave Orkney as his father sought work in Glasgow. The shock of encountering Glasgow, in his eyes an industrial Hell, had a profound effect on him. Worse still, his parents and his two brothers died in quick succession within a few years of moving to the city. Muir saw Glasgow as part of a fallen world and it brought about a breakdown from which he never fully recovered.

This programme is the story of Edwin Muir's Orkney, real and imagined, and how it came to symbolise the lost Eden which was the recurring theme throughout his work. Kenneth Steven visits Wyre and Glasgow to unravel the two Horses poems and, through them, Edwin Muir's life. Kenneth talks to poets, theologians and a psychologist. And we hear the voices of Orkney - including Muir's childhood home on the island of Wyre - reading his masterpiece, The Horses.

Presenter: Kenneth Steven

Reader: Paul Young

Producer: Jeremy Grange.