This Poem is hard to get a handle on because it is so short and straightforward. It uses very powerful imagery and emotion. It provides a very vivid scene including sight and sound. At one point the poem describes the sound of steel on stones as the reapers sharpen their scythes to mow, and then a few lines later describes silence as they swing their scythes through the weeds and grass. The poem invokes sight when describing black reapers, black horses, and the blood-stained blade. The poem also deals a lot with action, power, and physicality. It describes sharpening the blades, swinging blades, horses DRIVING a mower through the weeds, a field rat being startled as he is cut through, squeeling and bleeding, the rat's belly being close to the ground. The scene is so dramatic and deals with so many feelings and senses, but is written in a way that is so cold and emotionless. The reapers just keep on swinging their blades and go on working.
I found it interesting that the reapers and the horses, who were doing all of the work in the poem, (which would probably not be considered very prestigious jobs) were both black. This could be interpreted as a racial theme. I am wondering when this poem was written. I believe the publication of the book was after the era of the progressives and muckrackers, but I thought this poem could have been interpreted as a story of the plight of the working man in this era and how workers seemed to be treated as mere machines without feeling or emotion who would keep working in the name of production no matter what happened. Maybe this was a call for more humane treatment of workers, especially African-Americans in this case.