Ryder's In the Stable / Lawrence's White Horse
Discussion points / questions / activities
- In Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Kenneth Koch uses "The White Horse" by D.H. Lawrence to have students write their own poem focusing on quiet and silent objects and moments / experiences. He asks students to "write a poem about the quietest things, or experiences, you can think of. You can put one quiet thing in every line, or make the whole poem about only one of them. Lawrence suggests that silence is like another world because it is as though you were away from the regular world, where everyone and everything make noise all the time, and were more in your own dreams. If you wish, you can make your poem about what a strange effect the silence has, or about how it makes you feel--[for instance,] "The snow falling on a snowman is so quiet it makes them both invisible..." "Thinking about my friend makes me feel quiet, as if I were walking all alone through space..." (p. 243).
- In his later anthology Sleeping on the Wing, Koch offers a vivid analysis of the experience of the poem: "D.H Lawrence often writes as if the things he was looking at--birds, animals, trees, flowers--were clues to some great mystery of life, as if by being like them or following them or being lost in them he could have some kind of extreme experience, could be closer to what life is all about...Have you felt--when you were reading, listening to music, or looking at something--that there was a mystery that you were just at the beginning of finding out about, , and that what you were reading, hearing, or seeing was a special clue, meant perhaps, for you alone? That's something like what Lawrence [feels]...He finds a great beauty and truth in darkness, freedom, passion, silence, earthiness, and aloneness. These are things he likes and talks of in so many of his poems and thinks that people need more of in their lives. The way people live now, Lawrence thinks, is mechanical, superficial, and dead. So, many of Lawrence's poems are about the awareness of another world, which Lawrence gets from certain qualities of creatures, such as the quiet nobility of the white horse.
- "Lawrence called his poems 'acts of attention.' Writing them, he seems to have concentrated on his subjects with enormous intensity, as if what he was looking at or thinking of and writing about were the only thing in the world...It is as though he were finding the truth--or, you could say, the power and excitement, the dark mystery--that was hidden in these things" (157-158).
- Ask students if 'dark mystery' is also a fitting description of Ryder's In the Stable.
- Lawrence's poem is clearly one of silence and stillness. Can the same be said for Ryder's In the Stable? What in Ryder's painting suggests silence?
- Ask students about sound-color associations: In "The White Horse", the color White seems to suggest / connote silence. You could ask students if it suggests 'silence' to them, too. Students can write poems about colors that make them feel quiet, and colors that seem noisy and loud to them, or any other emotion (or experience) paired with colors. Have students write the name of a color in each line, as well as a few emotions or experiences that they feel fit the color in that same line. Encourage students not to be afraid to feel out-of-the-box with their color associations, as long as it's an honest association. Students can also focus on just one color for an entire poem if they wish.
- Connect the poem and the painting to tenets of Romanticism. Which specific elements of Romanticism are emphasized in each?