Throughout this piece, Lawrence demonstrates his incredible skill with language and imagery. The final twenty-line stanza serves as a memorable conclusion to a poem that is filled with deep layers of meaning. Readers are likely to walk away from ‘Love on the Farm’ with vastly different experiences under their belt or even interpretations of its meaning.
Love on the Farm D.H. LawrenceWhat large, dark hands are those at the windowLifted, grasping the golden lightWhich weaves its way through the creeper leaves To my heart’s delight?Ah, only the leaves! But in the west,In the west I see a redness comeOver the evening’s burning breast-- --’Tis the wound of love goes home!The woodbine creeps abroad Calling low to her lover: The sun-lit flirt who all the day Has poised above her lips in play And stolen kisses, shallow and gay Of pollen, now has gone away --She woos the moth with her sweet, low word, And when above her his broad wings hover Then her bright breast she will uncover And yield her honey-drop to her lover.Into the yellow, evening glow Saunters a man from the farm below, Leans, and looks in at the low-built shed Where hangs the swallow’s marriage bed. The bird lies warm against the wall. She glances quick her startled eyes Towards him, then she turns away Her small head, making warm display Of red upon the throat. His terrors sway Her out of the nest’s warm, busy ball, Whose plaintive cry is heard as she flies In one blue stoop from out the sties Into the evening’s empty hall.Oh, water-hen, beside the rushesHide your quaint, unfading blushes,Still your quick tail, and lie as dead,Till the distance folds over his ominous tread.The rabbit presses back her ears,Turns back her liquid, anguished eyesAnd crouches low: then with wild springSpurts from the terror of _his_ oncomingTo be choked back, the wire ringHer frantic effort throttling: Piteous brown ball of quivering fears!Ah soon in his large, hard hands she dies,And swings all loose to the swing of his walk.Yet calm and kindly are his eyesAnd ready to open in brown surpriseShould I not answer to his talkOr should he my tears surmise.I hear his hand on the latch, and rise from my chairWatching the door open: he flashes bareHis strong teeth in a smile, and flashes his eyesIn a smile like triumph upon me; then careless-wiseHe flings the rabbit soft on the table boardAnd comes towards me: ah, the uplifted swordOf his hand against my bosom, and oh, the broadBlade of his hand that raise my face to applaudHis coming: he raises up my face to himAnd caresses my mouth with his fingers, which still smell grimOf the rabbit’s fur! God, I am caught in a snare!I know not what fine wire is round my throat,I only know I let him finger thereMy pulse of life, letting him nose like a stoatWho sniffs with joy before he drinks the blood:And down his mouth comes to my mouth, and downHis dark bright eyes descend like a fiery hoodUpon my mind: his mouth meets mine, and a floodOf sweet fire sweeps across me, so I drownWithin him, die, and find death good.
Explore Love on the Farm
‘Love on the Farm’ by D.H. Lawrence is a beautiful and powerful poem that describes some of the many elements of life and death observable on a farm.
In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by describing the setting sun and a foreboding presence outside their window. They go on to describe a honeysuckle plant seeking out her lover, a bird’s marriage bed, and a shed. They speak on the movement of a farmer and a rabbit caught in a snare. As the poem comes to its conclusion, death, or an unnamed and loosely described predator, comes for the speaker themselves.
Structure and Form
‘Love on the Farm’ by D.H. Lawrence is an eight-stanza poem that is divided into uneven stanzas. The first stanza has four lines, the second: four, and third: ten, the fourth: thirteen, the fifth: four, the sixth: seven, the seventh: six, and the eighth stanza is the longest with twenty lines.
Throughout ‘Love on the Farm,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions that appeal to the readers senses. These lines should allow the reader to easily visualize the subject matter the poet is describing. For example: “The woodbine creeps abroad / Calling low to her lover.”
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet uses the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, the use of “burning breast” in stanza two and “creeps” and “Calling” in stanza three.
- Enjambment: it occurs when the poet cuts off a line before the natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza and lines two and three of the second stanza.
- Juxtaposition: can be seen when the poet features two contrasting images near one another in a poem. For example in the first stanza when the poet mentions “dark hands” and the “grasping…golden light.”
What large, dark hands are those at the window
Lifted, grasping the golden light
Which weaves its way through the creeper leaves
To my heart’s delight?
In the poem’s first lines, the speaker begins by asking a four-line question. He asks what “dark hands are those at the window?” They lifted the “golden light” that moves through the “creeper leaves.” The phrase “creeper leaves” refers to a specific type of plant that is growing outside the speaker’s window. It appears in these first lines that the speaker is expecting something dark and mysterious outside their window. They are unsure what it is at this point, but the second stanza reveals more information.
Ah, only the leaves! But in the west,
In the west I see a redness come
Over the evening’s burning breast–
–’Tis the wound of love goes home!
The speaker reveals that outside their window there is, in fact, “only the leaves.” But, this does not end the tension of the poem. In fact, the same line demonstrates the use of caesura, revealing that there is more to be concerned about. The speaker uses the word “but” to immediately inform the reader that there’s more to come. In the west, they see a “redness come.” This feels like a dark omen, one that can only mean that something bad is going to happen or has happened.
The speaker calls the sun setting (in the west) “the wound of love goes home.” There is something dark but also familiar about this image. By speaking about the sun this way, the poet is immediately alluding to something cyclical. With an understanding of the rest of the poem, it’s interesting to compare the images of death, hunting, and dominance that present themselves to this image of the setting sun.
The woodbine creeps abroad
Calling low to her lover:
The sun-lit flirt who all the day
Has poised above her lips in play
And stolen kisses, shallow and gay
Of pollen, now has gone away
–She woos the moth with her sweet, low word,
And when above her his broad wings hover
Then her bright breast she will uncover
And yield her honey-drop to her lover.
There is a wonderful example of personification at the beginning of the third stanza as the speaker describes the “woodbine.” This is a name that can be used to describe several types of honeysuckle. It “creeps abroad.” The speaker also describes it as calling “low to her lover.” The poet is imbuing a nonsentient or conscience plant with the ability to love and seek.
The next few lines suggest that the “lover” that the honeysuckle is looking for is, in fact, a moth. The honeysuckle calls to the moth with her “sweet, low word.” The moth hovers above, inspiring her to “uncover” her breast. This is a sensual image that again plays into the idea that within this natural scene, the cyclical process of life, reproduction, and death is playing out. All of these things are right outside the speaker’s window.
Into the yellow, evening glow
Saunters a man from the farm below,
Leans, and looks in at the low-built shed
Where hangs the swallow’s marriage bed.
The bird lies warm against the wall.
She glances quick her startled eyes
Towards him, then she turns away
Her small head, making warm display
Of red upon the throat. His terrors sway
Her out of the nest’s warm, busy ball,
Whose plaintive cry is heard as she flies
In one blue stoop from out the sties
Into the evening’s empty hall.
‘Love on the Farm‘ transitions away from the image of the honeysuckle to a new one in the fourth stanza. Now, the speaker describes a man walking “from the farm below” into the yellow glow of the evening. He looks into the shed and notes the “swallows marriage bed.” This is another great example of personification that is also sexual in nature.
The farmer observes the bird in her nest, who cries out as she flies out into the “evening’s empty hall.” This is a transitionary part of the poem that connects humanity and non-human nature to life and death in an equal manner.
Oh, water-hen, beside the rushes
Hide your quaint, unfading blushes,
Still your quick tail, and lie as dead,
Till the distance folds over his ominous tread.
There is an example of an apostrophe at the beginning of the fifth stanza. The speaker addresses the “water-hen” despite this creature’s inability to hear or understand the words. The speaker tells this passive and peaceful creature to hide her “unfading blushes.” This is likely a reference to the creature’s colors (mentioned in relation to the bird in the shed in the previous stanza as well).
In the last line of the fifth stanza, the speaker refers to “his ominous thread.” This is a predator, someone or something stalking through the farm. The speaker tells the water-hen to play dead until this being, death itself, passes over.
The rabbit presses back her ears,
Turns back her liquid, anguished eyes
And crouches low: then with wild spring
Spurts from the terror of _his_ oncoming
To be choked back, the wire ring
Her frantic effort throttling:
Piteous brown ball of quivering fears!
The next stanza features another creature – a rabbit. The speaker describes how the rabbit presses back her ears and crouches low. These are clear signs that the rabbit is afraid. She springs away from oncoming death but is “choked back.” She’s trapped, and her attempts to escape only make things worse.
The poet describes the rabbit as a “prettiest brown ball of quivering fears!” This is an evocative use of imagery that helps convey a general sense of what it’s like, for a rabbit, bird, or any living being, to encounter death and the fear that proceeds it.
Ah soon in his large, hard hands she dies,
And swings all loose to the swing of his walk.
Yet calm and kindly are his eyes
And ready to open in brown surprise
Should I not answer to his talk
Or should he my tears surmise.
The next stanza begins with a description of how in his “hard hands, she dies.” As he, a hunter (perhaps meant to be the farmer mentioned in a previous stanza) and the embodiment of death, walks, the rabbit swings loosely. Despite the darkness of this image, his eyes are “calm and kindly.” He’s in some ways considerate. It’s interesting to compare this image of death, no matter the form is taken, to Emily Dickinson’s depiction of death as a kind, considerate gentleman in ‘Because I could not stop for Death.’
I hear his hand on the latch, and rise from my chair
Watching the door open: he flashes bare
His strong teeth in a smile, and flashes his eyes
In a smile like triumph upon me; then careless-wise
He flings the rabbit soft on the table board
And comes towards me: ah, the uplifted sword
Of his hand against my bosom, and oh, the broad
Blade of his hand that raise my face to applaud
His coming: he raises up my face to him
And caresses my mouth with his fingers, which still smell grim
Of the rabbit’s fur! God, I am caught in a snare!
In the first part of the eighth stanza, this image of death encounters the speaker. The lines are quite long in the stanza, appearing more like prose than verse. The farmer/grim reaper–like image walks in the door and smiles at the speaker. It’s a smile of “triumph.”
He has entered into the home, as he will into everyone’s home, and lift the sword towards the speaker. In describing this action, the speaker inserts colloquial words like “oh” and “ah.” This gives the poem a conversational-like feeling and makes it feel more like the speaker is telling a story.
The man/image of death raises his blade to the speaker and lifts their face to his. The fingers he touches the speaker with still “smell grim / Of the rabbit’s fur!” This is a terrifying collection of sensory images that should capture the reader’s attention in a unique way.
While the previous stanzas were far more lyrical and ephemeral, this final stanza is incredibly physical. The man’s acts are playing out around this first-person narrator in a way that is personal. The speaker is now “caught in a snare” in the same way that the rabbit was in the previous stanza. This is once again a reference to the universality of death for all beings. It comes for birds, plants, animals, and human beings alike.
I know not what fine wire is round my throat,
I only know I let him finger there
My pulse of life, letting him nose like a stoat
Who sniffs with joy before he drinks the blood:
And down his mouth comes to my mouth, and down
His dark bright eyes descend like a fiery hood
Upon my mind: his mouth meets mine, and a flood
Of sweet fire sweeps across me, so I drown
Within him, die, and find death good.
The final lines are some of the best in the poem. The speaker knows, vaguely, what is happening to them. There is a wire around their throat that they are, in some ways, allowing it to be there. The pulse of their life is flowing out of them as death sniffs “with joy before he drinks the blood.” This predator feeds off the life of the speaker.
Again, there’s a great deal of sensuality in these death-related images. Their mouths come together, and a “flood of sweet fire sweeps across me.” The speaker is consumed by this predatory force, but not in a way that strikes fear into their heart. Instead, they die within this person and “find death good.” Powerful final lines conclude the poem in an incredibly satisfying way.
The speaker dies, as all things die while reminding readers of previous images and feelings. For example, the burning of the sun in the first stanzas is related to the burning fire in these last lines.
The themes that work in this poem are those of death and passion. Sex and the liveliness of experience are also important parts of the poem. Each element is used in relation to various types of life on the farm.
Lawrence wrote this poem in order to speak on the wide array of experiences that can be observed on a farm or within everyday life—wherever living beings exist.
The meaning is that all living beings are united in their experience of life and death. Throughout this intense poem, Lawrence interweaves images of love, life, sex, fear, and death. They are experienced by birds, plants, bugs, a rabbit, and then finally, the human narrator.
The speaker could be anyone. While their experience feels personal in the final stanza, Lawrence wrote their perspective in a way that is relatable to all readers. For most of the poem, they describe things happening around them. But, in the end, they are themselves the subject of the same predation, sensuality, and death as the other living creatures in the poem.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Love on the Farm’ should also consider reading some other D.H. Lawrence poems. For example:
- ‘Beautiful Old Age’ – imagines a world in which old age is revered and hoped for.
- ‘A Winter’s Tale’ – tells the story of two lovers parting in the woods on a dark, winter day. The speaker loves the person he’s meeting but is also distressed by that fact.
- ‘Discord in Childhood’ – compares a domestic conflict with a storm raging outside the home.