The White Horse by D.H. Lawrence

‘The White Horse’  is one of D.H. Lawrence’s shortest poems. But, at only three lines long it is still able to explore themes of solitude, animal/human relationships, and silence. The mood and tone are both subdued in these lines. Lawrence describes the interaction with clear language that leaves nothing, and yet everything, to the imagination. 

 

Summary of The White Horse

‘The White Horse’ by D.H. Lawrence is a very short, powerful poem that depicts an interaction between a young man and a horse. 

The poem describes a youth, a white horse, and how the two exist in their own world. The young man puts a halter on the horse and they look at one another quietly, then, the poem ends. In the brief lines of ‘The White Horse,’ a reader has to determine the nature of this interaction, what happened before the first line of the poem, and what is going to happen after.

 

Structure of The White Horse 

The White Horse’ by D.H. Lawrence is a single-stanza poem that contains three lines. These lines are unrhymed and they do not conform to a specific metrical pattern. They also vary in length with the first line containing the most words and the second line containing the least. The lines are a brief description of an interaction about which the reader must make assumptions if they want to know more. 

 

Poetic Techniques in The White Horse

Despite its brevity Lawrence makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘The White Horse’. These include, but are not limited to, alliteration, enjambment, personification, and imagery. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “horse” and “halter” in line one. 

Sibilance is another technique at play in ‘The White Horse’. It is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For example, “silence,” “so,” and “silent” in lines two and three. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines one and two.A reader has to move down to the second line to find out what happens after the youth puts the horse’s “halter on”. 

Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. For example, in the second line, the poet says that the horse looked at the youth “in silence,” as if the horse can make a choice about how his looks are perceived. 

 

Analysis of The White Horse

Line 1

The youth walks up to the white horse, to put its halter on

In the first line of ‘The White Horse,’ which is the longest at thirteen words, the speaker introduces the main action of the poem. There is a young man, he walks up to the horse and puts its “halter on”. A halter is a piece of equipment that goes around the horse’s nose and the back of its hard. It is there to help the rider control where the animal goes and how quickly. 

Due to the fact that this poem is so short, each word takes on increased meaning. Take the words “youth” and “white” for example. The colour white is usually a symbol of purity or innocence. This makes a lot of sense considering that it is paired with “youth”. Both the horse and the youth have these traits in common. Then, when the youth puts the halter on the horse, he takes control of it. This symbol might relate back to the youth’s own life. Perhaps by exerting control over the horse, the youth is taking command of the one thing he’s able to. 

 

Line 2 

and the horse looks at him in silence.

The second line is the shortest of the three, at only eight words. Here, the poet uses personification to depict the horse. It, like the youth, has agency. It looks at him “in silence”. This silence feels knowing as if the horse understands what the halter is for and what it symbolizes for them both. 

 

Line 3

They are so silent, they are in another world.

The final line of the poem reunites the two in a metal plane of existence. Just as they both have elements of innocence and youth, they are both silent. They are “so silent,” Lawrence says. It is a silence that goes beyond what is normal. There is no need, even if the horse could understand, for them to communicate with words. Together they are existing in “another world,” one that is separate from the normal. It is unclear whether or not this is a welcoming or foreboding world. That is up to the reader to decide. 

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