‘Winter-Lull’ by D.H. Lawrence is a four stanza poem which is separated into sets of five lines, or quintets. Each of these quintets follows a consistent and structured rhyme of ababa. The end rhymes alternate as the poem progresses but the pattern stays the same.
A reader should also notice Lawrence’s choice to change the indentions. The indented lines correspond with the end rhyme, or more simply, all of the “b” lines are indented and the “a” lines aren’t.
One should also take note of the fact that the “a” lines are consistently longer than the “b” lines. This has been done in an effort to control one’s reading speed. One is forced to pause at the end of the “b” line before moving on to the next “a” line. This is only emphasized by the blank spaced caused by the indention.
Summary of Winter-Lull
The poem begins with the speaker stating there is fresh snow on the ground and falling through the air. Everything around him and his men, who are huddled in a trench, is silent. There is no sound of gunfire, nor anything to draw their attention away from the silence. This is not a good thing. They are in constant expectation of the battle resuming but have no idea when that will be.
In the second half of the poem, the speaker describes how the snow is acting to conceal the reality of their situation. It is covering the field and the ruins, taking away the truth of their existence. He feels as if he and the men who are fighting alongside him are bound to remain forever in this silence, or in the silence of death.
Analysis of Winter-Lull
Because of the silent snow, we are all hushed
No sound of guns, nor overhead no rushed
Vibration to draw
Our attention out of the void wherein we are crushed.
In the first stanza of Winter-Lull’, the speaker begins by stating that he, and those around him, are standing outside. From just the first line one is able to interpret a few facts about the setting. It is a snowy day, and the speaker is away from the city. It is “silent[ly] snow[ing].”
Everyone who is gathered around the speaker is “hushed / Into awe.” It is clear that all the viewers of this scene appreciate, in one way or another, the moment. One might question at this point why it is, at this particular time, that the sight of the snow is so poignant.
The next section gives the reader many more details about the situation and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The silence is so poignant at this particular moment because there is…
No sound of guns,
There is nothing “overhead” the speaker and his fellow soldiers that draws their attention away from this moment. The next line darkens the mood further by stating that the men are in a “void” in which they are being “crushed.” The snow is just a detail in a much more complicated scene. These men who are fighting in World War I, and are likely stuck in a trench, are mentally and physically trapped. The silence in the air is not a blessing. It crushes down on them as every moment they expect something terrible to happen.
A crow floats past on level wings
Uninterrupted silence swings
To and fro in our misgivings.
In the second stanza, the speaker further emphasizes how quiet the scene truly is. To an outsider, it might still seem like a peaceful moment within an otherwise horrific existence, but to the men, it only compresses their “misgivings.
The speaker looks up and sees a “crow float past on level wings.” It does not need to move its wings or rotate its body, it is able to cruise through the silence without effort.
The silence is so strong at this time that seems to take up space. It is a part of the landscape just as they are. The silence comes “Uninterrupted” and “Invisibly, inaudibly” around them. It has the ability to increase their “misgivings” as they wait for the inevitable fighting to resume.
We do not look at each other, we hide
Our daunted eyes.
White earth, and ruins, ourselves, and nothing beside.
It all belies
Our existence; we wait, and are still denied.
The second half of Winter-Lull’ begins with the speaker describing how the men react to this silence and to one another. They do not speak or even look at one another in these moments. They “hide” their “daunted eyes.” Everything seems “daunting” to them in their position. The war seems impossible to overcome and the silence on the battlefield is not showing any signs of stopping.
Around this scene, there is “White earth, and ruins.” It is in this desolate place that has been painted over with snow, that they spend these days of their lives. There is no way they can truly hide from one another but they do their best.
The outer layer of their world, which is covered in white snow, “belies / [Their] existence.” It does not do their situation justice, it shows only a little of what they are going through. The men “wait” to return to the world of fighting they know, but “are still denied.” Nothing is changing, yet.
We are folded together, men and the snowy ground
There is silence, only the silence, never a sound
Nor a verity
To assist us; disastrously silence-bound!
In the final stanza, when a reader might think the silence is finally going to be broken, nothing changes. The speaker describes how the men are all “folded together” with one another and with “the snowy ground.” This fact seems to null their existence. They have been compressed so far that it is like they aren’t even there.
In the final three lines, the speaker has become desperate. He needs the silence to end and exclaims that there is still “only the silence, never a sound / Nor a verity.” There is no “truth” in their world, only this fake covering of snow which in tandem with the silence is trying to hide what they know.
The whole situation is pointless, the speaker thinks, as he and the men seem to be “disastrously silence-bound.” Whether the war begins and they meet their deaths and silence that way, or they are trapped forever in this “lull” in the fighting, they are “bound” to a world of silence.