“Winter-Lull” by D.H. Lawrence

This poem is in the public domain. The illustration is from Bay, published by Beaumont Press in 1919, also in the public domain.

“Winter-Lull”

I subscribe to Poem-a-Day, an email service from the Academy of American Poets that provides a very wide selection of contemporary and classic poems. This one by D.H. Lawrence caught my attention because it captures a sense of foreboding that the silence of snow can convey.

Based on when the poem was published, I interpreted the setting as a World War I battlefield. I found a digitized copy of Bay, the collection in which “Winter-Lull appears, which would appear to confirm this interpretation. In the collection, “Winter-Lull” is preceded by “On the March” and “Bombardment,” and followed by “The Attack.”

Bay

The flyleaf of the digitized copy of Bay I found on Internet Archive is signed by Lawrence and Anne Estelle Rice, the illustrator. The book was a limited edition, so all of the copies may have been signed. Nevertheless, I was quite excited to see the signatures, almost as if they had been signed for me!

“A Calm Disbelief”

The following excerpt is from my unpublished short story, “A Calm Disbelief.” The scene is based on an experience I had with my father in the aftermath of a bad snowstorm.

She felt an automatic nudge of fear in her stomach. She had once witnessed a horrific car accident in the winter. She and John had been driving to Coos County the day after a storm to visit friends. The morning was clear, the road and the dark woods beyond it sharply-defined. About a quarter of a mile up the road, a snowplow had just come into a curve, sending up a continuous plume of snow. For a brief moment, the curve hid the snowplow and as she watched the plume of snow arc evenly into the air, two cars emerged from it and began to skid; she watched as they slid into each other, spun, and stopped, the snowplow behind them. The accident was beautiful, the gentle curve of the road, the white plume of snow, the two cars slowly, gracefully sliding into each other. And all of it without sound; that had been the most beautiful and horrific of all. When John stopped and they ran across the road to the accident, she was relieved to see an old man stumble out of one of the smashed cars, sobbing, his face running blood and dirt and melting snow.

The View from My Front Door: January 2020

102 thoughts on ““Winter-Lull” by D.H. Lawrence

  1. I love your theme with this post., Liz. The Lawrence poem, your own story excerpt and photos skillfully show us the frightful side of nature’s beauty. Through just the right written words, we can safely share these experiences. Beneath that silence and snow may lie death and destruction yet also continuing struggle, life and hope. We know the dangers of fire, water, wind, and snow but also their beauty. We admire and respect the Tyger’s…fearful symmetry.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I grew up with lots of snow in the winter months. It can be pretty but I have always found snow to be scary. The poem, picture and your excerpt all refected that for me. I am glad to be now living in Spain with no snow.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Brad! You raise an interesting point about context for literary works, poetry in particular. Can the poem stand on its own with an explanation of the context? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as much of the contemporary poetry that I read through my Poem-a-Day subscription is so self-referential to the poet’s experience it’s pretty much incomprehensible. Then I read the poet’s explanation of what the poem’s about, and it makes sense.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Such a beautiful post, Liz! I grew up in Connecticut and spent most of my adult life in St. Louis, and both of those places see plenty of snow every winter. We retired here, to the coast, in Tacoma, Washington, where, as my husband says, “You don’t have to shovel rain.” But every once in a while I miss the white stuff, especially those epic storms that lead to drifts taller than a grown man.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I felt goosebumps when I saw the signatures.Another wonderfully delicious post that satisfies the most hungry reader. Ah, the snow. Living in Northern Manitoba, which reached – 55F not counting any windchill, we all knew the dangers of winter and snow. The ice on lakes could be be 6 ft thick. But what an adventure – it kept us ever vigilant. I thought you would appreciate this quote! “Now it would be foolish and impossible to try and prevent the manufacture of films containing Canadian snow scenes; but there is no vestige of a doubt that when exhibited overseas they have a detrimental effect of immigration . . . Everything that can be done should be done, to encourage the circulation of screen pictures that demonstrate that snow scenes and dog-trains are but a minor phase in Canadian life.” —Magazine editor Charles F. Paul (1922)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Rebecca! I do like the Charles Paul quote objecting to the cinematic stereotyping of Canadian life. It was having a detrimental effect on people immigrating to Canada from overseas?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If any, I would think it would be an enticement, but I am unsure of what was happening at the time. Have you ever read “Mrs. Mike”. This is the blurb on Goodreads: “A moving love story set in the Canadian wilderness, Mrs. Mike is a classic tale that has enchanted millions of readers worldwide. It brings the fierce, stunning landscape of the Great North to life—and tenderly evokes the love that blossoms between Sergeant Mike Flannigan and beautiful young Katherine Mary O’Fallon.” I read it when I was a teenager and was moved by the story, which begins in Calgary.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. For a relatively short post, Liz, you certainly do pack a world of wonder and suspense. The D. H. Lawrence poem has a deafening silence to it. And your story brought the whole terrible wintry scene right before our eyes. And then, too, the delight of real signatures brings us back to simple delights and discoveries. And your beautiful photos bring me a beautiful winter scene that my abode lacks and which makes me smile. Thank you for it all!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much, John! I think the poem was written about WWI. At one point a while ago, I looked up D.H. Lawrence’s biography to see if he had served in that war, but he hadn’t. There is another poet from that same time period who also wrote from the point of view of the soldier in the trenches, but he had never served himself.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hey Liz, how are you?

    Given the D.H Lawrence poems included in Bay, perhaps it should be titled a Little Book of Bleak.

    In his poem, silence exacerbates the palpable sense of foreboding and foregrounds the soldiers wretched circumstance: where might his thoughts ever hide from the terror of war; certainly not in silence. One imagines the sound of Death’s silent footsteps in the snow is not diminished nor the soldier deceptively comforted or lulled as a result. But yet, it is a beautifully crafted poem: thought-provoking and very powerful.

    I very much enjoyed reading the excerpt from your short-story Liz, and hope you will publish it in its entirety. I found it almost dreamlike with a surreal quality, as if I were entranced by watching a silent film of people dancing in slow motion. Thank you for sharing.

    The second photograph is my personal favourite: it entraps me.

    An evocative post Liz, thank you.

    Hoping all is well in the snow. Take care, 😀

    DN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, Dewin! I’m doing well, deep in course development this week. I like your alternative title for Bay: The Little Book of Bleak.

      I hope to get the story published. It’s been making the rounds for years with no takers. Two weekends ago, I finally acknowledged that the ending wasn’t quite right, so I revised it and sent it back out. We shall see.

      We had more snow this morning. We’re due for subzero temperatures this weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And deep in snow as well Liz, which somehow – and I couldn’t elaborate on the idea further – seems to perfectly fit you undertaking development of the writing course. No doubt you are making excellent progress 😀 Good to hear all is well.

        Brave of you to return to a story written years ago with intention to revise its ending. A writer’s approach to their work is a fascination to me, so might I ask if it was the story’s lack of success doing the rounds that prompted your decision, or your own subconscious unease with its ending? Either way, best wishes with getting it published. I enjoyed reading the excerpt, thank you.

        Regards the prospect of more snow and sub-zero temperatures: if it’s any consolation at all, we are due yet another wild, wet and windy storm this week, and with it more disruption and localised damage. Given the choice, I think I’d rather opt for snow, winter-lull, and silence.

        Take care, enjoy the latter end of the week.

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The course is progressing well. I’m actually helping a faculty member and an instructional designer take an inquiry-based approach to Introduction to Psychology.

          You’ve hit on the reason for my undertaking the revision after so many years: revision: it’s both the long string of rejections and the gut feeling that those last few sentences just don’t sit right. (I was in writer denial for a very long time. I should have known better than to deny my gut.)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That sounds both fascinating and wholly absorbing Liz and will undoubtedly utilise your educational skill-set, and make great use of your writing prowess and creativity. From my limited experience, art-based subjects allow greater freedom to explore the curriculum through creative inquiry (which naturally foregrounds an individual’s strengths and personal interests and promotes 360-degree research) than most sciences, which dare I say places greater emphasis on traditional teaching methods as they are more tightly bound to text-book learning.

            Regards your undertaking: Is inquiry-based learning intended to bridge gaps in the existing curriculum for ‘Introduction to Psychology’ or to creatively rewrite it from scratch?

            I appreciate your honesty in answering my earlier question in the way that you have, thank you Liz. Some say intuitive reasoning is all about having confidence to trust in yourself. With a string of successfully published stories, and a published novel under your belt, I imagine you won’t let doubt linger or feel the need to revise your work again.

            Have a great weekend! Wrap up warm and take care 😀

            DN

            Liked by 1 person

            1. The inquiry-based approach I’m trying with intro to psych is basically to frame an overarching question for the course that functions like a thesis statement and then structure the course as a series of questions, such as “How is new knowledge in psychology generated and communicated?” I’ve found this approach helps to keep students connected to the main concepts of the course as they work through the content and the assignments.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I think inquiry led teaching is an excellent idea Liz and your approach – looking at the requirement from the top down – is the right way to go. As I recall, my art-based degree utilised a similar method in as much that core modules were mandatory and introduced by inquiry questions, however, there was no overarching thesis statement, which one would expect, as there was no set destination point other than the one an individual’s would find by themselves having once completed all modules. As such the choice of dissertations was diverse, which led to lively debate amongst students.

                I wish you well with your endeavours and imagine it will prove successful. Good luck.

                DN

                Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautiful blend of poetry, history, and memory. You’ve helped many of us reflect on the personal significance of the never-ending snow we see and shovel this winter. (Here in Denver, we’ve already had the second snowiest February on record, and the month isn’t even half over. The roads have been treacherous and icy, and car accidents are constant. My oldest daughter had the first car wreck of her adult life last week, thanks to black ice. For us, the snow brings us no joy.)

    Thanks for this post, Liz.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A nice view from your door. Snow (before it turns to mud) is so soothing…
    Haven’t read Lawrence I’m afraid. I need to work more on English poetry…
    🙂
    (Some day)
    WWI trenches were probably more mud than snow… My grandfather was there.
    He never spoke about it.
    Be good Liz

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From what I’ve read, I think you’re right about the WWI trenches. I’d expect that your grandfather had good reason for not speaking about his experience. My great-uncle was there as well. I never met him, so I don’t know if he spoke about his experiences or not. I do know that for a number of years afterwards, he suffered ill health from being gassed.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Liz, a beautiful and atmospheric post combining Lawrence’s stunning poem, your excellent and dramatic excerpt and the photos! Wow! That is a lot of snow and you captured the silence well both in the images and in your writing … it’s haunting that during the accident there is only silence!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a very powerful piece of writing, Liz. Beautifully done. I hope your new book will be finished soon. I was thinking about Telling Sonny just this morning and its very sad and poignant outcome. It takes a really good story to make me think and reflect on it again so long after I read it. I actually re-read a bit of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Robbie! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have a book of short stories I’ve just compiled that I have submitted, and I’m just starting to work on preliminary notes and research for a novel. I appreciate your letting me know that Telling Sonny has stayed with you. It means a lot to me.

      Like

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Liz. The quiet of snow is a powerful thing, and it makes perfect sense that it inspires poets and writers. When I read Lawrence’s poem, I didn’t know where it would take me. It certainly feels like a poem of a WWI battlefield. Your story is equally powerful and quite similar. Well done, Liz! I often read Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” aloud to children. Of course it is quite different, yet the poet was equally moved by the quiet of snow. Do the children fully understand? No, but they are hearing beautiful words, and that’s what matters most. Thank you, Liz.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jennie! I agree with your comments about “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Hearing it read aloud will give the children a sensory experience of sound and mental imagery that is every bit as meaningful as a ten-page critical analysis.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful way you shared your researching and passion through this post! Really enjoyed the comments too – and I enjoyed learning via the poems -and art.
    I used to get the same poem emails but had to cut back on all subscriptions because it was too much to read at every juncture – from blog posts to emails to ebooks and hard covers and sites I follow – whew – so I almost did away with email completely and I go to the site if I want a dose – works for me right now at least.
    And thanks again for this rich history and poetry post! Warm Humanity and much to chew on 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Curiously, I hadn’t thought at first that the poem was set on the battlefield, but I did interpret it as having to do with a lull in war. I’ve often wondered how people during such a terrible conflict as the two world wars, were still able to appreciate nature – and yet, that’s probably the most reassuring thing: that if and when war is ever over, the birds, the snow, the trees, will still be there, as they had been in the past.

    Your short piece adds to this – really, quite a powerful post, Liz – very atmospheric.

    I don’t actually like snow very much. I like to see it fall and I enjoy the calm and quiet of it for the first day, but after that it rather spooks me and I find the constant white really difficult to take, particularly for my eyes. It’s a treacherous part of nature that can be beautiful, but deceptive.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A beautiful view from your home. Snow has such a quiet to it. I read this when you first published it and liked it very much. But today, it feels reflective of the happenings in the world, a touch prophetic. Beautifully written Liz. Take care 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Your photos are beautiful, Liz, and to me perfectly fit D.H. Lawrence’s poem. Reading it now under current circumstances it gives that sense of foreboding a different but very similar meaning, don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I took them on two different days as I was eating breakfast. I just needed to capture the beauty of the scene right outside my own front door. Yes, I agree that the current circumstances have dropped a foreboding quietude.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It touches somewhere deeper…..I started reading DH only when I had to in my graduation with English major, but that was a beginning with a novel…American poets had already influenced me, but I could only enter into his poetry world at a much later day, when it was neither a compulsion of having good matks nor marking goodness on mask was a motivator…and I was enamoured of a different poetic conveying of expressions…
    Your story and images do signify the depth in it…you have turned into a whole novel to be recreated within reader’s mind…
    The memories are silent yet tell the life’s secret like the crow flying noiselessly, inaudibly; the snow symbolises silence in its stoic appearance…it bears primitive knowledge, the essence of peace earned through battling millions wars…the silence speaks its soul for souls to interprete and learn..
    Your unpacking of the tale lets us explore sense and sensibility, response and responsibility…the choices for the mankind to decide upon…still you have not allowed it to be spoilt by dull logics to promote either choice…there lies the beauty and my soul admires such beauty…
    Thanks for offering such privilege to me….and many more readers…my regards

    Like

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