Short analysis of “Don’t let that Horse…” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Don’t let that horse
                              eat that violin
    cried Chagall’s mother
                                     But he
                      kept right on
And became famous
And kept on painting
                              The Horse With Violin In Mouth
And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                        and rode away
          waving the violin
And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across
And there were no strings

This piece by Lawrence Ferlinghetti nicely plays on the idea of the real and imagined by letting the painter not only create but also ride off literally on the object of his creation. The presence of the mother sounds like the restrain the painter he’s received as to exploring his imagination. I like the “naked nude” because of it points to the blur between a pornographic which I like to think of excessive nudity versus simple or normal nudity (This is a whole other topic for another day) but that compound of “naked nude” is enough to spill more ink because his claim for the absence of strings attached when a fully clothed person offers something to a not clothed person is absurd. Even divine Grace in its unfathomable depth still asks to inhabit the heart completely.
The stair formation and the lack of punctuation makes this poem free falling into a meaningless abyss where the real and the imagined can’t be separated.


9 thoughts on “Short analysis of “Don’t let that Horse…” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  1. I’m intrigued by your notion that the presence of the mother, who in this case becomes a Law Giver, prevents the persona from crossing the borders of the erotic into the pornographic. You have clearly never watched Eastern European and Russian porn.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    Still, your claim is interesting.

    • I didn’t say that the mother is preventing from crossing those borders between erotic and pornographic but between the real and imagined. Here the Law Giver like you call her doesn’t the child venturing out of the real but that’s just me.

      • I read the notion of the mother restricting imagination alongside your musing on the naked nude as layered—somewhere between normal and pornified. I thought you were saying without the mother, Law Giver, imagination would run wild: into porn. But clearly you weren’t saying that.

        O well.

      • yeah that naked nude is a tough one, I wish I could read about his work before making wild assumptions.

    • Glad you like it. Your work has also that playful within and outside aspect.
      The riding off on horse scenes always reminds me these western movies where the cowboy rides off into the sunset, you don’t know where he’s going, but you want to do the same.

  2. Ferlinghetti’s poem “Don’t let that horse” embodies an artist’s creative freedom and the liberation that chases it. Chagall is told in line 1-2 what not to paint by an authority figure. He then abruptly discounts the advice given and continues to paint exactly what he was told not to. He then gains approval of other’s, ”And became famous”(line 7). Though he still remains fixated on his original act of defiance, “And kept on painting/The Horse with Violin in Mouth” (lines 8-9), but this time it is given a title. Chagall finally finishes his work and metaphorically leaps on to the horse’s back, waving his flag of defiance- the violin. He rides to another man and hands off the creative, liberating torch for the man to have. Ferlinghetti then ends the poem with “And there were no strings/attached” using a pun and also stating that Chagall only wanted to pass on the sensation of liberation to another, leaving a pleasant hint idealistic kindness and the bad taste of a pun in the reader’s mind. Frelinghetti used a trochee meter in this poem. This created a slow and pulled together, smooth feel. He also chopped up the lines to create a lingering anticipation for what will happen next.

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