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June 25, 2010

Poetry Friday--'Don't Let That Horse'

Over at my library blog, Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, I have a post today about ekphrastic poetry--poetry about art. I came across a poem, though, that may or may not be an ekphrastic poem. Is the subject a real painting, or a painting that could have been done by Marc Chagall? I've got the poem below in a screen shot so that you can see the layout. The text is below that.

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

I did a search on "The Horse With Violin In Mouth" and the only hits I got were those quoting Ferlinghetti's poem. Hmmmm. Chagall had many horses in his paintings. He also had many violins. If anyone knows for sure, let me know if there is a real painting called "The Horse With Violin In Mouth."

Here's the closest I came to finding "The Horse With Violin In Mouth," except that this picture is called "The Falling Angel," and I think the horse-like creature with the violin nearly in its mouth might be an ox!

Courtesy Olga's Gallery

Bravo to Ferlinghetti for getting me involved in both his poem AND Chagall's work! There's more to research...

Note: not surprisingly, the poem has been set to music. Click here to listen.

Head over to The Art of Irreverence for the Poetry Friday Round-Up!


  1. The poem, the song, the artwork -- everything spoke to me. I couldn't have enjoyed this more if I tried!

    Thanks, Diane!


  2. I've read this poem before but never imagined it would be set to music. Kinda fun in a weird sort of way!

  3. Too cool, Diane! I love ekphrastic poetry!

    Laura Evans

  4. hmmmm. Looks like a horse with a violin in its mouth!

  5. How fun to follow your train of thought and research. Great idea to show a screen shot to give readers a sense of the format of a poem -- I've never figured out how to make Blogger cooperate with formatting...

  6. You can manipulate the spacing with html code, but the above poem was just too crazy for me to tackle. Here's code that is equal to about 2 spaces:       

  7. Oops, that didn't work since it was read as spacing! Duh! Email me and I'll send it to you!

  8. another fav Ferlenghetti

    It was like this when
    we waltz into this place
    a couple of Papish cats
    is doing an Aztec two-step
    And I says
    Dad let’s cut
    but then this dame
    comes up behind me see
    and says
    You and me could really exist
    Wow I says
    Only the next day
    she has bad teeth
    and really hates

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Gary!

    "Papish cats"? Interesting... Catholics? Real cats who are Catholic? I can't see the later since cats aren't the types to be reined in by Catholicism. (Cats can't be reined in by anything!) People with funny pope hats?

  10. I performed this poem as part of a theatre ensemble that performed during the opening of the Witherspoon Art Gallery at the University of NC at Greensboro decades ago. The Chagall painting is not the one you have here. Hopefully I can find the one that we showed on screen and will send it your way.

  11. At A Poem a Day from the George Hail Library, Maria Horvath, found the picture that goes with the poem. You can find it here. Thanks for writing, Bob.

  12. I've been trying to find the picture too after discovering Ferlinghetti's poem via the Judith Weir music setting. Lovely blogpost :)

  13. I have seen the painting a long time ago long before i heard of the poem - but I can not find it I search every once in awhile