Lawrence, D. H. (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)
Lawrence, D. H. 1885-1930
(Full name David Herbert Lawrence. Also wrote under the pseudonym Lawrence H. Davison) English novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist, critic, and translator.
The following entry presents criticism of Lawrence's poetry. See also D. H. Lawrence Short Story Criticism and D. H. Lawrence Poetry Criticism.
Highly acclaimed as a forerunner in adapting psychological themes for literary purposes in such novels as Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lawrence's status as a poet is among the most heatedly disputed topics of twentieth-century literature. Much of the debate stems from the perception that Lawrence published a large quantity of poetry that is often considered very uneven in quality. Although many of his detractors concede that Lawrence wrote several classic poems, they claim that these works are the exceptions rather than the rule when compared to the bulk of poems Lawrence published. Many of his defenders, however, claim that Lawrence's body of poetry constitutes one unified work in which no one piece can be isolated from the whole, and that Lawrence's occasional lapses of poetic technique are minor when weighed against his thematic concerns and the instantaneous nature of his poems. His poetic work is often described as visionary, prophetic, and Romantic in intent. Furthermore, Lawrence insisted that his work be read as an autobiography as well as a manifesto for the Utopia he envisioned, a "new heaven and earth" that rejected Victorian prudishness and rampant industrialization in favor of a more primitive "blood-wisdom" and sexual freedom. Despite disagreements over his rank among twentieth-century poets, Lawrence's influence is noted in the works of such writers as Galway Kinnell, Denise Levertov, Karl Shapiro, Ted Hughes, Adrienne Rich, and Robert Bly.
The fourth child of an illiterate coal miner and his wife, a former school teacher, Lawrence was raised in the colliery town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Temperamentally alienated from his environment, he grew to hate the debilitating mine work that he blamed for his father's debased condition. Lawrence won a scholarship to the local grammar school and later to Nottingham University College. He taught school at Coyden for three years, during which time Ford Madox Ford published some of Lawrence's poems in the English Review. The onset of tuberculosis forced Lawrence to resign from teaching in 1911, and that same year he published his first novel, The White Peacock, which received positive critical reviews. When he was twenty-seven, Lawrence eloped with Frieda von Richtofen Weekly, the wife of one of his college professors. The couple's erotic and emotional life during their first years together is chronicled in Look! We Have Come Through! After their marriage, the Lawrences lived briefly in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sicily, England, France, Australia, Mexico, and in the southwestern United States, where Lawrence hoped to establish a Utopian community. These locales provided the settings of many of his novels written during the 1920s, and also inspired his books of travel sketches. In 1930, Lawrence entered a sanitorium in Vence, France, in an attempt to cure the tuberculosis that afflicted him throughout his adult life. He died soon after.
Like his fiction, most of Lawrence's poetry is intensely personal. His earliest poetry, which he began writing in his twenties, adhered to traditional poetic forms and is seldom as highly regarded as his later free-verse works. His first four volumes—Love Poems and Others, Amores, New Poems, and Bay—display Lawrence's adherence to traditional rhyme schemes. Poems from these volumes were placed by Lawrence in the "Rhyming Poems" section of The Collected Poems of D. H. Lawrence. These poems are often compared to the poetry of Thomas Hardy, who was an acknowledged influence on Lawrence, in their reliance on regional dialects and subject matter. Look! We Have Come Through! marks a departure in Lawrence's poetics from closed forms to free verse forms that display Lawrence's affinity for the work of American poet Walt Whitman. Birds, Beasts, and Flowers features celebratory and mystical poems about flora and fauna, including his most famous poem, "Snake," and the frequently anthologized and discussed "Medlars and Sorb Apples." He followed this work with Pansies and Nettles, two works noted for their acerbity and use of doggerel. Critics note that the poems in the posthumously published Last Poems are preoccupied with death, including the frequently anthologized "Bavarian Gentians" and "The Ship of Death."
The White Peacock (novel) 1911
The Trespasser (novel) 1912
Love Poems and Others (poetry) 1913
The Prussian Officer (short stories) 1914
The Rainbow (novel) 1915
Amores (poetry) 1916
Twilight in Italy (essays) 1916
Look! We Have Come Through! (poetry) 1917
New Poems (poetry) 1918
Bay (poetry) 1919
The Lost Girl (novel) 1920
Women in Love (novel) 1920
Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious (essay) 1921
Sea and Sardinia (essays) 1921
Tortoises (poetry) 1921
Aaron's Rod (novel) 1922
England, My England (short stories) 1922
Fantasia of the Unconscious (essay) 1922
Movements in European History [as Lawrence H. Davison] (essays) 1922
Birds, Beasts and Flowers (poetry) 1923
Kangaroo (novel) 1923
Studies in Classic American Literature (essays) 1923
Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (essays) 1925
The Plumed Serpent (novel) 1926
Mornings in Mexico (essays) 1927...
(The entire section is 240 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Love Poems and Others, in Poetry, Vol. 2, No. 4, July, 1913, pp. 149-51.
[In the following review of Love Poems and Others, Pound concludes that Lawrence poetry succeeds in realistically detailing everyday lives whereas the poetry of John Masefield does not. ]
The Love Poems, if by that Mr. Lawrence means the middling-sensual erotic verses in[Love Poems and Others,] are a sort of pre-raphaelitish slush, disgusting or very nearly so. The attempts to produce the typical Laurentine line have brought forth:
I touched her and she shivered like a dead snake.
which was improved by an even readier parodist, to
I touched her and she came off in scales.
Jesting aside, when Mr. Lawrence ceases to discuss his own disagreeable sensations, when he writes low-life narrative, as he does in "Whether or Not" and in "Violets," there is no English poet under forty who can get within shot of him. That Masefield should be having a boom seems, as one takes count of these poems, frankly ridiculous.
It is no more possible to quote from them as illustration than it would be to illustrate a Rembrandt by cutting off two inches of canvas. The first is in mood-ridden chiaroscuro, the characters being a policeman, his...
(The entire section is 560 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Look! We Have Come Through, in Poetry, Vol. XII, No. V, August, 1918, pp. 269-74.
[In the following review of Look! We Have Come Through! Fletcher praises Lawrence's poetry as uncompromising and original, and finds similarities with the poetry of Walt Whitman.]
D. H. Lawrence has recently published[Look! We Have Come Through!] a third volume of poetry to stand beside his Love Poems and Amores. This event has, so far as I am aware, passed almost without notice in the English press. The reviewers of the English press know perfectly well that Mr. Lawrence is supposed to be a dangerous man, writing too frankly on certain subjects which are politely considered taboo in good society, and therefore they do their best to prevent Mr. Lawrence from writing at all, by tacitly ignoring him. If they are driven to the admission, these selfsame reviewers are obliged grudgingly to acknowledge that Mr. Lawrence is one of the most interesting of modern writers. Suchare the conditions which a modern writer with something new to say is obliged to accept in England to-day. The press can make a great to-do about the innocuous, blameless and essentially minor poetry of Edward Thomas (to take but one example); they politely refuse to discuss the questionable, but essentially major effort of a D. H. Lawrence. Is it any wonder that such an attitude drives a man to sheer...
(The entire section is 1345 words.)
SOURCE: "The Melodic Line: D. H. Lawrence," in Scepticisms: Notes on Contemporary Poetry, Alfred A. Knopf, 1919, pp. 91-104.
[In the following essay on Lawrence's Look! We Have Come Through! Aiken argues that the poem reads more like a novel, and that Lawrence's grasp of poetic techniques are limited.]
It has been said that all the arts are constantly attempting, within their respective spheres, to attain to something of the quality of music, to assume, whether in pigment, or pencil, or marble, or prose, something of its speed and flash, emotional completeness, and well-harmonied resonance; but of no other single art is that so characteristically or persistently true as it is of poetry. Poetry is indeed in this regard two-natured: it strikes us, when it is at its best, quite as sharply through our sense of the musically beautiful as through whatever implications it has to carry of thought or feeling: it plays on us alternately or simultaneously through sound as well as through sense. The writers of free verse have demonstrated, to be sure, that a poetry sufficiently effective may be written in almost entire disregard of the values of pure rhythm. The poetry of "H.D." is perhaps the clearest example of this. Severe concentration upon a damascene sharpness of sense-impression, a stripping of images to the white clear kernel, both of which matters can be more meticulously attended to if there are no...
(The entire section is 2749 words.)
SOURCE: "Mr. D. H. Lawrence," in Tradition and Change: Studies in Contemporary Literature, Books for Libraries Press, 1919, pp. 131-7.
[In the following essay, Waugh assesses Lawrence's poetry as lacking in unifying ideas and the poetic skills necessary to espouse them.]
The modern conception of poetry is so astonishingly different from the conception, for example, of the last generation before our own, that it is worth while to take stock of the situation now and again, and to try to get some clear notion of the direction in which we are drifting. Changes there must be, of course; and the critic who withstands change for its own sake is self-condemned already. But in the realm of the arts there are certain fixed principles which have survived all the vagaries of fashion; and work which has defied those principles has never lasted. Novelty and audacity attract their momentary public; but novelty is soon stale, and audacity has an awkward way of petering out into impertinence. It is a good thing to overhaul our equipment from time to time, and to refer it by comparison to those irrefutable truths upon which all sincere art must be grounded.
Some such comparison seems to be particularly invited in the case of the poetry of Mr. D. H. Lawrence. It would appear that the newest school of criticism is in no sort of doubt about the quality of his performance; he can point to a glittering...
(The entire section is 1684 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence as Poet," in The Saturday Review of Literature, New York, Vol. 11, No. 40, May 1, 1926, pp. 749-50.
[In the following overview of Lawrence 's poetry, including Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, Aldington attempts to cast aside the poet's ideology and sexual subject matter in order to isolate the poetry he writes, which Aldington believes to be representative of its author's genius.]
If a difficult problem were being set for what Mr. Bennett calls the "young aspirant" in criticism, there could scarcely be found a better topic than Mr. D. H. Lawrence. He is not the sort of man who becomes master of Balliol or an Oracle to thoughtful, cautious rentiers. His personality is abrupt, independent, and unreliable. His writings are full of faults and also of possible qualities. You can dislike him irrelevantly, because you have the Anglo-Saxon complex about sexual matters or because you share the pedant's follies about correctness and "models" or because you hate a man with a red beard. You may like him equally irrelevantly, because you share his lust for metaphysics, or because you think he has a working hypothesis of Love and Hate, or because he was stupidly persecuted during the war. But the point I wish to make about Mr. Lawrence's work in general, and his poetry in particular, is simply this; he is a great artist in words. And he is an artist almost unconsciously, certainly...
(The entire section is 1349 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence and Expressive Form," in Language as Gesture: Essays in Poetry, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1935, pp. 286-300.
[In the following essay, Blackmur argues that Lawrence's poetry is too often marred by the author's unchecked inclusion of biographical detail and personal feelings.]
As a poet, and only to a less degree as a novelist, Lawrence belongs to that great race of English writers whose work totters precisely where it towers, collapses exactly in its strength: work written out of a tortured Protestant sensibility and upon the foundation of an incomplete, uncomposed mind: a mind without defenses against the material with which it builds and therefore at every point of stress horribly succumbing to it. Webster, Swift, Blake, and Coleridge—perhaps Donne, Sterne, and Shelley, and on a lesser plane Marston, Thompson (of the Dreadful Night), and Beddoes—these exemplify, in their different ways, the deracinated, unsupported imagination, the mind for which, since it lacked rational structure sufficient to its burdens, experience was too much. Their magnitude was inviolate, and we must take account of it not only for its own sake but also to escape its fate; it is the magnitude of ruins—and the ruins for the most part of an intended life rather than an achieved art.
Such judgment—such prediction of the terms of appreciation—may seem heavy and the operation of...
(The entire section is 5466 words.)
SOURCE: An introduction to D. H. Lawrence: Selected Poems, New Directions, 1947, pp. 1-23.
[In the following introduction to Lawrence's Selected Poems, Rexroth believes that, rather than being a major poet like Thomas Hardy, Lawrence was a minor prophet like William Blake and William Butler Yeats.]
At the very beginning Lawrence belonged to a different order of being from the literary writers of his day. In 1912 he said: "I worship Christ, I worship Jehovah, I worship Pan, I worship Aphrodite. But I do not worship hands nailed and running with blood upon a cross, nor licentiousness, nor lust. I want them all, all the gods. They are all God. But I must serve in real love. If I take my whole passionate, spiritual and physical love to the woman who in turn loves me, that is how I serve God. And my hymn and my game of joy is my work. All of which I read in . . ."
Do you know what he read all that in? It makes you wince. He thought he found that in Gregorian Poetry, 1911-1912! In Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfred Gibson, John Drinkwater, Rupert Brooke, John Masefield, Walter de la Mare, Gordon Bottomley! What a good man Lawrence must have been. It is easy to understand how painful it was for him to learn what evil really was. It is easy to understand why the learning killed him, slowly and terribly. But he never gave up. He was always hunting for comradeship—in the most unlikely...
(The entire section is 7207 words.)
SOURCE: "The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence," in The New Mexico Quarterly Review, Vol. 14, March 13, 1948, pp. 289-303.
[In the following essay, Glicksberg examines Lawrence's poetry to support his thesis that Lawrence was engaged in creating his own religion that eschewed science and materialism. ]
There is no contradiction in the fact that Lawrence's ideas on human nature and society are muddled while his poetry is flame-like, instinct with beauty organically felt and sensuously communicated. When he trusted his feelings he was on firm ground; when his powerful sensibility ruled him he could not go wrong. Each impression leaped forth like a radiant beam of sunlight; form and substance fused in a lyrical moment of incandescent, imaginative perception. His poems are vascular, charged with a living bloodstream. They could no more be composed according to rule than a flower can be prepared synthetically in a crucible. The art seems as instinctive as breathing, as natural as the beating of the heart.
Unfortunately, there was a raging conflict within him between heart and head, mind and body, thalamus and cortex, instinct and intelligence. In an intensely personal writer like Lawrence, this conflict was bound to make itself felt and inhibit the disciplined mastery of his material. His great strength was also his weakness. In his tirades against the desiccated intellect and the Dead Sea fruits of...
(The entire section is 6064 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence," in The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays, Random House, 1948, pp. 277-95.
[In the following essay, Auden echoes Richard Aldington's assessment that readers should not read Lawrence to reinforce ideologies—which are better expressed elsewhere by other writers—and that his genius lay in his ability to articulate humankind's aggressive and hateful natures. ]
If men were as much men as lizards are lizards,
They 'd be worth looking at.
The artist, the man who makes, is less important to mankind, for good or evil, than the apostle, the man with a message. Without a religion, a philosophy, a code of behavior, call it what you will, men cannot live at all; what they believe may be absurd or revolting, but they have to believe something. On the other hand, however much the arts may mean to us, it is possible to imagine our lives without them.
As a human being, every artist holds some set of beliefs or other but, as a rule, these are not of his own invention; his public knows this and judges his work without reference to them. We read Dante for his poetry not for his theology because we have already met the theology elsewhere.
There are a few writers, however, like Blake and D. H. Lawrence, who are both artists and apostles and this makes a just estimation of their work difficult to arrive at. Readers who find...
(The entire section is 6262 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence's Philosophy as Expressed in His Poetry," in The Rice Institute Pamphlet, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2, July, 1951, pp. 73-94.
[In the following essay, Williams proposes that the body of Lawrence 's poetical works must be read in order to give a full understanding of the author's philosophical and sociological intent. ]
I. A NEGLECTED POETRY
Books by D. H. Lawrence would fill a good-sized shelf, and books about him would fill an even larger shelf. Ten years after his death an editorial writer in the Saturday Review of Literature said that he has been the subject of "more books than any other writer since Byron";1 and now, twenty years after his death, the same magazine remarks that "Lawrence's reputation is on the upswing . . . and in many countries he has 'become a standard author'."2 A steady trickle of essays about him continues to appear in the popular as well as the learned journals of America, England, and the Continent, and anthologies and new printings of his work continue to issue from the presses.
Most curiously, however, very little of all that has been written about him deals with his poetry. A few reviews of poetical volumes as they appeared, a few perfunctory comments in the midst of general discussions, a few introductory paragraphs in anthologies—and that is the limit of attention that criticism has...
(The entire section is 5781 words.)
SOURCE: "Lawrence's Collected Poems: The Demon Takes Over," in PMLA, Vol. 66, 1951, pp. 583-93.
[In the following essay, Bartlett examines the nature and breadth of Lawrence's revisions of his earlier poems for the 1928 Collected Poems.]
It is well known that D. H. Lawrence was an unsparing rewriter of his fiction, and the tradition persists that "he could never revise, he could only rewrite." Yet, although he rewrote a number of poems, as he did his short stories and novels, he revised many more—nearly all of them, in fact, either before or after publication. His most concentrated period of activity as a poetic reviser was the winter of 1927-28, when he collected his poems for the publisher Martin Secker, and he remarked at this time that he felt "like an autumn morning, a perfect maze of gossamer of rhythms and rhymes and loose lines floating in the air." No wonder he felt this way, for he had been altering rhythms, rhymes, single words, and punctuation in addition to rewriting whole stanzas and sometimes whole poems. In a few weeks he altered the face of his early poems as drastically as the arch-revisers Wordsworth and Tennyson altered theirs in the course of many years.
The poems that may be considered "early" are those that he wrote before he left England with Frieda in 1912. They had made up the volume Love Poems and Others (1913), most of the volume Amores...
(The entire section is 4821 words.)
SOURCE: "Peace and Passivity: The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence," in The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 55, 1956, pp. 337-48.
[In the following essay, Fisher examines what he believes is the paradoxical nature of Lawrence's poetry. ]
To read the poems of D. H. Lawrence after knowing his novels and other prose is to confront the paradox of the romantic. The rebellious individualism which distinguishes Lawrence's fiction is inverted in the poetry into a continuing desire to be merged, to be soothed into some harmonious and self-obliterating whole. In contrast with the turbulent fiction, Lawrence's poetry is generally temperate, expressing a craving for an "oblivion," for an "utter sleep," or for some other quiescent oneness. The passive conception and the passive image prevail: the poet yearns to be taken, touched, folded, enclosed; to be eased into darkness; to be immersed softly and unconsciously.
Throughout his life and his writings, Lawrence re-enacted the perennial tragedy of romanticism: proclaiming rebellion ("Certainly with this world I am at war"), he longed for peace and security; demanding liberation in behalf of life, he perpetually sought escape from it to deathlike states; urging an unrestrained self-assertion, if not self-indulgence, he kept trying to effect a merging, a self-obliteration. The poetry reflects most clearly and consistently this latter passive side and thereby...
(The entire section is 3691 words.)
SOURCE: "Comment: Reflections on Lawrence," in Poetry, Vol. 106, 1965, pp. 218-25.
[In the following review of The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence, Rich assesses Lawrence as a major poet, finding evidence that Lawrence deliberately reduced many poems to doggerel for effect, and arguing that Lawrence is the English language's best love poet since William Shakespeare.]
"Thought," he says in More Pansies, "is a man in his wholeness wholly attending." Have his readers wholly attended to him? "But, my dear God, when I see all the understanding and suffering and the pure intelligence necessary for the simple perceiving of poetry, then I know it is an almost hopeless business to publish the stuff at all," he wrote to Harriet Monroe. It seems scarcely possible that the old charges of hysteria, anti-craftsmanship, can still be leveled, that his own references to "the demon" (in the Preface to the Collected Poems, 1928) can still be misread. ("From the first, I was a little afraid of my real poems—not my 'compositions' but the poems that had the ghost in them. . . . Now I know my demon better, and after bitter years, respect him more than my other, milder and nicer self.") Organic form, about which we still understand so little, for which the textbooks have yet to be written, we perhaps now know better than to equate with formlessness. That Lawrence was capable of writing formless poems...
(The entire section is 2806 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence's Last Poems," in The D. H. Lawrence Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer, 1972, pp. 97-120.
[In the following essay, Kirkham examines Lawrence's Last Poems as a poetic sequence with consistent themes and execution.]
This essay falls into three parts. In the first part I suggest that Last Poems is best read as a single work, forming a loosely connected sequence of thought. I see Lawrence performing an act of spiritual preparation, the directing purpose of which is to construct a state of mind that will steady him in the face of death. In the second part I discuss the central themes of the sequence. I try to show that, though much of the thought expressed here is inherited from his previous work, a number of poems, in meeting the challenge of the fact of death to a doctrine centered on physical existence, reveal a startling change of attitude. In my final section, through a close analysis of two or three poems, I illustrate Lawrence's poetic embodiment of his themes. I am concerned to gain recognition for Lawrence's mastery of his poetic medium, and to draw attention to the prominent part played by tones of voice, superbly controlled, in the formal organization of his poetry. The order in which the Last Poems are printed, following in this the MS book, is probably the order in which they were written. And in that order they form a loosely connected sequence of...
(The entire section is 8693 words.)
SOURCE: "'Secret Sin': Lawrence's Early Verse," in The D. H. Lawrence Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1975, pp. 155-75.
[In the following essay, Shakir examines Lawrence's early poems for evidence of his sexual preoccupations. ]
Throughout his career as a writer, Lawrence's attitude toward literature was remarkably ambivalent. "Artspeech is the only truth," he declared (SCAL 2).1 Yet his mistrust of art was profound. He knew how easily it could degenerate into pretty artifice or aesthetic exercise and so seduce the artist into a lie. But when literature spoke truth, it was perhaps most dangerous and the artist finally most guilty. An examination of Lawrence's early verse, together with his later comments on it, helps explain his misgivings.
In 1928, Lawrence wrote an essay (originally intended as a foreword to his Collected Poems in which he recalled his early efforts at writing verse.
.. . I remember . . . half-furtive moments when I would absorbedly scribble at verse for an hour or so, and then run away from the act and the production as if it were secret sin. It seems to me that "knowing oneself was a sin and a vice for innumerable centuries, before it became a virtue. It seems to me, that it is still a sin and vice, when it comes to new knowledge.—In those early days—for I was very green and unsophisticated at...
(The entire section is 7110 words.)
SOURCE: Del Ivan Janik, "D. H. Lawrence's 'Future Religion': The Unity of Last Poems," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. XLV, No. 4, Winter, 1975, pp. 739-54.
[In the following essay, Janik explicates Lawrence's posthumously published poems 'Bavarian Gentians" and "The Ship of Death" among others to support claims that Lawrence is among the major poets of the twentieth century.]
Several of the poems that D. H. Lawrence wrote in the last months of his life are considered to be among his finest, and among the finest English poems of the century; but it has not been observed that the posthumously published notebook that includes "Bavarian Gentians" and "The Ship of Death" is a unified and cohesively organized work that extends Lawrence's most fundamental religious perceptions into one of his major literary accomplishments. In his introduction to Lawrence's Last Poems, first published by Giuseppe Orioli in 1932, Richard Aldington lamented the fact that the poet had not lived to complete his work: "He was too weary, he could not find the strength to build his ship of death and at the same time to build the full whole song of it."1 But whether or not the sequence of sixty-seven poems that begins with "The Greeks Are Coming!" and ends with "Phoenix" represents Lawrence's final intention, it stands as a coherent and important work. As Tom Marshall has implied and Elizabeth...
(The entire section is 6053 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence and the Resources of Poetry," in Language and Style, Vol. XII, No. 1, Winter, 1979, pp. 3-12.
[In the following essay, Presley examines Lawrence's deployment of free verse and its relationship to the themes of his poetry.]
The poetry of D. H. Lawrence presents an interesting problem for stylistic investigation. Nearly all critics agree that Lawrence evolved a new form; that, from a mediocre Georgian lyricist, he became a sometimes excellent free-verse lyricist. Though his mature work has been widely influential, especially in America, his poetry is often treated as an adjunct to the novels, and has received little detailed examination.
Lawrence has always been respected by his fellow poets, even when they disagree with him. Though Pound referred to the early work as "a sort of pre-raphaelitish slush, disgusting or very nearly so,"1 he praised the dialect poems and, in a letter to Harriet Monroe, admitted, "I think he learned the proper treatment of modern subjects before I did."2 Eliot, though disliking the poems themselves, wrote admiringly of Lawrence's advice to Catherine Carswell, which was that "the essence of poetry .. . is a stark directness, without a shadow of a lie, or a shadow of deflection anywhere. Everything can go, but this stark, bare, rocky directness of statement, this alone makes poetry, today."3 Eliot...
(The entire section is 4241 words.)
SOURCE: "The Psychological Dynamics of D. H. Lawrences's 'Snake'," in American Imago, Vol. 36, No. 4, Winter, 1979, pp. 345-56.
[In the following essay, Trail employs Freudian psychology to explicate Lawrence's poem "The Snake."]
"Snake" is D. H. Lawrence's best known poem. It is not only the most anthologized (and hence the most taught) but also the most analyzed. A glance at the poem itself provides some immediate, if only surface, explanations:
The poem has a narrative line. A man, on a hot noon in Italy, comes to fill his water pitcher from a trough and finds a snake there. For an interval, in spite of the "voice" of his education which tells him the snake is dangerous and should be killed, he is fascinated and feels honored by the snake's presence. However, as the snake turns to leave the speaker is overcome with horror and throws a log at it. He immediately regrets the act, curses the voice of his education, and, after comparing the snake to Coleridge's famous albatross, wishes for its return, realizing that he has a "pettiness" to expiate.
Since the "voice" of the poet's "education" is declared "accursed" at the end of the poem, and is detested, it allows us to deprecate authority and celebrate the "natural" response which authority is traditionally seen as stifling. Yet since we have all obeyed, at one time or another, our education to our regret, the poem lets...
(The entire section is 4407 words.)
SOURCE: "Hymn to Priapus: Lawrence's Poetry of Difference," in Criticism, Vol. XXII, No. 3, Summer, 1980, pp. 214-29.
[In the following essay, Murfin finds similarities and differences between Lawrence's "Hymn to Priapus" and works by Charles Algernon Swinburne and Thomas Hardy.]
The speaker of the "Hymn to Priapus," like the speakers in all the other lyrics in D. H. Lawrence's volume of poems entitled Look! We Have Come Through!, may be taken to be Lawrence himself. He tells us he "danced at a Christmas party/Under the mistletoe"
Along with a ripe, slack country lass
Jostling to and fro.
At the dance or, more likely, after the dance, the country lass "slipped through" the speaker's "arms on the threshing floor," where he found her "Sweet as an armful of wheat." As if words like "armful" and images of "threshing" a "ripe . . . country" woman on the "floor" were not explicit enough to convince us of what has transpired, Lawrence plays blasphemously with Christ's words at the Last Supper. She "was broken, was broken/For me, and ah, it was sweet," Lawrence says, making absolutely clear the fact that "this is [her] body" that the "big, soft country lass" has broken for the remission of his appetites.
Lawrence leaves the barn (as well as the woman) behind, and as he goes home through a silent country...
(The entire section is 5981 words.)
SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence's Uncommon Prayers," in D. H. Lawrence: The Man Who Lived, edited by Robert B. Partlow, Jr., and Harry T. Moore, Southern Illinois University Press, 1980, pp. 73-93.
[In the following essay, Gilbert agrees with T. S. Eliot's assessment of Lawrence as a hater of orthodoxy, but disagrees with Eliot when he negatively evaluates Lawrence's moral canon.]
. . . we've got the world inside out. The true living world of fire is dark, throbbing, darker than blood. Our luminous world that we go by is only the reverse of this.
—Count Johann Dionys Psanek, in "The Ladybird"
Who gave us flowers?
Heaven? The white God?
Up out of hell,
As the title of this essay implies, I have lately been rereading T. S. Eliot's After Strange Gods, and as I'm sure many people will agree, almost the only experience stranger than reading After Strange Gods is rereading it. Indeed, most of its readers will no doubt also agree that this frankly sermonizing work of literary criticism, which was first incarnated in 1933 as a series of lectures at the University of Virginia, is not just strange, it is quite...
(The entire section is 11197 words.)
SOURCE: "'Not I, but the Wind That Blows Through Me': Shelleyan Aspects of Lawrence's Poetry," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring, 1981, pp. 102-22.
[In the following essay, Rubin discusses resemblances between the poetry of Lawrence and Percy Bysshe Shelley.]
Despite Lawrence's strenuous denials of influence, specific influences upon his poetry are clearly discernible. In addition to Whitman, Wordsworth, and Blake,1 other influences were the King James Bible, the Nonconformist hymns of Lawrence's chapel youth, and the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites, Swinburne, and Hardy. The early love poems are faintly Pre-Raphaelite in their vivid attention to color and detail and more than faintly Swinburnian in their plangent use of small, simple words ("sweet," "cool," "pain," "ache," "darkness," "moon," "sun"). This strain in turn is traceable to the major tradition of English Romanticism,2 and more specifically a certain aspect of it reverts to Shelley, who was among the first of Wordsworth's heirs to uncover in the Wordsworthian landscape the sexual elements which Wordsworth, for the most part, conceals. Lawrence himself speculates that fear of the body drove English painters—with the exception of Blake—into the realm of landscape,3 but he does not evolve a parallel argument for English poets and certainly does not—as perhaps he...
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SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence, Major Poet," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 26, No. 3, Fall, 1984, pp. 303-30.
[In the following essay, Poole attempts to defend Lawrence as a major poet fully in control of poetic technique.]
Over the years, a number of studies of Lawrence's poetry have appeared, though by no means as many as his merits suggest, and it is astonishing that the Open University's third-level course on twentieth-century poetry1 not only omits Lawrence from the poets studied, but manages to accord him little more than a passing mention.
Nevertheless, some good studies have appeared, but the emphasis has hardly been on Lawrence's technical artistry. In one way or another, most studies have been interpretative. One of the earliest was Horace Gregory, who, writing not long after Lawrence's death, makes statements which appear to have influenced later critics:
Lawrence could not sit down to write poetry with the feeling of conscious effort behind him. Consciousness always spoiled the game. . . . The quarrel with poetry came to this: in writing a poem certain attention must be directed towards its formal structure—so much be said and no more—but Lawrence often had too much to say and could not wait for the moment when the emotion or idea became fully rounded into formal utterance.2
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SOURCE: "D. H. Lawrence—The Poetry," in Contemporary Review, Vol. 247, No. 1438, November, 1985, pp. 257-60.
[In the following essay, Vanson argues that Lawrence was a master craftsman, and places him alongside such poets as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Robert Browning, while finding him not equal to Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare.]
At the time of the Lady Chatterley obscenity trial in an article for a provincial newspaper I suggested that in time to come (i.e. now!) the real fame of D. H. Lawrence would derive not from his novels but from his poetry. Time has proved me wrong, for there are today probably a hundred readers of The Rainbow or Women in Love to every one familiar with "The Ship of Death."
No doubt this is in part due to the Chatterley affair and its aftermath, but I do hold the view that if the fame of this brilliant writer (for brilliant he is for all his flaws) does not depend upon his poetry, nevertheless in some degree it ought so to do, for he was undeniably a considerable poet of great originality and power.
After all, is there a poet like David Herbert Lawrence? Does not his verse stand quite apart from the mainstream of English poetry and owe, as Blake's does, hardly anything to his forerunners? Is it not true that as he had no precursors so he has had to date no successor? The test of his claim to...
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Aiken, Conrad. Collected Criticism (Formerly 'A Reviewer's ABC). London: Oxford University Press, 1935, 414 p.
Essays written by Aiken on Lawrence between 1924 and 1929 that evidence Aiken's admiration for Lawrence as a prose writer as well as his reservations concerning the prosaic nature of Lawrence's verse.
Baker, James R. "Lawrence as Prophetic Poet." Journal of Modern Literature 3, No. 5 (July 1974): 1219-38.
Discusses Lawrence's poetry and the works of W. B. Yeats, Robinson Jeffers, and T. S. Eliot, finding prophetic qualities in the work of all four poets.
Brashear, Lucy M. "Lawrence's Companion Poems: 'Snake' and Tortoises" The D. H. Lawrence Review 5, No. 1 (Spring 1972): 54-62.
Analyzes "Snake" as part of a sequence including the separately published Tortoises, and notes the thematic and stylistic similarites of the works Lawrence eventually published under the heading "Reptiles."
Cipolla, Elizabeth. "The Last Poems of D. H. Lawrence" The D. H. Lawrence Review 2, No. 2 (Summer 1969): 103-19.
Employs Lawrence's posthumously discovered notebooks to analyze the poems written in the last two years of his life.
Drew, Elizabeth and John L Sweeney. Directions in Modern Poetry. New York: Gordian Press, 1967, 290 p....
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