The poem ‘Last Lesson Of The Afternoon’ by the genius author and poet, David Herbert Lawrence is very different from his other poetry, and indeed from much of his prose in that it lacks what experts might call ‘the poetry in the prose.’ This may be symptomatic of a change of mood in Lawrence, an absence of joy and of the optimism of youth. Here we see Lawrence portray a much more realistic picture of the hard graft of earning a living during his times - a teacher trying to inspire an unwilling band of seemingly dull or disinterested pupils. When compared to the lustrous imagery of nature poems such as ‘Snake’ this poem does indeed seem dry and dusty, with the last stanza appearing particularly cynical and despairing. But perhaps David Herbert Lawrence is writing like this deliberately - indeed he is successful in painting mood and setting tone, even if that is a miserable one!
‘I do not, and will not; they won't and they don't; and that's all!
I shall keep my strength for myself; they can keep theirs as well.
Why should we beat our heads against the wall
Of each other? I shall sit and wait for the bell.
The words ‘I do not’ refer back to the previous stanza where he says that he is supposed to care mightily about the pupils’ learning. Here he says (unsurprisingly if it is true that the students don’t appreciate his efforts) that he actually doesn’t care any more, for ungrateful students’ learning. They won’t ever want to write, and they don’t write and Lawrence is tired and feeling ill, so he he is deciding to save his energy and strength for himself. He also appears to sympathise with the students wasting their energies pointlessly when they don’t intend to do anything productive with their education. Some might sense a feeling of realism, or even the positivity of a ‘coming to terms’ in Lawrence’s last line as he decides to stop fighting, and just wait for the bell.