In Lawrence's "Sorrow" and "Discord in Childhood," identify the general meaning in each.  Address how each poem communicates meaning, the way in which images are used to illuminate purpose, the...

In Lawrence's "Sorrow" and "Discord in Childhood," identify the general meaning in each.  Address how each poem communicates meaning, the way in which images are used to illuminate purpose, the structure of each, and whether each is successful in helping Lawrence realize his own intention.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the collection where "Sorrow" and "Discord in Childhood" are featured, Amores, Lawrence was attempting to articulate his own poetic expression of Modernism.  Lawrence recognized that the modern predicament was one where the need to smash illusions and construct a more relevant vision of being was a constant reality: 

Lawrence believed that industrialized Western culture was dehumanizing because it emphasized intellectual attributes to the exclusion of natural or physical instincts. He thought, however, that this culture was in decline and that humanity would soon evolve into a new awareness of itself as being a part of nature.

Lawrence carries this understanding of Modernism and what it means to be human within the reality of his poems.  This can be specifically seen in "Sorrow" and "Discord in Childhood."

The recollections of a son about his passing mother form the general basis of "Sorrow."  Through such an entry, Lawrence articulates how the subjective memory is what lingers after death.  The physical condition of life does end. However, the images in Lawrence's poem communicate how sorrow is something that transcends the physical and temporal. This can be seen in the structure of the poem, one that starts with the transcendent and is used to highlight a more permanent state of being. The opening image of "the thin grey strand" of smoke from a "forgotten cigarette" is juxtaposed to the "a few long grey hairs" that the speaker finds on his jacket.  The hairs are from when the speaker carried his mother, reflective of her own "soft- foot malady." There is an incurable sense of mourning within the poem, reflective of how Lawrence believed the "intellectual" approach the West featured towards death lacked the true essence of its experience.  

For Lawrence, the physicality of the world that reminds the individual of the natural experience of loss, the mourning for that which is gone, is a significant aspect of the death experience.  This is seen in the poem when Lawrence writes how the vision of those hairs "float up the dark chimney."  Lawrence envisions an experience of death that brings about a "new awareness" of what it means to be human.  The images of the smoke from a forgotten cigarette that is reflective of hairs which are envisioned to be sent up a "dark chimney" is part of the experience of mourning that Lawrence wishes to articulate.  This construction of death is a radical one, different from the conventional understanding of death.  Lawrence does not want to embrace the idea that death is something to be easily passed through.  Rather, he focuses on the death of one mother and how that memory lingers in the consciousness of a child, no matter how old, as an embodiment of the "new awareness" he envisioned in humanity.  It is through this construction that Lawrence affirms life, showing that death is not a force that silences as must as it reminds and causes the individual to absorb the creative life spirit within them, almost transcending death like the smoke from a forgotten cigarette that cannot be contained.

There is life even in the harshest conditions of being for Lawrence through his poetry.  Death is one such topic that cannot stop the force of life in "Sorrow."  In "Discord in Childhood," Lawrence addresses the destructive force of domestic violence.  The title is an immediate juxtaposition of the conventional understanding of childhood bliss, something that Lawrence recognized throughout his work.  For Lawrence to affirm life, there had to be a willingness to look at it, confronting it face to face.  Structurally, he uses the natural world as a means to communicate the world of human behavior.  Lawrence uses the opening image of a wind storm upon a tree shows how violence is a part of the natural condition in the world: "And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree, Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship's weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously."  The natural condition of the world is one where violence has to be seen and understood, a corresponding reality in the world of childhood.  

Lawrence depicts the violence within the human realm as more destructive.  He establishes the "two voices arose in anger" with "delirious rage and dreadful sound."  In response to this, one voice causes the other to be "drowned" "in a silence of blood" underneath the "noise of the ash."  Lawrence's employment of such images help to publicize a private issue, reflecting his desire to create a "new awareness" within the human predicament.  While there is a destructive force within human beings, Lawrence develops a new understanding and consciousness of its presence.  In doing so, he has opened up a new avenue where the creative life forces can emerge, bringing light to that which was once darkened.  This purpose becomes evident upon the poem's conclusion.  In the desire to raise awareness to an issue where evolution of the human being can be evident, one recognizes that all attempts must be made to acknowledge the "discord in childhood."

Both poems can be seen as successful forces of transformation, ensuring that his intent to usher in a new awareness is evident.  The end result from both is that the individual sees issues like death and domestic abuse in a different light and with a different focus.  It is in this light where both poems can be seen as successful in their overall purpose.