The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Wild Common” is, in D. H. Lawrence’s own terms, “a good deal rewritten.” Among his earliest writings, it was composed in 1905 or 1906 at a time when he was “struggling to say something which it takes a man twenty years to be able to say.” Lawrence finally got that said when he published his extended version of the poem—twenty percent longer and with more than fifty percent of the original reworded—as the opening poem in his Collected Poems of 1928. The forty-two-year-old poet changed little of the basic scenario, or even of the rhyme scheme and rhythm, of “The Wild Common” from the version he wrote at nineteen. The content of the poem, however, matures markedly.

Critical consensus prefers the revised poem, with its increased detail and clarified focus. The earlier version is almost never anthologized. Some commentators consider the improvements over the first version as substantive as William Butler Yeats’s sweeping revisions of his poems. Whereas the original is more of a personal effusion on the beauties of the English countryside, the later poem zeroes in on issues of substance and shadow, celebrating the corporeal present in an exultant “I am here! I am here!”

“The Wild Common” in its final form consists of ten four-line stanzas, each stanza following a regular abab rhyme scheme. The rhythm is irregular, and that prosodic irregularity is compounded by alternating short and long lines. The title aptly prefaces Lawrence’s paean to life’s natural beauty, beauty both physical and spiritual. This English “Wild Common” fairly bursts with warm sunshine and...

(The entire section is 670 words.)