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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

That experience of integration, like most experiences in D. H. Lawrence’s poetry, is richly physical. The reader can taste in this poem the sweet substance of felt life and relish Lawrence’s incomparably responsive eye for natural detail. It seems significant that Lawrence in his revising of this poem shapes the sensuousness away from the erotic toward the religious. The earlier poem featured a central image of “soul like a passionate woman,” with close-ups of intimate love running “ecstatic over the pliant folds rippling down to my belly from the breast-lights.”

The images that replace those erotic visions in the final version are, in contrast, strikingly incarnational, even liturgical. Lawrence sees a beatific sun whose “substance” transubstantiates into “yellow water-blobs.” He makes simple peewits angelic, “wings and feathers on the crying, mysterious ages.” The climax of the poem is explicit incarnation: “All that is God takes substance!” A rabbit stands in for the priest at this “confirmation,” while in the background lark songs—a decidedly liturgical seven lark songs—are “pealing” like church bells. The underlying emphasis on religious ceremony consecrates the youth’s dive into the pool as emblematic baptism into life.

It is intriguing that the question of Lawrence’s materialism is so much debated among critics. Some readers see him as limited by his focus on natural phenomena to the exclusion...

(The entire section is 516 words.)