“All creative art must rise out of a specific soil and flicker with the spirit of place.” — D.H. Lawrence

“Whoever reads me will be in the thick of the scrimmage, and if he doesn’t like it – if he wants a safe seat in the audience – let him read somebody else.” — D.H. Lawrence, 1925

D.H. Lawrence was born on this day.

A real pioneer in his day, especially in the battle against censorship, against prudery, against SELF-censorship, some of his stuff can seem rather silly now. Maybe it sounded silly back then too! (Read the quotes of his contemporaries. Many of them were like, “Enough with the sex stuff.”) I never really got into his novels, although my dad tells stories about how, as a youth, he (and his friends) would flip through them, looking only for the dirty parts. So I can’t really speak to his novels. I know his work meant a lot to Tennessee Williams. Lawrence inspired many people.

I love some of his poems, especially the animal poems. People who get mad at people who “anthropomorphize” animals need to seriously get a life. YESTERDAY.

There’s a lot of complete nonsense in his poetry. It is very difficult not to roll your eyes at all that mystical commingling and yearning phalluses and etc. Yeah, we get it, sex is wonderful, we all love to do it. But there’s also something really intellectual about Lawrence. He’s not really a libertine, not at all, and so his sex stuff can seem rather labored, like … he’s just thinking about it too damn much. I realize I say this from the comfy confines of the 21st century and I give him the props for pushing the boundaries of what could be said, what would be allowed to be said, and all that. His books were controversial for decades, and you read them now and wonder, “Good lord, what was all the fuss about.”

Whitman was his main inspiration: you can hear Whitman’s lines ringing through Lawrence’s lines. There’s the same high-arched ceiling of SELF SELF SELF, the same transcendent grasping soul, etc. But for some reason, Whitman’s poems have more staying power (hm, a sexual phrase. A propos.)

Tennessee Williams was obsessed with D.H. Lawrence and worked on many plays over his life focusing on Lawrence and on Lawrence’s notorious wife Frieda. Some are one-acts, some unfinished full-lengths. On one of his early cross-country journeys, Williams made a pilgrimage to New Mexico, hoping to get meet Frieda and get her blessing for his project. Lawrence may very well be a man of his time and his time only but he casts a very long shadow. You can hear echoes of his work in other writers even today.

The Beats were influenced by Lawrence. They liked the sense of going “into a zone”, where the connections fly freely, where the “riff” is all. It was Allen Ginsberg who said “first thought best thought”. Lawrence would have understood.

Here are two of Lawrence’s animal poems.

The Elephant Is Slow to Mate

The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.


A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.


D.H. Lawrence, watching a Zeppelin raid in London, 1915:

So it is the end–our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air.

Michael Schmidt, Lives of the Poets:

Lawrence represents a zigzaggy middle way between the revolutions of Pound and Eliot and the counterrevolution based on Hardy.

Saul Bellow:

I have a special interest in Joyce; I have a special interest in Lawrence. I read certain poets over and over again. I can’t say where they belong in my theoretical scheme; I only know that I have an attachment to them. Yeats is one such poet. Hart Crane is another. Hardy and Walter de la Mare. I don’t know what these have in common – probably nothing. I know that I am drawn repeatedly to these men.

From Paris Review interview with Rebecca West:
Rebecca West: I’ve never been able to do just one draft. That seems a wonderful thing. Do you know anyone who can?
Paris Review Interviewer: I think DH Lawrence did.
Rebecca West: You could often tell.

Harold Bloom, Best Poems in the English Language:

Lawrence’s early poetry (some of it very good) stemmed from Thomas Hardy’s work, just as Lawrence’s first novels were Hardyesque. Whitman induced enormous ambivalences in Lawrence, but that seems to me a frequent element in the drama of poetic influence. Lawrence was furious at Whitman’s excesses in representing the democratic merging of his own identity with others.

D.H. Lawrence:

Whitman, the great poet, has meant so much to me. Whitman, the one man breaking a way ahead.

Camille Paglia, “Love Poetry”:

Love poetry of the twentieth century is the most varied and sexually explicit since classical antiquity. Yet Neruda writes searing odes to physical passion, boiling with ecstatic elemental imagery. D.H. Lawrence similarly roots the sex impulse in the seasonal cycles of the animal world.

Tennessee Williams, letter to Joseph Hazan, September 3, 1940:

Read the collected letters of D.H. Lawrence, the journals and letters of Katharine Mansfield, of Vincent van Gogh. How bitterly and relentlessly they fought their way through! Sensitive beyond endurance and yet enduring. Of course Van Gogh went mad in the end and Mansfield and Lawrence bought fought a losing battle with degenerative disease–T.B.–but their work is a pure shaft rising out of that physical defeat. A permanent, pure, incorruptible thing, far more real, more valid than their physical entities ever were. They cry aloud to you in their work–no, more vividly, intimately, personally than they could have cried out to you with their living tongues. They live, they aren’t dead. That is the one inelectable gift of the artist, to project himself beyond time and space through grasp and communion with eternal values. Even this maybe a relative good, a makeshift. Canvas fades, languages are forgotten. But isn’t there beauty in the fact of their passion, so much of which is replete with the purest compassion?

The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry:

Like William Blake, Lawrence sees humans as imprisoned within their bodies, their “bowels of steel”–mechanisms grown incapable of genuine feeling. They are imprisoned within their egoism as well. Lawrence speaks of it as a “barbed-wire enclosure of Know Thyself.” And they are imrpisoned within sexual taboos that destroy their ability to feel and think by isolating the processes of feeling and thinking from each other.

“The Poet”
by H.D.

I don’t pretend, in a way, to understand,
nor know you,
nor even see you.

I say,
“I don’t grasp his philosophy,
and I don’t understand,”

but I put out a hand, touch a cold door,
(we have both come from so far);
I touch something imperishable;
I think,
why should he stay there?
why should he guard a shrine so alone,
so apart,
on a path that leads nowhere?

he is keeping a candle burning in a shrine
where nobody comes,
there must be some mystery
in the air
about him,

he couldn’t live alone in the desert,
without vision to comfort him,
there must be voices somewhere.

Joan Didion:

“The people I did the most work on were Henry James and D.H. Lawrence, who I was not high on. He irritated me on almost every level … And the writing was so clotted and sentimental… I think he just had a clotted and sentimental mind.”

D.H. Lawrence on Thomas Hardy, 1928:

What a commonplace genius he has; or a genius for the commonplace.

Joyce Carol Oates:

If Lawrence hadn’t written those novels he would have been far more readily acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in the language. As it is, however, his poetry has been neglected. (At least until recently.)

The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry:

Sexual intercourse is for Lawrence less a physical act than a mystical mode, so that his endorsement of it is oddly grim.

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women In Love“:

The two deepest thinkers on sex in the twentieth century are Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence. Their reputations as radical liberators were so universally acknowledged that brooding images of Freud and Lawrence in poster form adorned the walls of students in the Sixties.

Tennessee Williams, letter to Andrew Lynden, March 1943:

Life is more serious than all these things. D.H. Lawrence was the only [one] who realized how serious it was and his writing which is honest about it seems grotesque. Chekhov knew but also knew it would be grotesque if you tried to say it, so there is always the beautiful incompletion, the allusion and delicacy which Lawrence lost, with a sense of a deeper knowledge under it all.

Robert Graves:

“…sick, muddle-headed, sex-mad D.H. Lawrence who wrote sketches for poems, but nothing more…”

from “A Letter to Lord Byron”
By W.H. Auden

I know I’ve not the least chance of survival
Beside the major travellers of the day.
I am no Lawrence who, on his arrival,
Sat down and typed out all he had to say;
I am not even Ernest Hemingway.
I shall not run to a two-bob edition,
So just won’t enter for the competition…

Preserve me from the Shape of Things to Be;
The high-grade posters at the public meeting,
The influence of Art on Industry,
The cinemas with perfect taste in seating;
Preserve me, above all, from central heating.
It may be D. H. Lawrence hocus-pocus,
But I prefer a room that’s got a focus…

I met a chap called Layard and he fed
New doctrines into my receptive head.

Part came from Lane, and part from D. H. Lawrence;
Gide, though I didn’t know it then, gave part.
They taught me to express my deep abhorrence
If I caught anyone preferring Art
To Life and Love and being Pure-in-Heart.
I lived with crooks but seldom was molested;
The Pure-in-Heart can never be arrested.

Harold Bloom, Best Poems in the English Language:

Lawrence evolved his own prophetic religion (fiercely denounced by the churchwardenly T.S. Eliot in After Strange Gods) in which Christ and Lawrence merge as an image of resurrection (see the late novella The Man Who Died). Nonconformist Protestant without being Christian, Lawrence belongs to the English prophetic tradition, with Milton, Blake, and Shelley. His art, he insisted, was for the sake of life, and it is.

Saul Bellow:

I really don’t take Lawrence’s sexual theories very seriously. I take his art seriously, not his doctrine. But he himself warned us repeatedly not to trust the artist. He said trust the work itself.

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women In Love“:

Partly because of his proletarian roots, Lawrence is hypersensitive to social class and documents working-class experience without sentimentalizing it. Contemptuous of bourgeois niceties, he is conscious of his complicity, as a writer, with middle-class experience. Wealth and aristocracy appear in his work as artifice and mannerism, a glamorous imprisonment of mind and body.

Ford Madox Ford, Portraits from Life (1937):

I cannot say that I liked Lawrence much.

D.H. Lawrence:

“[My] real poems [have] the ghost in them. They seemed to me to come from somewhere, I don’t quite know where, out of a me whim I din’t know and didn’t want to know, and say things I would much rather not have said.”

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae:

Like D.H. Lawrence, [William] Blake wants sex to transcend social names and identities. Also like Lawrence, he desires a return to naturalness without succumbing to nature.

The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry:

Lawrence opposed contemporary verse. He objected to W.B. Yeats’s poetry as sickly and A.E. Housman’s as stale. He was more sympathetic to Thomas Hardy, who, like him, cultivated a poetry of deliberate roughness, of intense and complicated feeling.

Poet James Reeves:

[Lawrence] had not the craftsman’s sense of words as living things, as ends in themselves. Words were too much means to an end…He can seldom have conceived a poem as a whole before he sat down to write it. It grew under his pen.

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love“:

One of Lawrence’s major insights, a basic principle of Hinduism and Zen Buddhism, is that words cannot possibly correspond to or fully convey ultimate truths about life or the universe. By rhythmic repetition, surreal imagery, and heightened, operatic phrasings, beyond French poststructuralism, with its bourgeois pendantry and preciosity. The characters of Women in Love struggle toward understanding, their rational and verbal resources overwhelmed by the influx of unsorted sensory data and by eruptions of amoral unconscious impulses.

D.H. Lawrence, 1913:

If I take my whole, passionate, spiritual and physical love to the woman who in return loves me, that is how I serve God … All of which I read in the anthology of Georgian Poetry.

Michael Schmidt:

Eventually he came to sound like the Nietzsche of Also Sprach Zarathustra, big-voiced and assertive, with an inevitable loss of delicacy and precision. Yet he never settled entirely into one particular mode: his travels, his prose writing and reading always affect the supple, unstable style. Yet each poem bears his voice-print: it is hard to mistake his writing for that of any other poet.

Joyce Carol Oates, what male writers have been effective in depictions of women:

Tolstoy, Lawrence, Shakespeare, Flaubert … Very few, really. But then very few women have been effective in their depiction of men.

Saul Bellow:

“A certain openness to experience, yes. And a willingness to trust one’s instinct, to follow it freely – that Lawrence has.”

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love“:

Like Freud, Lawrence strips away the false frills of Victorianism, the lugubrious pieties of institutionalized humanitarianism, which have sprung to renewed life in our own time. Because he has no illusions about our innate altruism, Lawrence is a keen analyst of criminality, which, again like Freud, he sees simmering in all apparently civilized people.

D.H. Lawrence, letter to Edward Marsh, 1913:

It all depends on the pause, the lingering of the voice according to feeling – it is the hidden emotional pattern that makes poetry, not the obvious form.

Michael Schmidt:

Lawrence can be read as a sometimes shrewd diagnostician, a revolutionary avant la lettre, who saw what poetry might do and how his contemporaries were selling it short. But because his prose work took precedence, or he lacked sufficient formal imagination, or because the time was not quite right, he did not write the poems his criticism proposed.

Saul Bellow:

“What does the radicalism of radical writers nowadays amount to? Most of it is hand-me-down bohemianism, sentimental populism, D.H. Lawrence-and-water, or imitation Sartre. For American writers radicalism is a question of honor. They must be radicals for the sake of their dignity. They see it as their function, and a noble function, to say nay, and to bite not only the hand that feeds them (and feeds them with comic abundance, I might add) but almost any other hand held out to them. Their radicalism, however, is contentless. A genuine radicalism, which truly challenges authority, we need desperately.

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love“:

Lawrence [shows] fallen sexuality as a cruel cycle of dominance and submission, where male power and male neediness are identical and where woman drinks man’s energy as he spills it.

Michael Schmidt:

Lawrence is direct, in his writing, and makes no bones about it.

D.H. Lawrence, 1908 letter:

“My verses are tolerable–rather pretty, but not suave; there is some blood in them. Poetry now a days seems to be a sort of plaster-cast craze, scraps sweetly moulded in easy Plaster of Paris sentiment. Nobody chips verses earnestly out of the living rock of his own feeling…Before everything I like sincerity, and a quickening spontaneous emotion. I do not worship music of the ‘half-said thing.'”

Camille Paglia, “Tournament of Modern Personae: D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love“:

Lawrence’s importance for the Sixties was not just as a prophet of sex but as an expander of consciousness. For him, love in the Western sense is not enough; he would reject today’s idolatry of “relationships” as parochial and limiting. As a Romantic, he exalts profound understanding over politics.

The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry:

[Perhaps] his most notable poems or passages are bursts of unified perception, characterized by brutal honesty of observation. He pries open the lid, whatever the box may hold. It is the honesty of a person with a preconceived idea, not of a detached observer. He disturbs whatever he touches; he goads and is goaded. Another rather surprising aspect of his poetry is its dignity. He respects, and demands that his readers respect, the things and experiences he values. Lines that other poets would find too raw–“It was the flank of my wife / I touched with my hand. I clutched with my hand” (“New Heaven and Earth”)–are in context not ridiculous, though when excerpted they may appear so. In addition to honest and dignity, his verse has a more fundamental quality of dynamism, a concentrated apprehension of the inner life of animals and flowers. No poet has a more uncanny sense of what it is like to be, for example, a copulating tortoise (“Lui et Elle”). Lawrence asks of nature not What principles of order and harmony can I find here? but rather, What is the center of violent feeling here? This he elicits with great distinctiveness.

D.H. Lawrence, 1908:

“My verses are tolerable – rather pretty, but not suave; there is some blood in them. Poetry now a days seems to be a sort of plaster-cast craze, scraps sweetly moulded in easy Plaster of Paris sentiment. Nobody chips verses earnestly out of the living rock of his own feeling … Before everything I like sincerity, and a quickening spontaneous emotion. I do not worship music or the ‘half said thing’.”

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3 Responses to “All creative art must rise out of a specific soil and flicker with the spirit of place.” — D.H. Lawrence

  1. mutecypher says:

    //But there’s also something really intellectual about Lawrence.//

    I imagine you’ve seen the line attributed to Aldous Huxley, “An intellectual is someone who has discovered something more interesting than sex.” Since Huxley wrote the introduction to The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, maybe he even had D. H. in mind. Lawrence is the exception that proves (tests) that rule.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Huxley’s introduction, but there’s a lot of good information and insight there. Huxley quotes a letter that Lawrence wrote to a psychologist, “What ails me is the absolute frustration of my primeval societal instinct. . . I think societal instinct much deeper than sex instinct — and societal repression much more devastating. There is no repression of the sexual individual comparable to the repression of the societal man in me, by the individual ego, my own and everybody else’s. . . Myself, I suffer badly from being so cut off. . . At times one is forced to be essentially a hermit. I don’t want to be. But anything else is either a personal tussle, or a money tussle; sickening: except, of course, just for ordinary acquaintance, which remains acquaintance. One has no real human relations — that is so devastating.”

    I agree with you about Lawrence being intellectual, even within Huxley’s definition, because (for me) Lawrence is interested in the societal repression – though he often writes about in within the realm of sex. I think the comparisons to Blake are apt, though Blake seemed free of inhibition and comfortable in pursuit of his vision, while Lawrence is rarely seemed free of inhibition. At least, that’s how I view him. As you say //he’s just thinking about it too damn much.//

    More from Huxley: “The daimon which possessed him was, he felt, a divine thing, which he would never deny or explain away, never even ask to accept a compromise. This loyalty to his own self, or rather to his gift, to the strange and powerful numen which, he felt, used him as its tabernacle, is fundamental in Lawrence and accounts, as nothing else can do, for all that the world found strange in his beliefs and his behavior.”

    This could just as easily be said about Blake.

    My favorite poem of his…

    The Youth Mowing

    There are four men mowing down by the Isar;
    I can hear the swish of the scythe-strokes, four
    Sharp breaths taken yea, and I
    Am sorry for what’s in store.

    The first man out of the four that’s mowing
    Is mine, I claim him once and for all;
    Though it’s sorry I am, on his young feet, knowing
    None of the trouble he’s led to stall.

    As he sees me bringing the dinner, he lifts
    His head as proud as a deer that looks
    Shoulder-deep out of the corn; and wipes
    His scythe-blade bright, unhooks

    The scythe-stone and over the stubble to me.
    Lad, thou hast gotten a child in me,
    Laddie, a man thou’ll ha’e to be,
    Yea, though I’m sorry for thee.

    What a viewpoint, the pregnant young woman mourning that her proud-as-a-deer lover must be domesticated. I’m not quite sure how I’d describe the women he creates. Engaged by the natural world, but with a shell around themselves or a distance from society. Perhaps they think too much, just as he does. As an example I like of this excerpt from The Rainbow

    Ursula picked some lovingly, in an ecstasy. The golden chips of wood shone yellow like sunlight, the snowdrops in the twilight were like the first starts of night. And she, alone amongst them, was wildly happy to have found her way into such a glimmering dusk, to intimate little flowers, and the splash of wood chips like sunshine over the twilight of the ground. She sat down on the felled tree and remained awhile remote.


    I don’t really have a point here beyond wanting to share my fascination with D. H. Lawrence. Thanks for writing about him!

    • sheila says:

      Thanks for all this – what a great comment! I love all the quotes! I admit I find DH Lawrence somewhat tiresome – I definitely like his poems better than his books! HOWEVER I recognize his huge importance, particularly in his influence on future generations – like, it can’t even be measured. PLUS his battle for free speech, the symbolism of that is still really important.

      It was interesting – when I was researching my HD piece, I learned the depths of their entanglement – which is really something! Much of the story has been erased from history because her husband Richard Aldington destroyed their correspondence – hers and his – and … I think Aldington wrote the first proper biography – and as you can imagine he clearly had personal motives for leaving HD out of the story. HD was bisexual but her bond with DH (also notice the mirroring of their initials …) was intense – any time she writes about a cabin deep in the woods – which she did throughout her entire life – it’s one of her constant images – it’s 98% certain she’s referring to her trysts with Lawrence. I’m trying to remember – I think their romance blossomed during WWI – at any rate, he had a huge influence on her – and her on him – there is some interesting commentary out there about it, but it’s hard, since much of this has had to be reconstructed by biographers (and some of it will always be speculation since Aldington got rid of so much. Damn you Aldington!)

      The thought of HD – whom I got to know so well after writing that piece about her – with Lawrence – is so fascinating.

      • mutecypher says:

        The Lawrence/HD relationship is definitely fascinating. I hope I’m not repeating stuff you are well aware of, but I was intrigued that both of them wrote poems about Leda and the Swan. Lawrence’s is short.


        Come not with kisses
        not with caresses
        of hands and lips and murmurings;
        come with a hiss of wings
        and sea-touch tip of a beak
        and treading of wet, webbed, wave-working feet
        into the marsh-soft belly

        And in his collection Pansies he also has a poem titled Swan that clearly references Zeus as the Swan.


        at the core of space
        at the quick
        of time
        and goes still
        the great swan upon the waters of all endings
        the swan within vast chaos, within the electron.

        For us
        no longer he swims calmly
        nor clacks across the forces furrowing a great gay trail
        of happy energy,
        nor is he nesting passive upon the atoms,
        nor flying north desolative icewards
        to the sleep of ice,
        nor feeding in the marshes,
        nor honking horn-like into the twilight.

        But he stoops, now
        in the dark
        upon us;
        he is treading our women
        and we men are put out
        as the vast white bird
        furrows our featherless women
        with unknown shocks
        and stamps his black marsh-feet on their white and marshy flesh.

        These were published in 1929.

        H. D.’s Leda is longer and was published ten years earlier.


        Where the slow river
        meets the tide,
        a red swan lifts red wings
        and darker beak,
        and underneath the purple down
        of his soft breast
        uncurls his coral feet.

        Through the deep purple
        of the dying heat
        of sun and mist,
        the level ray of sun-beam
        has caressed
        the lily with dark breast,
        and flecked with richer gold
        its golden crest.

        Where the slow lifting
        of the tide,
        floats into the river
        and slowly drifts
        among the reeds,
        and lifts the yellow flags,
        he floats
        where tide and river meet.

        Ah kingly kiss—
        no more regret
        nor old deep memories
        to mar the bliss;
        where the low sedge is thick,
        the gold day-lily
        outspreads and rests
        beneath soft fluttering
        of red swan wings
        and the warm quivering
        of the red swan’s breast.

        It’s not surprising that two poets involved would find the same topics for their writing. It’s interesting to contrast the emphasis each places in the story. I think H.D.’s is beautiful.

        And in between was Yeats’ great Leda and the Swan , written in 1923.

        It can be a temptation to ask “why was everyone writing about that topic then?” even though the poems are across a 10 year span. But I do wonder. Freud and his tying of sexuality to myth? Not sure. Any thoughts?

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