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5. david herbert lawrence (1885-1930)

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In this part we are going to talk about David Herbert Lawrence. He was born on September 11, 1885, in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, central England. He was the fourth child of a struggling coal miner who was a heavy drinker. His mother was a former schoolteacher, greatly superior in education to her husband. Lawrence's childhood was dominated by poverty and friction between his parents. He was educated at Nottingham High School, to which he had won a scholarship. He worked as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory and then for four years as a pupil-teacher. After studies at Nottingham University, Lawrence, at 22, briefly pursued a teaching career. Lawrence's mother died in 1910; he helped her die by giving her an overdose of sleeping medicine.

Furthermore, in 1909, a number of Lawrence's poems were published by Ford Max Ford in the English Review. The appearance of his first novel, The White Peacock (1911), launched Lawrence into a writing career. In 1912 he met Frieda Von Richthofen, the Professor Ernest Weekly's wife and fell in love with her. Frieda left her husband and three children, and they eloped to Bavaria. Lawrence's novel Sons and Lovers appeared in 1913 and was based on his childhood. In 1914 Lawrence married Frieda Von Richthofen, and travelled with her in several countries. Lawrence's fourth novel, The Rainbow (1915), was about two sisters growing up in the north of England. Lawrence started to write The Lost Girl in Italy. He dropped the novel for some years and rewrote the story in an old Sicilian farmhouse near Taormina in 1920.

During the First World War Lawrence and his wife were unable to obtain passports and were easy targets of constant harassment from the authorities. They were accused of spying the Germans and officially expelled from Cornwall in 1917. The Lawrence’s were not permitted to emigrate until 1919, when their years of wandering began.

Lawrence's best known work is Lady Chatterly's Lover, first published privately in Florence in 1928. It talks about the love affair between a wealthy, married woman, and a man who works on her husband's estate. The book was banned for a time, in both UK and the US, as pornographic. Lawrence's other novels from the 1920s also include Women in Love (1920), a sequel to The Rainbow. Aaron's Rod (1922) shows the influence of Nietzsche, and in Kangaroo (1923) Lawrence expressed his own idea of a 'superman'. The Plumed Serpent (1926) was a vivid evocation of Mexico and its ancient Aztec religion. The Man Who Died (1929), is a bold story of Christ's Resurrection. Lawrence's non-fiction works include Movements In European History(1921), Psychoanalysis And The Unconscious (1922) and Studies In Classic American Literature (1923).

D.H. Lawrence died in Vence, France on March 2, 1930. He also gained posthumous renown for his expressionistic paintings completed in the 1920s.1 His best known poems are probably those dealing with nature such as those in Birds Beasts and Flowers and Tortoises. Snake, one of his most frequently anthologised, displays some of his most concerns; those of man's modern distance from nature and subtle hints at religious themes.2

“A snake came to my water-trough 1

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 me”

In this poem, Lawrence has an extrange meeting with a Snake, this makes him doubt about what to do, makes him choose between what is correct, from the point of view of the cultural values, or not, even though he is extremely attracted by this serpent, which clearly is a Religious symbol of Evil. The poet was tired of the stifling Christianity of Europe and wished to rejuvenate it with earlier, tribal religions. This search for a primeval religious consciousness was part of the reason for his "savage pilgrimage."3

When World War I broke out, he felt that it was then more important to find the grounds of faith in life itself and the means to a new integration of the individual and society. To this he added the question of the nature of a relationship between man and man that would have the same higher significance as that between a man and a woman. Religiously and ethically he can be described as a vitalist, finding a source and a guide - in a sense, God - in the "life force" itself as it was manifested in nature, un-tampered with by "mental attitudes." He was concerned with how this force might be restored to a proper balance in human behaviour.4 We have a clear example in the following poem:

Why Does She Weep5

Hush then

why do you cry?

It's you and me

the same as before.
If you hear a rustle

it's only a rabbit

gone back to his hole

in a bustle.
If something stirs in teh branches

overhead, it will be a squirrel moving

uneasily, disturbed by the stress

of our loving.
Why should you cry then?

Ar you afraid of God

in the dark?
I'm not afraid of God.

Let him come forth.

If he is hiding in the cover

let him come forth.
Now in the cool of the day

it is we who walk in the trees

and call to God "Where art thou?"

And it is he who hides.
Why do you cry?

My heart is bitter.

Let God come forth to justify

himself now.
Why do you cry?

Is it Wehmut, ist dir weh?

Weep then, yea

for the abomination of our old righteousness.
We have done wrong

many times;

but this time we begin to do right.
Weep then, weep

for the abomination of our old righteousness.

God will keep

hidden, he won't come forth.

In this poem, Lawrence addresses to a woman who cries “Why do you cry?”

They have gone out for a walk, and the woman is afraid. She hears some noises in Nature and he tries to calm her down , showing her that the strange noises come from innocent animals, come from nature and “it is only a rabbit”, “it will be a squirrel moving uneasily,” as the poem says. However, she thinks God is hiding in Nature, in the darkness and he wants her not to be afraid of Him, as he is not “I am not afraid of God”, “if he is hiding in the cover, let him come forth”; it is only he and she walking in the trees. But she continues crying, and that makes him feel upset “my heart is bitter”, the man searches for an answer, even addressing her in German, “is it Wehmut, ist dir weh?” Then, as she gives him no answer, he guesses the reason why, she weeps “for the abomination of our old righteousness”, as they are sinners, she thinks they will be punished by a vindictive God, but this time they “begin to do it right”, so God will continue hidden in Nature, but He will not come forth to punish them, as He is a different God, a new concept form men in general had in Old Testament.


1 D.H.Lawrence – Biography and Works. 21 Apr 2007. <>

2 D.H.Lawrence: Definition and Much More from 21 Apr 2007. <>

3 D.H.Lawrence – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 21 Apr 2007. <>

4 D.H.Lawrence: Definition and Much More from 21 Apr 2007. <>

5 D.H.Lawrence Poetry!! 21 Apr 2007. <>

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