Faculty of Arts Department of English
and American Studies English Language and Literature
Human, Animal and Plant in the Poetry of D. H. Lawrence
Bachelor's Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: Stephen Paul Hardy, Ph.D.
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.
Acknowledgements I would like to thank my patient and encouraging supervisor with a deep insight and fair advice, as well as my supporting family for their motivation and help. I would also like to thank my loving partner and my friends for their warm support.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents………………………………………………………………….…..1
2 Life, Literary Work, and the Background of Writing of D. H. Lawrence…….…...5
2.1 Life of D. H. Lawrence…………………………………………………..5
2.2 Literary Work of D. H. Lawrence………………………………………..7
2.2 Background of Writing of D. H. Lawrence……………………………...9
3 Humans, Nature, and the Philosophies of D. H. Lawrence………………….…...11
3.1 Darwinism and Nature………………………………………………….11
3.2 Animals and Plants……………………………………………………..13
3.3 Politics, Religion, the Mystical and Nature…………………………….14
3.4 Life Force and the Transcendent……………………………………….15
3.5 Love, Sexuality, and Freud……………………………………………..16
3.6 Men and Civilization…………………………………………………...18
4 The Elements of Human, Animal and Plant in Birds, Beasts and Flowers…........20
4.1 Analysis of Selected Poems.…………………………………………..21
5 The Elements of Human, Animal and Plant in Pansies……………………….…33
5.1 Analysis of Selected Poems…………………………………………...34
6 The Elements of Human, Animal and Plant in More Pansies and Last Poems….43
6.1 Analysis of Selected Poems……….…………………………………..43
7 Conclusion ………………………………….……………………………………51
9 Resumé (English) ………………………………………………………………..57
10 Resumé (Czech) …………………………….…………………………………..58
1 Introduction The purpose of this thesis is to provide an insight into the poetry of D. H. Lawrence oriented specifically towards the aspects of human, animal, and plant in chosen collections. The thesis will consider Lawrence's approach to various forms of life in his poetry with respect to his personal philosophies which explain the significance and symbolism of the aspects analysed. The specific strategies Lawrence adopts in order to evoke and interpret the significance of animalistic symbols will be analysed together with interpreting the author's views through analysing selected poems from the collections Birds, Beasts and Flowers, Pansies, More Pansies and Last Poems.
The thesis consists of five major chapters, each divided into several sections in order to offer a clear thematic division of the work. The first two chapters provide a theoretical background necessary for a complete understanding of subjects analysed in the other three chapters also referred to as the analytical part of the thesis.
The first chapter of the thesis introduces the reader into the world of D. H. Lawrence and offers a brief description of his life and family background, which is necessary for comprehending various manners of Lawrence's writing. Furthermore, it gives an outline of his literary work including his poetry development in short and the focus then shifts to the background of his writing, which explains literary tendencies of the author in connection to the subject of the analytical part of the thesis.
The most important theoretical observations appear in chapter 2 of the thesis, where the overall view of the world through the eyes of D. H. Lawrence is revealed. Individual subsections deal with his 'personal philosophies' on various themes constantly intersecting his poetry, especially the poems selected. The reader will be introduced to Lawrence's view on Nature in the post-Darwinian era, his perception of animals and plants in connection to humans and also his own image of the functioning of the world connected to religion, his opinion on sexuality, and other issues springing up in his poetry.
The second part of the thesis includes chapters 3 to 5 which analyse specific poems on the ground of the themes and motifs explored in the theoretical part of the thesis, mainly in the second chapter. The most important secondary source here is Keith Sagar's book D. H. Lawrence: Poet1, which offers a thorough analysis of selected poems from the whole poetical work of D. H. Lawrence with regard to his life experience and biographical facts. In George Williams' analytical work D. H. Lawrence's Philosophy as Expressed in His Poetry2the author perfectly demonstrates Lawrence's views and attitudes on various subjects in regard to his poetical works, which is also of great importance and will be repeatedly quoted in the theoretical, as well as analytical part of the thesis. The last but not least is Andrew Keese analysing Lawrence's collection of Pansies from the point of view of Lawrence's philosophies originating in his life background in the title Pansies: Lawrence's Search for the Animal Other in Humans3.
Chapter 3 analyses poems from the collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers with the support of John Wareham' work Birds, Beasts, Flowers: Poems of D. H. Lawrence4focusing on explaining some of the subjects in Lawrence's poems; with the support of other secondary sources that will be introduces later in the thesis. In this collection the subject of the thesis appears most clearly and explicably. Selected poems are being analysed through the themes and motifs explored in the theoretical part of the thesis. Chapter 4 deals with the poems of the Pansies collection, where individual poems are selected and analysed with relevance to the Lawrence's life views. Last chapter then encompasses poetry from More Pansies and Last Poems, where the elements of animal and plant spring up less frequently, but the poems are still of great relevance to the overall philosophy of the author which is crucially dependent on the subject of living organisms. The outcome of the thesis will provide a thorough, yet not one-sided demonstration of D. H. Lawrence's philosophy of life through the analysis of selected poems explicitly or implicitly touching the subject of this paper.
2 Life, Literary Work, and the Background of Writing of D. H. Lawrence Much has been written about the controversial British author named David Herbert Lawrence. As relying on only one or two – even if seemingly reliable – biographies and essays on the author could set limitations to our understanding of his life in connection to his personal philosophy reflected in his writing, this chapter will include bits of information from various academic sources put together in order to build a stable base for comprehending D. H. Lawrence's background and its doubtless influence on his literary career. The following paragraphs will briefly deal with the author's life, exploiting the clear biographical information from Fiona Becket's book The Complete Critical Guide to D. H. Lawrence5 supported by other works mentioned below. The chapter will further offer an outline of Lawrence's literary work, especially poetry, and a brief background of the author's writing.
2.1 Life of D. H. Lawrence David Herbert Lawrence was born on 11 September 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, as a fourth child to his parents Arthur and Lydia Lawrence. Being raised in a working-class family, Lawrence became quite class-conscious, which prepared a background for his later political, as well as philosophical notions. As Becket puts it, "Lawrence continually drew on his working-class, nonconformist background to shape his ideas, even when they developed – as they did – out of resistance to his social and spiritual conditioning"6 (5). One of the projections of his class-consciousness, for example, is Lawrence's attitude towards money, which in his poetry is "an evil construct"7 (141) according to Andrew Keese in his "Pansies: Lawrence's Search for the Animal Other in Humans". In spite of Lawrence's possible mining career as being prescribed by his family background, he did not follow his father's steps into hard labouring but with the help of his mother who dreamed for him a better life, Lawrence successfully qualified as a school teacher at the University College in Nottingham. He went on teaching for a few years while developing his career as a writer, which due to his unstable health later became his only preoccupation.
In Reception of Writers in Europe, Christa Jansohn and Dieter Mehl describe the European reception of Lawrence as being diverse in the same way as his art – covering genres as various as his life views – and "at the root of it all, his restless, never comfortably predictable, personality"8 (13). This personality of his greatly attracted the main female figure of Lawrence's life (apart from his mother) – Frieda Weekley, who exchanged her husband and family in Germany for a new life with Lawrence, whom she married in 1914. Five years later, they left England and set for a life of travelling and temporary settling in continental Europe, Australia and America. This lifestyle had a huge effect on Lawrence's views and discoveries, and it left visible marks in his literary works9. The inspiration Lawrence gathered from travelling and his never-settling life crucially affected his writing career. As Jansohn and Mehl point out: "Lawrence felt in the Mediterranean vitality and openness, a spiritual freedom he generally missed in his own country"10 (5). Lawrence and Frieda spent the rest of their lives together, sporadically settling in various countries of the globe while bringing no child to the world until the death of Lawrence on 2 March 1930.
2.2 Literary Work of D. H. Lawrence It might be said that "books by D. H. Lawrence would fill a good-sized shelf, and books about him would fill an even larger shelf"11 (Williams 73). Although George Williams is absolutely right, he adds that "very little of all that has been written about him deals with his poetry" (73). It is true that the poetry of D. H. Lawrence has been neglected, preserved in the shadow of his rich novelistic career and (sometimes controversial) works of fiction, among which is to be mentioned Sons and Lovers (1913), The White Peacock (1911), The Rainbow (1915), Women in Love (1920), The Plumed Serpent (1926), Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), and more. Some of Lawrence's fictional works touch the subject of animals and plants analysed in this thesis.12
As Mehl and Jansohn mention in their work on the reception of Lawrence in Europe, he was a great writer offering literally every major genre of his century with "an astonishing range of subjects" (2). Apart from the above-mentioned novels, there also appeared drama, essays, travel writing and literary criticism13. In his biography of Lawrence14, Graham Holderness presents the author as a realistic writer, whose novels are derived from his own life histories. This realism, however, ceased to be sufficient for his later works, especially poetry concerned in the following chapters, where it was his personal views and philosophies that built the imagery, rather than his personal history, because "myth, symbol and other non-realist techniques are usually methods of evading, transcending or escaping from it" (Holderness 19), and those are just the methods of his later style, especially for the poetry concerned here.
Lawrence's poetical works turned from realism to a sort of aesthetical individualism. In his short book on Lawrence's poetry15, J. C. Oates explains that "it is in his poetry – less read than his prose; and seriously underestimated – that his ability to show the unique beauty of the passing moment, even the passing psychological moment, is most clearly illustrated." This momentary poetry of Lawrence is significant mainly in the collections Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), Pansies (1929), Last Poems and More Pansies (1932), which are the primary sources for the analytical part of this work. Williams' description of the development of Lawrence's poetical writing includes 5 stages starting with his early work of the 1890's, then a kind of "rugged Georgianism" (Williams 76), later Imagism and "certain passionate, fiercely autobiographical poems that brought him up to about 1920" (76), including the well-known collection Look, We Have Come Through! (1917). Williams describes the last and the longest stage as "ten years of intensely poetic matter expressed in a loose Whitmanesque manner that has the ease and naturalness of good conversation, and the quick, sharp brilliance of genius"16 (76). This 'Whitmanesque manner' entered Lawrence's poetry in the form of free verse, which became significant for Birds, Beasts and Flowers and gave the author greater space to introduce his ideas due to a non-restricted form: "Nearly all critics agree that Lawrence evolved a new form; that, from a mediocre Georgian lyricist, he became a sometimes excellent free-verse lyricist" (3), states John Presley in his essay on resource of Lawrence's poetry17. Together with a new form, Lawrence developed his own manner of creation described by Oates: "Questions, and not answers, are Lawrence's technique, just as the process of thinking is his subject matter, not any formalized structures of 'art'."18 2.3 Background of Writing of D. H. Lawrence The era of Lawrence's active literary career was a time of constant changes, developments, and modern controversial ideas to get accommodated to. Darwin published his Origin of Species with the theory of evolution; Freud came up with psychoanalysis; industrialization pushed the civilization forward and the First World War left a black mark in the history. "Every one of these forces and events had its effect upon Lawrence; and his complex and manifold reactions to them constitute the body of his thought"19 (Williams 75). Lawrence soon discovered his mistrust of society as a whole organism, but as Christopher Caudwell comments in "D. H. Lawrence: A Study of the Burgeois Artist.": "While hating burgeois culture he never succeeded in escaping from its limitations. Here in him, too, we see the same old lie. Man is 'free' in so far as his 'free' instincts, the 'blood', the flesh are given an outlet. Man is free not through but in spite of social relations."20 Thanks to the social relations as they were, Lawrence could realize to which direction he believed society should have turned, which is again and again portrayed in some of his poetry (see chapter 4 and 5). Travelling opened new horizons to his mind and as he was discovering the world while writing Birds, Beast and Flowers (the years 1920-23), "he sought less developed countries as an antidote to life in advanced, 'mechanised' Western society. The unfamiliar vistas and perspective prompted in him new insights and perceptions of animals and plants"21 (Wareham 2). Politics and love creep into Lawrence's poetry on account of his personal 'experience with the world' and despite the fact that he could choose from a scale of influences, the background for some of the poems concerned could be characterized as follows: "He uses allusions from Greek mythology, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Whitman, and perhaps also from The Golden Bough, Norse mythology, Poe, and Shakespeare, to express his own hopes and fears"22 (93), points out Steinberg in his article on Lawrence in connection to myths as an influential tool. Lawrence's writing, especially poetry, is vastly derived from the societal happenings in his life era, which formed his unique thinking and viewpoints, some of which need to be discussed (see chapter 3) into more detail in order to comprehend thematic issues of selected poems.
3 Humans, Nature, and the Philosophies of D. H. Lawrence D. H. Lawrence is well-known for his endless variation of thematic and ideological subjects. All of the philosophies that his mind gathered and generated throughout his life stand as substantial individual topics, but – as will be demonstrated in this chapter – they are all interconnected and share the same background of thought. They originate not only from the historical reality of Lawrence's life, but mainly from his own image of reality, which is adequately described by Oates: "He is fascinated by the protean nature of reality, the various possibilities of the ego23. Throughout the entire collection of poems there is a deep, unshakable faith in the transformable quality of all life."24 This 'transformable quality of all life' inspires in Lawrence his faith in nature and his ideal of a human, his at-that-time controversial attitude towards sexuality, his religious transformation, traces of Darwinism in his work and last but not least, his overall philosophy of the Life Force in our universe. All of these themes, philosophies, and views will be presented in this chapter and are of relevance to the thesis on the ground of their appearance in the poetry concerned, which will be analysed specifically through these aspects of D. H. Lawrence's thinking in chapters 4-5.
3.1 Darwinism and Nature Lawrence's path through the post-Darwinian era was not that of an easy acceptance of the new biological notions declaring war to traditional religious values. Even though Lawrence himself was a great enthusiast of the theory of evolution, he later found objections to be made against it, mainly based on his idea of the transcendent, the aspect of the mystical meandering his thinking (see section 3.3), and also the fact that it did not concentrate on individual and his freedom as much as his philosophy did25 (Granofsky 13). Nevertheless, his writing never ceased to leave traces of Darwinism in it, as it "is developmental and capable of Utopian interpretation," which "to an anti-idealist romantic like Lawrence should have held great appeal" (14). It indeed appealed much to his image of the world being driven by 'the Life Force' (see section 3.4), and was therefore consciously entering his writing. George Williams mentions criticism towards Lawrence's rejection of science, which is legitimate in so far as it concerns mere classifying and categorizing of individual things, which lacks Lawrence's stress on the individuality itself, but he clearly accepts biology, which can be seen in his great interest in the theory of evolution.26 (Williams 83) Williams declares that no one can "understand Lawrence without understanding the theory of evolution; his poetry is full of it"27 (84). The most powerful proof of the above mentioned is a statement of the author himself: "There must be the rapid momentaneous association of things which meet and pass on the forever incalculable journey of creation: everything left in its own rapid, fluid relationship with the rest of things."28 (Lawrence 183)
3.2 Animals and Plants As the whole philosophy portrayed in Lawrence's poetry is based on nature, it is crucial to unravel his associations of animals, plants, and humans. As will be revealed in section 3.6, Lawrence did not believe in the strength of society, but in the individuality of every life form – the closer to nature, the better – and there is nothing as close to nature as pure living organisms not scandalized by the intellect that humans possess. As Rohman suggests in her writing on 'the animal' in modernism, Lawrence understood animality as something spontaneous, not-to-be-known, something 'pure' and 'bodily': " Essentially, the animal possesses the kind of being that Lawrence wants to recuperate within humans, a being that rejects mechanistic forms of self-consciousness and embraces radical mystery"29 (101). Lawrence's poetical writing glorifies plants and animals and celebrates their pure, natural essence, while only wishing men to follow this naturalness. "Lawrence is forever searching for an inward zone of apartness. To be as private as an animal!"30 (Rich 220) This, however, misleads readers into understanding Lawrence as negatively lowering humans to the level of animals. Williams stresses that understanding Lawrence as having dehumanized man to a level of plant or animal is not understanding Lawrence at all31 (81). He regarded intellect to be purely human characteristics, only used in an inappropriate way, shifting away from our primordial instincts: "Plants and animals, therefore, interest him, or even inspire him, as much as do elemental people, or people who live according to their elemental impulses"32 (80). Lawrence "employs his animals as a means to explain many of his late life political and social ideas, especially the notion of false mentalities dictating how people live"33 (Keese 136). The constant appearance of animals and plants is strictly intertwined with other Lawrence's philosophies and – as a subject of this thesis – will be continually explained in accordance with the analysis of selected poems.
3.3 Politics, Religion, the Mystical and Nature Concerning Lawrence's political attitudes, Williams expressly states that "his entire political philosophy is one of individualism – an impracticable and impossible individualism."34 (87) In his ideal state of individualists, there would be no need for extensive, strictly ruling government, because every man would stand for himself as an individual understanding forces of nature and following his instincts, which – in the Lawrence's world of naturalness – would do no harm. This idea, however, is purely utopian. Similarly, Lawrence's religious shift from his family's Congregationalism to believing in God as creativity – not a mind, but a wonderful and mysterious creative force, the Life itself – did not meet much understanding. It is, however, quite significant in his poetry where God is nature and nature is everything: "If we look for God, let us look in the bush where he sings. That is, in living creatures"35 (Lawrence 73). As Williams claims, Lawrence's "religion was far from being formal and orthodox; it was essentially mystical…"36 (76) He was not satisfied with the modern Christianity being little creative and much preaching. To him, "Creative Godhead is the Life Force of the universe"37 (77), it is energy pulsating within everything in the universe at every instant of its being It is, however, not solely spiritual – Lawrence believed in the strong interconnection of spirit and matter and was according to Williams primarily a materialist38 (77). Even though matter is 'the base of all', it is only being enlivened by the spirit entering it, which suggests that Lawrence could be classified as a dualist rather than a materialist.
3.4 Life Force and the Transcendent The 'Creative Godhead' that Lawrence's belief gave birth to is in strong accordance with the 'Life Force', a Lawrentian concept of the power of the universe springing from nature, never ceasing in time. Lawrence's faith in the Life Force lead to believing in 'being in touch' with this force and therefore with God himself, it meant living life to the fullest and deepest, having one's mind, heart and spirit connected and in perfect symbiosis. This, however, did not meet the image of a man of those days, when the civilization was at its great speed in discovering science and creating machinery. "Lawrence feels that only few people are 'in touch', that our entire civilization is out of touch"39 (Williams 82). For an individual to be in touch with the Life Force, one needs to transcend its own humanity, become greater and more powerful in one's naturalness. "Lawrence regards the human as a transcended animal that it is neither transcendent nor animal enough" (Sheehan 117). What Sheehan suggests is that Lawrence concentrated on the "looping of the more-than-human back on to the less-than-human of the natural world."40 (109) His philosophy reflected in the poetry concerned here "carries associations of primitive animism, where animals and nature are imbued with preternatural power and treated as sacred." The reason of this is Lawrence's belief that man is an animal - only with more developed intellect – but has exchanged his animality for civilising and mechanising his life, therefore reaching the low bottom of existence rather than transcending it (Sheehan 109). Lawrence himself in his Fantasia of the Unconscious presents animals and plants as "living, incorporate individuals [that] make up the universe"41 (150). He saw the universe as organic rather than mechanical and created a 'cosmological myth' where living organisms together with the Life Force enliven and drive the cosmos42 (Hyde 69). As Oates points out, and as we will explore in the following chapters, Lawrence believed "that in his poetry, as in life itself, what must be valued is the springing forth of the natural, forcing its own organic shape, not being forced into a preordained structure."43