I have started reading D.H. Lawrence, starting with Lady Chatterly’s Lover before turning back to the beginning with The Trespasser, The White Peacock and now, Sons and Lovers.
I anticipated how to meet the challenge of this formidable author. How do I read something that leads toward the truth? What miracle can I tap from this body of work that could benefit me? How can life flow so effortlessly from between two covers? Reading, for me, is the greatest voyage on earth.
How do I break from the torpor of normative thinking that plagues current-day America?
Reading D.H. Lawrence unshackled me from my own conservative bent, an enterprise striving to break free from the constraints of nonfiction writing, and address the embers of creative writing stirring within. To use the words of Lawrence, how do I “fuck the flames into being”? Before, in the throes of my naive shrugging-off of English lit, I held little regard for D.H. Lawrence, until at last I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover and came across the following:
“His body was urgent against her, and she didn’t have the heart anymore to fight…She saw his eyes, tense and brilliant, fierce, not loving. But her will had left her. A strange weight was on her limbs. She was giving way. She was giving up…she had to lie down there under the boughs of the tree, like an animal, while he waited, standing there in his shirt and breeches, watching her with haunted eyes…He too had bared the front part of his body and she felt his naked flesh against her as he came into her. For a moment he was still inside her, turgid there and quivering. Then as he began to move, in the sudden helpless orgasm, there awoke in her new strange thrills rippling inside her. Rippling, rippling, rippling, like a flapping overlapping of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite and melting her all molten inside. It was like bells rippling up and up to a culmination. She lay unconscious of the wild little cries she uttered at the last. But it was over too soon, too soon, and she could no longer force her own conclusion with her own activity. This was different, different. She could do nothing. She could no longer harden and grip for her own satisfaction upon him. She could only wait, wait and moan in spirit and she felt him withdrawing, withdrawing and contracting, coming to the terrible moment when he would slip out of her and be gone. Whilst all her womb was open and soft, and softly clamouring, like a sea anenome under the tide, clamoring for him to come in again and make fulfillment for her. She clung to him unconscious in passion, and he never quite slipped from her, and she felt the soft bud of him within her stirring, and strange rhythms flushing up into her with a strange rhythmic growing motion, swelling and swelling til it filled all her cleaving consciousness, and then began again the unspeakable motion that was not really motion, but pure deepening whirlpools of sensation swirling deeper and deeper through all her tissue and consciousness, til she was one perfect concentric fluid of feeling, and she lay there crying in unconscious inarticulate cries.”
Beyond the sexually-charged prose, it is Lawrence’s magical brick-laying of the human condition, that the animal act of fornication is brought to a higher level via poetry. It is elevated by the energy of language. The stirrings of the cloth bed to a higher purpose. This is church-energy hallelujah choruses stirring the masses into quickening resolve to do good against the encroaching evils of the world. Somewhere within is a Jungian dream-language resonating in the bell-towers of consciousness. Who knew the pathos of human desperation had its own language?
In The Trespasser (1912), Helena observes her illicit love Siegmund like the anemones she watches in a Isle of Wight tide pool. Siegmund is a violinist, she is his student. He is married with children. Still, he pursues his passion as determined as he attacks the violin churning out strained exasperated notes at the furthest edge of its extremities of sound. Many readers walk away from the narrative depressed by the sobering bite of the book. But it is no less depressing than our own lives when we break it down into chapters. It is the implications and consequences of adultery. It is the fragility of ego and limitations of compassion. Siegmund returns home from his weekend to find himself no less scorned than before.
Have we in the modern age even made adultery boring? One slide of the finger in Tinder and magically one has a hook-up at will. Lawrence would have bored with such effortless resolve. There’s no poetry in smartphones.
In The Trespasser, a progenitor of sorts to the Lady herself, Lawrence riffs from his source material (a friend’s journal) to explore the capabilities of language:
“The sea was smoking with darkness under half luminous heavens. The stars, one after another, were catching alight. Siegmund perceived first one, and the another one flicker out in the darkness over the sea. He stood perfectly still, watching them. Gradually he remembered how, in the cathedral, the tapers of the choir-stalls would tremble and set steadily to burn, opening the darkness point-after-point with yellow drops of flame, as the acolyte touched them, one by one, delicately with his rod. The night was religious, then, with its proper order of service. Day and night had their ritual, and passed in uncouth worship.”
Such delicate improprieties are forgiven under the auspices of such charged hypnotic prose.
It is time, then, to light the candle anew, and fuck the flame into being.