D.H. Lawrence (1919) Bay: A Book of Poems
Transcriber's Note: These poems were first published by the Beaumont Press in a limited edition. Facsimile page images from the original publication, including facsimile images of the original coloured illustrations by Anne Estelle Rice, are freely available from the Internet Archive.
BAY . . A BOOK OF . . POEMS . . BY D: H: LAWRENCE
To Cynthia Asquith
GUARDS Where the trees rise like cliffs
THE LITTLE TOWN AT EVENING The chime of the bells
LAST HOURS The cool of an oak's unchequered shade
AFTER THE OPERA Down the stone stairs
GOING BACK The night turns slowly round
ON THE MARCH We are out on the open road
BOMBARDMENT The town has opened to the sun
WINTER-LULL Because of the silent snow
THE ATTACK When we came out of the wood
OBSEQUIAL ODE Surely you've trodden straight
SHADES Shall I tell you, then, how it is?—
BREAD UPON THE WATERS So you are lost to me
RUINATION The sun is bleeding its fires upon the mist
RONDEAU The hours have tumbled their leaden sands
TOMMIES IN THE TRAIN The sun shines
WAR-BABY The child like mustard-seed
NOSTALGIA The waning moon looks upward
A Review in Hyde Park 1913. The Crowd Watches.
WHERE the trees rise like cliffs, proud and blue-tinted in the distance, Between the cliffs of the trees, on the grey- green park Rests a still line of soldiers, red motionless range of guards Smouldering with darkened busbies beneath the bay- onets' slant rain.
Colossal in nearness a blue police sits still on his horse Guarding the path; his hand relaxed at his thigh, And skyward his face is immobile, eyelids aslant In tedium, and mouth relaxed as if smiling—ineffable tedium!
So! So! Gaily a general canters across the space, With white plumes blinking under the evening grey sky. And suddenly, as if the ground moved The red range heaves in slow, magnetic reply.
EVOLUTIONS OF SOLDIERS
The red range heaves and compulsory sways, ah see! in the flush of a march Softly-impulsive advancing as water towards a weir from the arch Of shadow emerging as blood emerges from inward shades of our night Encroaching towards a crisis, a meeting, a spasm and throb of delight.
The wave of soldiers, the coming wave, the throbbing red breast of approach Upon us; dark eyes as here beneath the busbies glit- tering, dark threats that broach Our beached vessel; darkened rencontre inhuman, and closed warm lips, and dark Mouth-hair of soldiers passing above us, over the wreck of our bark.
And so, it is ebb-time, they turn, the eyes beneath the busbies are gone. But the blood has suspended its timbre, the heart from out of oblivion Knows but the retreat of the burning shoulders, the red-swift waves of the sweet Fire horizontal declining and ebbing, the twilit ebb of retreat.
THE LITTLE TOWN AT EVENING
THE chime of the bells, and the church clock striking eight Solemnly and distinctly cries down the babel of children still playing in the hay. The church draws nearer upon us, gentle and great In shadow, covering us up with her grey.
Like drowsy children the houses fall asleep Under the fleece of shadow, as in between Tall and dark the church moves, anxious to keep Their sleeping, cover them soft unseen.
Hardly a murmur comes from the sleeping brood, I wish the church had covered me up with the rest In the home-place. Why is it she should exclude Me so distinctly from sleeping with those I love best?
THE cool of an oak's unchequered shade Falls on me as I lie in deep grass Which rushes upward, blade beyond blade, While higher the darting grass-flowers pass Piercing the blue with their crocketed spires And waving flags, and the ragged fires Of the sorrel's cresset—a green, brave town Vegetable, new in renown.
Over the tree's edge, as over a mountain Surges the white of the moon, A cloud comes up like the surge of a fountain, Pressing round and low at first, but soon Heaving and piling a round white dome. How lovely it is to be at home Like an insect in the grass Letting life pass.
There's a scent of clover crept through my hair From the full resource of some purple dome Where that lumbering bee, who can hardly bear His burden above me, never has clomb. But not even the scent of insouciant flowers Makes pause the hours.
Down the valley roars a townward train. I hear it through the grass Dragging the links of my shortening chain Southwards, alas!
LONDON Used to wear her lights splendidly, Flinging her shawl-fringe over the River, Tassels in abandon.
And up in the sky A two-eyed clock, like an owl Solemnly used to approve, chime, chiming, Approval, goggle-eyed fowl.
There are no gleams on the River, No goggling clock; No sound from St. Stephen's; No lamp-fringed frock.
Instead, Darkness, and skin-wrapped Fleet, hurrying limbs, Soft-footed dead.
London Original, wolf-wrapped In pelts of wolves, all her luminous Garments gone.
London, with hair Like a forest darkness, like a marsh Of rushes, ere the Romans Broke in her lair.
It is well That London, lair of sudden Male and female darknesses Has broken her spell.
AFTER THE OPERA
DOWN the stone stairs Girls with their large eyes wide with tragedy Lift looks of shocked and momentous emotion up at me. And I smile.
Ladies Stepping like birds with their bright and pointed feet Peer anxiously forth, as if for a boat to carry them out of the wreckage, And among the wreck of the theatre crowd I stand and smile.
They take tragedy so becomingly. Which pleases me.
But when I meet the weary eyes The reddened aching eyes of the bar-man with thin arms, I am glad to go back to where I came from.
THE NIGHT turns slowly round, Swift trains go by in a rush of light; Slow trains steal past. This train beats anxiously, outward bound.
But I am not here. I am away, beyond the scope of this turning; There, where the pivot is, the axis Of all this gear.
I, who sit in tears, I, whose heart is torn with parting; Who cannot bear to think back to the departure platform; My spirit hears
Voices of men Sound of artillery, aeroplanes, presences, And more than all, the dead-sure silence, The pivot again.
There, at the axis Pain, or love, or grief Sleep on speed; in dead certainty; Pure relief.
There, at the pivot Time sleeps again. No has-been, no here-after; only the perfected Silence of men.
ON THE MARCH
WE are out on the open road. Through the low west window a cold light flows On the floor where never my numb feet trode Before; onward the strange road goes.
Soon the spaces of the western sky With shutters of sombre cloud will close. But we'll still be together, this road and I, Together, wherever the long road goes.
The wind chases by us, and over the corn Pale shadows flee from us as if from their foes. Like a snake we thresh on the long, forlorn Land, as onward the long road goes.
From the sky, the low, tired moon fades out; Through the poplars the night-wind blows; Pale, sleepy phantoms are tossed about As the wind asks whither the wan road goes.
Away in the distance wakes a lamp. Inscrutable small lights glitter in rows. But they come no nearer, and still we tramp Onward, wherever the strange road goes.
Beat after beat falls sombre and dull. The wind is unchanging, not one of us knows What will be in the final lull When we find the place where this dead road goes.
For something must come, since we pass and pass Along in the coiled, convulsive throes Of this marching, along with the invisible grass That goes wherever this old road goes.
Perhaps we shall come to oblivion. Perhaps we shall march till our tired toes Tread over the edge of the pit, and we're gone Down the endless slope where the last road goes.
If so, let us forge ahead, straight on If we're going to sleep the sleep with those That fall forever, knowing none Of this land whereon the wrong road goes.
THE TOWN has opened to the sun. Like a flat red lily with a million petals She unfolds, she comes undone.
A sharp sky brushes upon The myriad glittering chimney-tips As she gently exhales to the sun.
Hurrying creatures run Down the labyrinth of the sinister flower. What is it they shun?
A dark bird falls from the sun. It curves in a rush to the heart of the vast Flower: the day has begun.
Because of the silent snow, we are all hushed Into awe. No sound of guns, nor overhead no rushed Vibration to draw Our attention out of the void wherein we are crushed.
A crow floats past on level wings Noiselessly. Uninterrupted silence swings Invisibly, inaudibly To and fro in our misgivings.
We do not look at each other, we hide Our daunted eyes. White earth, and ruins, ourselves, and nothing beside. It all belies Our existence; we wait, and are still denied.
We are folded together, men and the snowy ground Into nullity. There is silence, only the silence, never a sound Nor a verity To assist us; disastrously silence-bound!
WHEN we came out of the wood Was a great light! The night uprisen stood In white.
I wondered, I looked around It was so fair. The bright Stubble upon the ground Shone white
Like any field of snow; Yet warm the chase Of faint night-breaths did go Across my face!
White-bodied and warm the night was, Sweet-scented to hold in my throat. White and alight the night was. A pale stroke smote
The pulse through the whole bland being Which was This and me; A pulse that still went fleeing, Yet did not flee.
After the terrible rage, the death, This wonder stood glistening? All shapes of wonder, with suspended breath, Arrested listening
In ecstatic reverie. The whole, white Night!— With wonder, every black tree Blossomed outright.
I saw the transfiguration And the present Host. Transubstantiation Of the Luminous Ghost.
SURELY you've trodden straight To the very door! Surely you took your fate Faultlessly. Now it's too late To say more.
It is evident you were right, That man has a course to go A voyage to sail beyond the charted seas. You have passed from out of sight And my questions blow Back from the straight horizon that ends all one sees.
Now like a vessel in port You unlade your riches unto death, And glad are the eager dead to receive you there. Let the dead sort Your cargo out, breath from breath Let them disencumber your bounty, let them all share.
I imagine dead hands are brighter, Their fingers in sunset shine With jewels of passion once broken through you as a prism Breaks light into jewels; and dead breasts whiter For your wrath; and yes, I opine They anoint their brows with your blood, as a perfect chrism.
On your body, the beaten anvil, Was hammered out That moon-like sword the ascendant dead unsheathe Against us; sword that no man will Put to rout; Sword that severs the question from us who breathe.
Surely you've trodden straight To the very door. You have surely achieved your fate; And the perfect dead are elate To have won once more.
Now to the dead you are giving Your last allegiance. But what of us who are living And fearful yet of believing In your pitiless legions.
SHALL I tell you, then, how it is?— There came a cloven gleam Like a tongue of darkened flame To flicker in me.
And so I seem To have you still the same In one world with me.
In the flicker of a flower, In a worm that is blind, yet strives, In a mouse that pauses to listen
Glimmers our Shadow; yet it deprives Them none of their glisten.
In every shaken morsel I see our shadow tremble As if it rippled from out of us hand in hand.
As if it were part and parcel, One shadow, and we need not dissemble Our darkness: do you understand?
For I have told you plainly how it is.
BREAD UPON THE WATERS.
SO you are lost to me! Ah you, you ear of corn straight lying, What food is this for the darkly flying Fowls of the Afterwards!
White bread afloat on the waters, Cast out by the hand that scatters Food untowards,
Will you come back when the tide turns? After many days? My heart yearns To know.
Will you return after many days To say your say as a traveller says, More marvel than woe?
Drift then, for the sightless birds And the fish in shadow-waved herds To approach you.
Drift then, bread cast out; Drift, lest I fall in doubt, And reproach you.
For you are lost to me!
THE sun is bleeding its fires upon the mist That huddles in grey heaps coiling and holding back. Like cliffs abutting in shadow a drear grey sea Some street-ends thrust forward their stack.
On the misty waste-lands, away from the flushing grey Of the morning the elms are loftily dimmed, and tall As if moving in air towards us, tall angels Of darkness advancing steadily over us all.
RONDEAU OF A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR.
THE hours have tumbled their leaden, mono- tonous sands And piled them up in a dull grey heap in the West. I carry my patience sullenly through the waste lands; To-morrow will pour them all back, the dull hours I detest.
I force my cart through the sodden filth that is pressed Into ooze, and the sombre dirt spouts up at my hands As I make my way in twilight now to rest. The hours have tumbled their leaden, monotonous sands.
A twisted thorn-tree still in the evening stands Defending the memory of leaves and the happy round nest. But mud has flooded the homes of these weary lands And piled them up in a dull grey heap in the West.
All day has the clank of iron on iron distressed The nerve-bare place. Now a little silence expands And a gasp of relief. But the soul is still compressed: I carry my patience sullenly through the waste lands.
The hours have ceased to fall, and a star commands Shadows to cover our stricken manhood, and blest Sleep to make us forget: but he understands: To-morrow will pour them all back, the dull hours I detest.
TOMMIES IN THE TRAIN
THE SUN SHINES, The coltsfoot flowers along the railway banks Shine like flat coin which Jove in thanks Strews each side the lines.
A steeple In purple elms, daffodils Sparkle beneath; luminous hills Beyond—and no people.
England, Oh Danae To this spring of cosmic gold That falls on your lap of mould! What then are we?
What are we Clay-coloured, who roll in fatigue As the train falls league by league From our destiny?
A hand is over my face, A cold hand. I peep between the fingers To watch the world that lingers Behind, yet keeps pace.
Always there, as I peep Between the fingers that cover my face! Which then is it that falls from its place And rolls down the steep?
Is it the train That falls like meteorite Backward into space, to alight Never again?
Or is it the illusory world That falls from reality As we look? Or are we Like a thunderbolt hurled?
One or another Is lost, since we fall apart Endlessly, in one motion depart From each other.
THE CHILD like mustard-seed Rolls out of the husk of death Into the woman's fertile, fathomless lap.
Look, it has taken root! See how it flourisheth. See how it rises with magical, rosy sap!
As for our faith, it was there When we did not know, did not care; It fell from our husk like a little, hasty seed.
Sing, it is all we need. Sing, for the little weed Will flourish its branches in heaven when we slumber beneath.
THE WANING MOON looks upward; this grey night Slopes round the heavens in one smooth curve Of easy sailing; odd red wicks serve To show where the ships at sea move out of sight.
The place is palpable me, for here I was born Of this self-same darkness. Yet the shadowy house below Is out of bounds, and only the old ghosts know I have come, I feel them whimper in welcome, and mourn.
My father suddenly died in the harvesting corn And the place is no longer ours. Watching, I hear No sound from the strangers, the place is dark, and fear Opens my eyes till the roots of my vision seems torn.
Can I go no nearer, never towards the door? The ghosts and I we mourn together, and shrink In the shadow of the cart-shed. Must we hover on the brink Forever, and never enter the homestead any more?
Is it irrevocable? Can I really not go Through the open yard-way? Can I not go past the sheds And through to the mowie?—Only the dead in their beds Can know the fearful anguish that this is so.
I kiss the stones, I kiss the moss on the wall, And wish I could pass impregnate into the place. I wish I could take it all in a last embrace. I wish with my breast I here could annihilate it all.
HERE ENDS BAY A BOOK OF POEMS BY D. H. Lawrence The Cover and the Decorations designed by Anne Estelle Rice The Typography and Binding arranged by Cyril W. Beaumont Printed by Hand on his Press at 75 Charing Cross Road in the City of Westminster Completed November the Twentieth MDCCCCXIX
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