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This article is taken from PN Review 270, Volume 49 Number 4, March - April 2023.

D.H. Lawrence’s Birds, Beasts and Flowers at 100
‘A Cabbage in the Rain’
Rowland Bagnall
Let’s love today, the what we have now, this day, not
     today or tomorrow or
yesterday but this passing moment that will
     not come again.
     
    – James Schuyler, ‘A Few Days’

When they are considered at all, the poems of D.H. Lawrence tend to be praised for their engagements with the natural world. Lawrence’s ‘great gift’, writes Marjorie Perloff, was his ‘Wordsworthian ability “to see into the life of things,”’ lifting a phrase from ‘Tintern Abbey’. ‘He seemed able to enter into other lives, and not only human lives’, recalled Jessie Chambers, with whom Lawrence had his first significant relationship: ‘With wild things, flowers and birds, a rabbit in a snare, the speckled eggs in a hole in the ground he was in primal sympathy – a living vibration passed between him and them, so that I always saw him, in the strictest sense of the word, immortal.’ In her memoir Not I, but the Wind (1936), Frieda Weekley – Lawrence’s wife, widow, and sparring partner – paints a similar portrait of her husband the naturalist. ‘When [he] first found a gentian’, she notes, recounting an episode from their alpine honeymoon in 1912, ‘I remember feeling as if he had a strange communion with it, as if the gentian yielded up its blueness, its very essence, to him.’
Even before the publication of Birds, Beasts and Flowers – which celebrates its centenary in 2023 – Lawrence’s poetry is frequently grounded in enigmatic run-ins with the natural world. ‘A Doe at Evening’, from Look! We Have Come Through! (1917), dramatizes an ...


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