Ah, stern cold man,
How can you lie so relentless hard
While I wash you with weeping water!
Ah, face, carved hard and cold,
You have been like this, on your guard
Against me, since death began.
How can you shame to act this part
Of unswerving indifference to me?
It is not you; why disguise yourself
Against me, to break my heart,
You’ve a warm mouth,
A good warm mouth always sooner to soften
Even than your sudden eyes.
Ah cruel, to keep your mouth
Relentless, however often
I kiss it in drouth.
You are not he.
Who are you, lying in his place on the bed
And rigid and indifferent to me?
His mouth, though he laughed or sulked
Was always warm and red
And good to me.
And his eyes could see
The white moon hang like a breast revealed
By the slipping shawl of stars,
Could see the small stars tremble
As the heart beneath did wield
And he showed it me
So, when he made his love to me;
And his brows like rocks on the sea jut out,
And his eyes were deep like the sea
With shadow, and he looked at me,
Till I sank in him like the sea,
Oh, he was multiform –
Which then was he among the manifold?
The gay, the sorrowful, the seer?
I have loved a rich race of men in one –
But not this, this never-warm
Metal-cold – !
With your steel face white-enamelled
Were you he, after all, and I never
Saw you or felt you in kissing?
– Yet sometimes my heart was trammelled
With fear, evader!
You will not stir,
Nor hear me, not a sound.
– Then it was you –
And all this time you were
Like this when I lived with you.
It is not true,
I am frightened, I am frightened of you
And of everything.
O God! – God too
Has deceived me in everything,
About language. Drouth means drought. Systole is the contraction of the heart; diastole is the relaxation of the heart. So by reading a poem by D H Lawrence you can find out what that blood pressure reading really means. There are some strong contrasts: stern cold, carved hard and cold, metal – cold, steel face white-enamelled. Against warm mouth, soften, warm and red, kissing. One other nice contrast is D H Lawrence’s: slipping shawl of stars with Lawrence Durrell’s: the waters a moving floor of stars I talked about last week.
There are love poems by men. And there are love poems by women. This is a love poem by a man from the point of view of a woman. So first of all I admire Lawrence’s bravery. And as a human and as a man I think it is a sensual and passionate poem.
So we have the question: why did D H Lawrence write this poem from the point of view of a woman? He could simply have described the scene of mourning. But instead of showing us a photograph he brought us into the bedroom and into the widow’s head and heart and memories. And even into the embraces and kisses between the lovers. Was this woman’s pure passionate love the way he thought he was loved? Or the way he wanted to be loved? I also wonder about the seer in the seventh stanza. Did her husband know he was going to die? Did he tell her?
The poem rings true (to me as a man). The fury at the lover for having died. The mood changes (signalled by the changes from you to he to you). The sensual memories. Recalling all his different facets: I have loved a rich race of men in one. The doubt. The bitterness. The despair.
The subtle rhyme scheme is often almost imperceptible. The poem finishes: God too has deceived me in everything. In everything. It doesn’t seem like you have been reading a structured poem. And yet some of the rhymes are bold and innovative. Masquerader! Evader! White-enamelled. Trammelled.
Finally the poem trails off into silence leaving the woman alone keening in the desolation and anger of her loss.
free e-book: Some Imagist Poets on project gutenberg
free e-books of works by D H Lawrence on project gutenberg australia
D H Lawrence on wikipedia
The Complete Poems of D H Lawrence on Amazon
photo: aurora by Frances Lane used with permission:
his eyes could see
The white moon hang like a breast revealed
By the slipping shawl of stars
Gracias Carina for the introduction to a poet I didn’t know. The sonnet is interesting too. Here is a very impressive and sophisticated rhyming version in English. It’s not usually a good idea to do that in translations because it’s very constricting. But this English version can stand on its own as a sonnet. You can judge better than I if it is faithful to the Spanish.
Here are some more of Quevedo’s sonnets with translations by Alix Ingber from the same site.
And Francisco de Quevedo on wikipedia.
Thank you for another great poem and a beautiful photo. The topic is surely not for everyone, we like to talk about birth but not about death, yet both are of nature.
There is a spanish poem fo Francisco Quevedo
Amor constante más allá de la muerte
Cerrar podrá mis ojos la postrera
Sombra que me llevare el blanco día,
Y podrá desatar esta alma mía
Hora, a su afán ansioso lisonjera;
Mas no de esotra parte en la ribera
Dejará la memoria, en donde ardía:
Nadar sabe mi llama el agua fría,
Y perder el respeto a ley severa.
Alma, a quien todo un Dios prisión ha sido,
Venas, que humor a tanto fuego han dado,
Médulas, que han gloriosamente ardido,
Su cuerpo dejará, no su cuidado;
Serán ceniza, mas tendrá sentido;
Polvo serán, mas polvo enamorado.
I couldn’t find the translation but her is something