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Thread: Self- Pity by DH Lawrence - your thoughts

  1. #1

    Self- Pity by DH Lawrence - your thoughts

    I quote "I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself"

    I have so many thoughts about this poem, which really touchs me, but I am still unsure of its meaning, would any like to cast there thoughts, please. Would like to know what others think.

    Baz

  2. #2
    I have always loved this poem, too, Baz, from one of my favorite poets.
    I never saw a wild thing
    sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself.
    D.H. Lawrence's thought, I admit, seems very abstract and often intuitive for many readers, and this poem well demonstrates it, as does many of his novels and essays. Writing at the brink of psychology's biggest breakthrough in the world of thought, ideas of emotions, human motives, intuition, reason, and behavior greatly interested him, as one could especially find in his essays.
    In "Self-Pity," I think, Lawrence emphasizes that humans, of all animals, have the greatest ability of self pity, perhaps more than most animals. To me, he also communicates that a human can express more self-pity, self-loathing, and low self-esteem in seemingly small occurrences (like failing a class in school, for example), as opposed to other animals (like a small bird) who live much shorter lives, and may not have an equal capacity of thought (science and opinion really debate this fact, however).
    Thanks for sharing the poem - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  3. #3
    I know this is an old thread, but I came across this poem again recently and have been thinking about it. - - The poem reminds me of how animals live in each moment. They deal with what Is. - - This is very unlike human beings who often (perhaps most of the time?) live in their minds - constantly fretting about what's coming next or what already took place. - - My Mom has a little black female minature poodle. The dog was attacked by a pit bull a few years ago. We took her to the vet, but the prognosis was bleak. The vet didn't think the dog would make it through the night, but took the dog to her home overnight so that she could watch over her. To the vets absolute wonder, the little poodle was up the next day wagging her tail, eating, and moving about. If the same thing had happened to a person (probably equivalent in scale to being attacked by a grizzly bear) they wouldn't have lived or very likely wouldn't have displayed such spirit ~ as if it were no big deal at all. - - -

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    Registered User Nick Rubashov's Avatar
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    Thank you for your input Tigerjaw, I was thinking along the same lines when I read the poem. It reminds me of a passage from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner...

    Like one who, on a lonely road,
    Doth walk in fear and dread,
    And, having once turned round, walks on,
    And turns no mare his head;
    Because he knows a frightful fiend
    Doth close behind him tread

    Humans tend to always look behind them; our past sins and failures prevent us from living in the moment as animals do because we're always looking back at life, or dreading looking back because of what is there.
    Doc awakened very slowly and clumsily like a fat man getting out of a swimming pool. - John Steinbeck

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    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Hi Everyone! Glad this thread is started up, again. This is one of my favorite poems. I am an avid fan of Lawrence - so far I have read three full biographies and know a little about his life, which sheds light on all he wrote and the way he thought. I hope to add some words on this poem in particular. I am just a little too busy right this moment, but I will come back to it later tonight after I think of how to write it down. There have been some very good comments so far, which I am in agreement with. I have some things to add.

    I wanted to announce that Virgil and I are trying to actively get a discussion going about Lawrence's short stories on the thread of the same name. So far it has just been the two of us 'devotees' discussing the first story "Things". Anyone interested? The short stories usually about 10 pgs long or less and won't take up a great deal of your time reading, and they are really great. We are picking one loosely during the month or a couple of weeks time - not a structured thread in any way - whenever we feel the last discussion has played itself out we will pick another story. There are many to choose from. I picked the first story and the second story, which Virgil has chosen, can be read right on this site - Virgil posted the link in the thread. The discussions will be very interesting and I hope some of you will join in. You will learn much about Lawrence by reading these stories and coming into the discussion group. He was a great author and very industrious in his writings. He wrote tons of material in his short life. His prose is very much like his poetry. I know you will benefit.

    I don't believe that self-pity was a word in Lawrence's vocabulary. He was a very industrious and productive author. He was ill most of his life and never stopped to feel sorry for himself. I don't think he would have had time to do so and I think if he had he would have simply died. He said if he could not keep working he would die. No doubt this is what did keep the man alive. He nearly died so many times and finally TB took his life in his mid 40's. The poem is a very beautiful poem and as some people have pointed out animals do now waste time feeling sorry for themselves. They usually spring back from an illness amazingly well and have much fortitude. I think he was comparing man with animal and the animal instincts in man to overcome injury or hurt, or accept death - not to feel sorry for himself - but rather exist with natural strength of survival. Also, Lawrence felt the natural progression of life into death, as is described in the poem, with the "bird falling frozen dead from the bough". It is a simple slipping away of physical life and going into the next phase - death.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

    Chapter 7, The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Yes, I remember he hating the thought of self-pity.
    Last edited by Virgil; 03-08-2007 at 11:57 PM.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    For me its a very strong poem: You might expect - as is most the case - the poem deepening/explaining the title, instead of opposing it! And so giving his opinion about this human emotion, this particulary one loathing.

    In the first verse he reaches out to the wild things - barbaric one might say. But this is further explained in the second verse in something so close and vulnerable: a small bird... When this small creature dies, though not by old age but by a natural condition, even then it comes unnaturally to it to pity itself!



    I just recently came across this poem, but these few words touched me immediatly. And, if I'm not misstaken, the impact of this poem should be bigger considering the time it was written down, just after WW1 if I'm correct, in a time when this kind of criticism was more a social "not-done" then it is nowadays. Remember that some of his work was not allowed to be publiced in one form or oneother(Lady Chatterley's Lover for instance).

  8. #8

    my sappy cat story

    I instantly fell in love with this poem the first time I heard it. It really kind of changed my life. the poem gave me a bit of comfort when my cat died/was murdered (pit bull). I find the poem most applicable to our attitudes towards death. Not just towards death, but also towards the manner in which we die. My cat was horribly mangled, but he lived until the vet put him to sleep. Anyway, when we were with him he was purring happily. When we imagine a loved one or pet dying we imagine suffering and feel pity. suffering is more than just pain, it's also the sufferer's response to pain and that is dictated by attitude about what has happened/may happen. My cat was torn, crushed, mangled and yet purred calmly as we comforted him. He wasn't suffering. The bird in the poem dies nobly, with dignity. I think Lawrence is trying to tell us how to approach our own death. You can choose or succumb to some emotional reaction. If you choose, you can choose to be alive until you are dead.

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    I love this poem...thanks for posting it. I have a sappy bird story...

    We have a swiss chalet house...lots of glass on one side...sometimes birds fly into it at certain times of the year/times of the day...One winter, one of the coldest, windiest winter days I remember, a bird flew into the glass. He was lying in the snow, alive but injured. I put him in a shoebox with a towel and created a windscreen for him with another box. He was there overnight and I hoped he made it. The next morning, a bright sunny day, I went to check on him and he stood up and fly to the tree next to our deck. He sat in a low branch and his head wobbled a bit, then he sang a song as beautiful as any I'd heard by a songbird and then he flew off. I never cried at a bird's song before then. Did, though.

    Anyway. Love that poem. I should remember it more often.

    Happy Valentines Day.

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    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarolynT View Post
    I love this poem...thanks for posting it. I have a sappy bird story...

    We have a swiss chalet house...lots of glass on one side...sometimes birds fly into it at certain times of the year/times of the day...One winter, one of the coldest, windiest winter days I remember, a bird flew into the glass. He was lying in the snow, alive but injured. I put him in a shoebox with a towel and created a windscreen for him with another box. He was there overnight and I hoped he made it. The next morning, a bright sunny day, I went to check on him and he stood up and fly to the tree next to our deck. He sat in a low branch and his head wobbled a bit, then he sang a song as beautiful as any I'd heard by a songbird and then he flew off. I never cried at a bird's song before then. Did, though.


    Anyway. Love that poem. I should remember it more often.
    Hi CarolynT, This is a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I know about birds flying into windows. We have one particular window, where this often happens...I always feel so badly, but most times they get stunned and off they fly, like nothing has happened to them. I wonder if they get a headache.
    Yes, this quote is really wonderful. I use it for my signature, because to me, it is so true. Another poem you might read of Lawrence's is "Baby Tortoise" - there is a thread on Lit Net a number of months back where we discussed this fine poem. This poem is on the same sort of theme of the persistence and the will for survival of the new-born baby tortoise. I think you will like it very much. I feel it and this quote above directly relate to the fact that Lawrence truly never felt sorry for himself or wallowed in self-pity and he had many reasons to do so; for one he lived his practically his entire life with weak and tubercular lungs. He dies quite young but worked steadily up until his last days.

    Happy Valentines Day, a few days late, to you also!
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

    Chapter 7, The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  11. #11

    re. 'self pity', by D.H.Lawrence

    They say, that the Human is the only creature which is aware of its own mortality.
    Regret is another, higher order emotion peculiar to us; regret over things we have done, or didn't do.
    I think D.H.L. envied the little bird its lack of these feelings, - which fill us with anguish, self loathing and self pity, sometimes ...

  12. #12
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maxdesander View Post
    They say, that the Human is the only creature which is aware of its own mortality.
    Regret is another, higher order emotion peculiar to us; regret over things we have done, or didn't do.
    I think D.H.L. envied the little bird its lack of these feelings, - which fill us with anguish, self loathing and self pity, sometimes ...
    Hi maxdesander,

    That sounds about right and welcome to Lit Net! I see you are new. We have a monthly discussion on one of Lawrence's short stories; soon we will choose another one. Currently we are discussing "The Witch a la Mode" which has been very good so far. We are nearly done and will change stories soon, if you care to join in. New faces are always welcome sights. Just look for the Lawrence short story thread. Hope to see you there. J
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

    Chapter 7, The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    Registered User ericson1st's Avatar
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    Hi...
    Nice discussion guys.... and I intend to give my opinion about this Poem.

    I catch two massages from DH Lawrence’s poem “Self-pity”. First, this poem shows about the weakness. Second, this poem shows about the opposite of self-pity, it is a self-arrogant. Both interpretations emphasize to human behavior.


    Denotation & Connotation that support to my interpretations, are; first, the word “sorry”. Sorry is a feeling sad or sympathetic (oxford dictionary). This feeling relate to a person who have done a mistake (denotation) and have connotations weakness or powerless, in this poem we got two words of “sorry”, it means the opposite of weakness (careless or arrogant), a person who always do wrong and never learn from his/her failure. So, we can see that this poem has two meanings. Second, the phrase “wild thing”. Wild-thing means something that happened in unusual condition or out of our thought (denotation), it can be negative or positive depend on our perception. The connotations are a dreams or may be an expectation. A person who never expect a wild-thing occur in their life is a cold-humankind (a weak person), but the opposite, a person who always expect a wild-thing occur in their life is an arrogant-humankind (full of hatred or haughty-humankind). Third, the phrase “little bird”. Little bird is a bird which has small size. The connotation is something refers to something that is powerless or if we try to relate to our thinking, small bird is a person who may not have an equal capacity of thought (“a small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough”). Without feel care to the environment-around a small bird will drop a frozen dead from its good position.

    Thank you
    Ericson1st

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    I found this poem in a book of notes I kept when recovering from a stroke while trying to remember things... It must have captured me as I am not a reader of poetry or books for that matter, let alone inclined to note a poem.. I did read a few sci-fi novels over the years and I recall reading books for High Skool..

    So if you want the opinion of a non-literary [SIC] observer..

    I think the poem captures an observation that partly defines what it it to be human. This strikes at the core of who any reader is. Its a great observation on piece of reality that skirts an area people are not generally conscious of. I put it up there with 'I think, therefore I am.'

    What an excellent few lines Self Pity is.

    Best,
    T

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    Quote Originally Posted by ebbo69 View Post
    I quote "I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself"

    I have so many thoughts about this poem, which really touchs me, but I am still unsure of its meaning, would any like to cast there thoughts, please. Would like to know what others think.

    Baz
    I know this is an belated reply, but personally

    " I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself."Self-pity, by D. H. LAWRENCE.

    It took some time for myself to really find what I call "true meaning". That is, as a small bird never feels sorry for itself even when falling dead, whereas many of us everyday use self pitty as a crutch. Depression and holding onto the things in our lives that cause our self pitty and depression to rule over what happiness we could have with the time we have been given on this earth, such as a small bird who's life is a small given one, he will use everyday as given to full fill as created. We were created as well, but have choices to wake up and give into pitty, or seek the sunny side of life and put on a smile and battle with a caring heart. Someone no matter what trials we go through is going through worse, and maybe handling the circumstace far better in that trial than choosing to give into pitty, making you feel worse.

    Well, that's what I've been given in those words in the poem. Simple words, but powerful submeaning.

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