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Thread: D.H.Lawrence ~ The Tortoise Poems

  1. #136
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    First of all I just have to say I loved these lines. It was one of my favorite parts of the poem, the way the verse is somewhat repeated, though the words are changed slightly, it begins the same.

    It sounds like some sort of chant to me, which is why I liked it. An invocation to the reptile goodess.

    I will come back later to post on the rest of this section of the poem
    DM,I like that part, too...I think Lawrence used the repetition well and he establishes a nice rhythm; it is as you say - words slightly varied to make it work. It does indeed sound very much like a chant and I think that was his intention at this point in the poem. It is also very naturalistic. I feel he establishes a real connection here with himself, his wife and the natural animal world. Even in his contact of feeding the female, you feel a 'personal' connection and when you get to the part describing the male, you can't but help to see L's own personality emerge.

    This part of the poem that you quoted could almost stand by itself as a short little poem with it's own significance and deeper meaning.
    Last edited by Janine; 08-23-2008 at 04:12 PM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  2. #137
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    She knows,
    She knows well enough to come for food,
    Yet she sees me not;
    Her bright eye sees, but not me, not anything,
    Sightful, sightless, seeing and visionless,
    Reptile mistress.
    This I think is a bit of a comical look into the domestic life when the passion has dwindled out of the marrige. You get this picture of the dejected husband sitting at the table while his wife seems not to notice his existence any longer.

    Her bright eye sees, but not me, not anything,
    Sightful, sightless, seeing and visionless,
    This makes me think of a sort of vacant stare. A glazed over look, of just going over the same routine day in and day out, but no longer truly living.

    I still need to ponder over the last verse in this section a bit more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #138
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Good points, Dark Muse and I would have to agree with you. I think that he must have written this poem later on when his own marriage had become a little hum-drum and telltale. It is quite amusing, at least to me.

    Take your time mulling over the last stanza; I am a little tired and worn-out tonight anyway.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  4. #139
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Taking bread in her curved, gaping, toothless mouth,
    She has no qualm when she catches my finger in her steel overlapping gums,
    But she hangs on, and my shout and my shrinking are nothing to her,
    She does not even know she is nipping me with her curved beak.
    Snake-like she draws at my finger, while I drag it in horror away.
    I found these lines to be quite comical. It makes me think of this woman/creature, whatever it is, just shoveling food in thier mouth when the poor unfornate husband happens to get his hand in the way and gets caught, and she/it does not even notice and just keeps eating.

    I think the use of the word "toothless" here further emphasizes the point that they have been together a long time and are in the later years of thier relationship.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #140
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I'm caught up.

    I agree with everything that has been said. Of the Tortoise poems, this does seem different. Notice these lines:
    She snaps the soft bread from my hand in great mouthfuls,
    Opening her rather pretty wedge of an iron, pristine face
    Into an enormously wide-beaked mouth
    Like sudden curved scissors,
    And gulping at more than she can swallow, and working her thick, soft tongue,
    And having the bread hanging over her chin.
    This I think is the only one of the poems where the poet actually physically participates in the poem. The other poems I think focus soley on the tortoise.

    Also, this is a grown up Tortoise, though a young adult. This first of the Tortoise poems was of an infant Tortoise, the second of a child tortoise within a family, and now this as a sort of sexually aware Tortoise. There is the female, more experienced and our hero torotoise will follow and sort of get initiated into the sexual world. The female is matronly and experienced and he is a sort of youth learning about the birds and the bees. At least this is how I read this poem.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  6. #141
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Virgil, Glad that you finally got caught up and resurfaced; maybe like a tortoise digging his way back from the soil. I think that Quark is having a similar problem; we have not seen him for days, since he has made his move into his new place. He will resurface soon, too.

    I did a little more research on the poems. This poem was written around 1920 according to the timeline book: Sagar ~ "A Calender of his Works." I am reposting what you wrote sometime back, explaining Lawrence intentions for these poems as a group, representing the various stages of one's life:

    Originally Posted by Virgil
    I did a little reseach on Lawrence's Tortoise poems and I wanted to share it with you. The Tortoise poems are a sequence of six poems that Lawrence wrote and first published as a small bookl called Tortoise (1921) and then incoproated into a much larger book of poems called Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923). The Tortoise poems were actually written in September of 1920 while Lawrence was staying alone in Florence, Italy. The six poems are called "Baby Tortoise," "Tortoise Shell," "Tortoise Family Connections," "Lui Et Elle," "Tortoise Gallantry," and "Tortoise Shout." The movement of the poems goes from birth to adulthood to death. Thy span the life cycle.
    I found this reference also in the same book:

    September 1920 At Villa Canovaia,San Gervasio, Florence, until about 28, then to Vence.

    SUMMARY: Lawrence, alone in Florence, wrote a little more of Aaron's Rod, America, 'Listen to Your Own', and a dozen poems for Birds, Beasts, and Flowers.

    Rosalind Thornycroft Popham: 'While still in Sicily, Lawrence had hoped to come to Florence......Eventually he did come, and stayed two or three weeks before going on to Venice where later Frieda joined him en route to Germany. While there he wrote "The Evangelistic Beasts", the tortoise poems, "The Pomegranate", "The Peach," and "The Fig".
    So, he wrote all of these and the tortoise poem when he was 34, but considering he only lived to be 44, and had aged with his own illness and weakened state (just look at any photo of the two) he was an old 34; so was Frieda with her hefty weight, although she seemed to be healthy and lived to a ripe old age. I think what I am trying to point out is I think this poem reveals more the old married couple and the middle-aged stage L. This is actually the fourth poem in the sequence; we have discussed 3 prior to this one. Wait, we did do all three - right? I will have to check on that - I don't quite recall the "Tortoise Family" one.

    Yes, I do think that passage that you posted is a curious part of the poem but I think I read it a little differently than you do. I see both the male and the female as more equal and middle-aged, as Dark Muse has pointed out - this marriage has been around awhile. I add to that, that the two have become 'used' to each other in their little quirps and such. Isn't that how it is usually in a marriage - even the best of them?

    Dark Muse, you bring up some other good points in your last post.

    Virgil, I think one would have to say this poem represents a more advanced stage in life - middle-aged. Back then probably 34 was considered 'middle-aged'.
    Last edited by Janine; 08-24-2008 at 06:27 PM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  7. #142
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Here are the next 4 stanzas:

    Taking bread in her curved, gaping, toothless mouth,
    She has no qualm when she catches my finger in her steel overlapping gums,
    But she hangs on, and my shout and my shrinking are nothing to her,
    She does not even know she is nipping me with her curved beak.
    Snake-like she draws at my finger, while I drag it in horror away.

    Mistress, reptile mistress,
    You are almost too large, I am almost frightened.
    He is much smaller,
    Dapper beside her,
    And ridiculously small.

    Her laconic eye has an earthy, materialistic look,
    His, poor darling, is almost fiery.
    His wimple, his blunt-prowed face,
    His low forehead, his skinny neck, his long, scaled, striving legs,
    So striving, striving,
    Are all more delicate than she,

    And he has a cruel scar on his shell.
    Poor darling, biting at her feet,
    Running beside her like a dog, biting her earthy, splay feet,
    Nipping her ankles,
    Which she drags apathetic away, though without retreating into her shell.
    Agelessly silent,
    And with a grim, reptile determination,
    Cold, voiceless age-after-age behind him, serpents' long obstinacy
    Of horizontal persistence.
    I think it is interesting that in the second stanza Lawrence states "I am almost frightened." Then in the next line the way he abruptly switches to the male description -"He is much smaller,"
    I like what follows.

    Dapper beside her,
    And ridiculously small.

    This still seems to me that Lawrence is seeing the tortoise couple, as he would percieve himself and his wife Frieda - she being large and he being small, but dapper. He even goes as far as to say he is 'ridiculously small'. I notice he begins that stanza with the reptile reference, as though the female's reptile presence takes over the male and makes him small in comparison, subservient to this strong power of the female.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  8. #143
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Mistress, reptile mistress,
    You are almost too large, I am almost frightened.
    He is much smaller,
    Dapper beside her,
    And ridiculously small.
    These lines are quite comical I think, and they make me think of the story The Shadow in the Rose Garden, I remember in that the man is said to be rather small, while they talk of how fine the woman's carraige is.

    Her laconic eye has an earthy, materialistic look,
    His, poor darling, is almost fiery.
    His wimple, his blunt-prowed face,
    His low forehead, his skinny neck, his long, scaled, striving legs,
    So striving, striving,
    Are all more delicate than she,
    I find the use of the words earthy and materilastic together to be quite currious, usually those are two things that are set apart from each other.

    And he has a cruel scar on his shell.
    Poor darling, biting at her feet,
    Running beside her like a dog, biting her earthy, splay feet,
    Nipping her ankles,
    Which she drags apathetic away, though without retreating into her shell.
    Agelessly silent,
    And with a grim, reptile determination,
    Cold, voiceless age-after-age behind him, serpents' long obstinacy
    Of horizontal persistence.
    For some reason this makes me think of a woman dragging her husband off shoping with her when he does not want to go.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  9. #144
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    I am following you around DM, You are so swift, I just posted this and then checked the social groups...then your photo comment...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    These lines are quite comical I think, and they make me think of the story The Shadow in the Rose Garden, I remember in that the man is said to be rather small, while they talk of how fine the woman's carraige is.
    I thought so, too...very comical, as if Lawrence is laughing at himself. It does indeed recall us to that short story and the way the couple was described. I had not thought of that before you mentioned it.

    I find the use of the words earthy and materilastic together to be quite currious, usually those are two things that are set apart from each other.
    That is curious as you say. We must think on that and just why Lawrence choose to place them in the same sentence and description and so close to each other - they certainly set up a kind of contrast or duality. Yet I think a person could be both - I think he may have seen his wife as being both earthy and materialistic, even though she did not live high by any standard; she did like fine things though, and she must have been earthy to marry Lawrence...

    For some reason this makes me think of a woman dragging her husband off shoping with her when he does not want to go.
    Indeed it does and it reminded me immediately of a scene right out of his travel book - I think "Sea and Sardina", when Frieda spied a marketplace and Lawrence grumbled about her wanting to go off to buy some local items and some fruit. You could tell he was being playful, but somewhat typically male as well, as when a women says the dreaded word "shopping"!
    Last edited by Janine; 08-29-2008 at 02:32 PM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  10. #145
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Mistress, reptile mistress,
    You are almost too large, I am almost frightened.
    He is much smaller,
    Dapper beside her,
    And ridiculously small.
    I enjoyed this stanza, She holds the pwer in the relationship and the young male tortoise is so accepting of her. At least here. I love the word "dapper" here. It seems to say so much.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  11. #146
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I enjoyed this stanza, She holds the pwer in the relationship and the young male tortoise is so accepting of her. At least here. I love the word "dapper" here. It seems to say so much.
    I did, too.....the word 'dapper' is a sort of humorous word to me...when I see a dapper gentleman I think of someone a little overdressed with a fashionable hat and walking stick; but that is just me. I do think by using the word - Lawrence did interject a bit of humor in this poem and his timing for the word was perfect.

    Her laconic eye has an earthy, materialistic look,

    His, poor darling, is almost fiery.
    His wimple, his blunt-prowed face,
    His low forehead, his skinny neck, his long, scaled,

    striving legs,
    So striving, striving,

    Are all more delicate than she,
    I found this stanza more serious and more self-pitying in a way, contrasting her "laconic eye" with "an earthy, materialsitic look" with "His, poor darling, is almost fiery."...very curious words Lawrence uses here....what exactly do you think he means by her 'laconic eye' and his being 'almost firery'?

    He goes onto point to his 'wimple', 'his blunt-prowed face, His low forehead, his skinny neck, his long, scaled, striving legs'....

    I count 6 times the repeated word 'his' in that stanza, sandwiched between the two lone references to the female - 'Her' and 'she' - first and last line. Interesting use of repetition to set up a rhythm and make his point about the male's weakness in relation to the power of the female tortoise.

    Then he goes onto put further emphasis on the word 'striving',
    'striving' being repeated 3 times, before the admission that he is " more delicate than she". Interesting discribing mostly the male in that stanza, but ending with 'she.'

    Also, in separating the sentences, in that one stanza, the first half has the H sound prominent and in the second half, the S sound is emphasised.
    Last edited by Janine; 08-29-2008 at 02:55 PM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  12. #147
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Found a interesting photo of Lawrence I will post tonight.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  13. #148
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Did I loose everyone here discussing this poem? Maybe we can resume soon since the L short story thread is on hold for this month. I would eventually like to get to all of the poems since the represent the various cycles of life in nature.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  14. #149
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    I am game if you wish to continue, I guess it just got forgotton with everything else that was going on.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  15. #150
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Ok, with me.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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