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Thread: D.H.Lawrence ~ The Tortoise Poems

  1. #31
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Yes, lt's get the next poem.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

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

  2. #32
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktd222 View Post
    Well…whether these creations(rhyme, meter, etc) happen beforehand, during, or after the writing process he still falls into one or more of these categories. For me these creations of his did not seem conceived as an afterthought to what was already written. I hope you didn’t miss-take my comment to mean so. I can see where my comment can be read both ways.
    Hi ktd, yes, I think I must have read your entry just opposite what you meant, sorry. I think we do agree on the fact that L left himself freedom to create and did not adhere to strict rules.


    This quote is great. It is so true. This is the primary purpose of such things as rhyme and meter…to reflect one’s emotions, and not for the sake of rhyme and meter alone.
    Yes, I agree - I love that quote. Even in letters Lawrence expressed himself so well. He really pinpoints his idea here. I have recently bought a book of his selected letters. I have only read a half dozen so far (too busy at the time to read more). The letters are great - wonderful and I can't wait to explore the entire book.

    As for the next poem...is Virgil ready? Sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to our next discussion.
    Virgil says he is ready, so we all agree. The poem I chose is also in reference to observing a baby tortoise, but concentrating now on it's shell pattern. This one will make for a good discussion; should be a challenge. Here goes:



    Tortoise Shell


    The Cross, the Cross
    Goes deeper in than we know,
    Deeper into life;
    Right into the marrow
    And through the bone.

    Along the back of the baby tortoise
    The scales are locked in an arch like a bridge,
    Scale-lapping, like a lobster's sections
    Or a bee's.

    Then crossways down his sides
    Tiger-stripes and wasp-bands.

    Five, and five again,
    And round the edges twenty-five little ones,
    The sections of the baby tortoise shell.

    Four, and a keystone;
    Four, and a keystone;
    Four, and a keystone;
    Then twenty-four, and a tiny little keystone.

    It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back
    Of the baby tortoise;
    Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet,
    Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise shell.

    The first little mathematical gentleman
    Stepping, wee mite, in his loose trousers
    Under all the eternal dome of the mathematical law.

    Fives, and tens,
    Threes and fours and twelves,
    All the volte face of decimals,
    The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.

    Turn him on his back,
    The kicking little beetle.
    And there again, on his shell-tender, earth-touching belly,
    The long cleavage of division, upright of the eternal cross
    And on either side count five,

    On each side, two above, on each side, two below
    The dark bar horizontal.

    The Cross!
    It goes right through him, the sprottling insect,
    Through his cross-wise cloven psyche,
    Through his five-fold complex-nature.

    So turn him over on his toes again;
    Four pin-point toes, and a problematical thumb-piece,
    Four rowing limbs, and one wedge-balancing head,
    Four and one makes five, which is the clue to all mathematics.

    The Lord wrote it down on the little slate
    Of the baby tortoise.
    Outward and visible indication of the plan within,
    The complex, manifold involvedness of an individual creature
    Plotted out
    On this small bird, this rudiment,
    This little dome, this pediment
    Of all creation,
    This slow one.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  3. #33
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    There are some things I understand in this poem and some things I don't get. The striking thing is the numerology and what it means. Perhaps this is the core:
    It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back
    Of the baby tortoise;
    Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet,
    Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise shell.
    So much mathematical numbers. Very unlike Lawrence. I frankly don't understand.

    What I do understand is that the tortoise again stands for man and life. The cross for Lawrence symbolizes the duality of life. The cross is a bifurcation, a division into two. So that adds to the numerology of the poem. The cross divides the flesh from spirit, blood consciousness from mental consciousness, life from death. This is at the start of the poem.
    The Cross, the Cross
    Goes deeper in than we know,
    Deeper into life;
    Right into the marrow
    And through the bone.
    The tortoise is alive and therefore separated by the dualities of existence.

    Any thoughts on the numerology?
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

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

  4. #34
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Virgil, I do actually have thoughts on the numerology. I have gotten them recently from reading Lawrence's "Apogalypse". In fact I just read much about numbers significance last night. I will check back into the book. I am nearly done and it has given me great insight into how Lawrence was thinking, even referring back to references to myth in "Women in Love". It contains much symbolism and one chapter dealt mainly with the significance in myth of numbers, such as the number 7, which is prominent throughout Revelations, as you must know. However he goes much deeper into the whole number significance in the book in that particular chapter, or two. Give me some time on this one and I think I can come up with some new ideas - Lawrencian ideas - of course.

    Virgil, thanks for taking the time to post and comment. I thought you would find the poem interesting. When I came across it, it was like nothing I had read of Lawrence's before.

    The rest of what you say makes sense and is new to me to some degree, so I am highly interested to hear more. I never heard this word before bifurcation; interesting. This is a very good start. Thanks!
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  5. #35
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Oh I am interested in the numerology. Yes i vaguely remember Lawrence talking about the number seven in Apocalypse. Let me know what page numbers you are looking at I will dig out my copy and read it too.

    From M-W:
    bifurcate
    Main Entry: bi·fur·cate
    Pronunciation: \ˈbī-(ˌ)fər-ˌkāt, bī-ˈfər-\
    Function: verb
    Inflected Form(s): bi·fur·cat·ed; bi·fur·cat·ing
    Etymology: Medieval Latin bifurcatus, past participle of bifurcare, from Latin bifurcus two-pronged, from bi- + furca fork
    Date: 1615
    transitive verb
    : to cause to divide into two branches or parts
    intransitive verb
    : to divide into two branches or parts
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

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

  6. #36
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Oh I am interested in the numerology. Yes i vaguely remember Lawrence talking about the number seven in Apocalypse. Let me know what page numbers you are looking at I will dig out my copy and read it too.

    From M-W:
    Virgil, I'm fascinated with the numerology, too. In fact it is my favorite part of the book, so far, but that is not to say that this book has not drawn me in 'attention-wise' from the start.

    Ok, numbers are thoughout the book mentioned,but the intense study of numbers seem to begin at chapter Seventeen and continues through to Twenty-One. The chapters are short here. Glad you have a copy of the book available. I think I am on chapter 20; I should complete the book tonight.
    Wish it were not a library copy. I may scan or photocopy the book since it too, is quit expensive to buy.

    Thanks for posting the word definition and origin. Great!

    This particular stanza stands out in significance to me and refers directly to the numbers that L is discussing in Apogalypse:

    Fives, and tens,
    Threes and fours and twelves,
    All the volte face of decimals,
    The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven
    Threes and fours Lawrence has been talking about extensively and the number seven, which is mentioned throughout the bible, not only in Revelations. 12 is also an astrological reference to the planets and the ruling signs of the zodiac. I don't know what the "volte face of decimals" means, do you as an engineer? 10 was considered a perfect number since 4,3,2,1 makes up 10. It is all so perplexing but fascinating.

    I have printed out the poem, so that might be able to better compare with the Apogalypse text.
    Last edited by Janine; 07-11-2007 at 01:41 AM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  7. #37
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    To Janine and Virgil: Have you ever heard about the spiritual/sacred nature of the number 12. According to several writers with little scientific evidence but still having that "ring of truth" to their work, humans will only have evolved to a peaceful species in harmony with this and other planets when they have achieved 12 strand DNA. If you want my source, the extreme range of my interests will probably be intrigueing.

  8. #38
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quasimodo1 View Post
    To Janine and Virgil: Have you ever heard about the spiritual/sacred nature of the number 12. According to several writers with little scientific evidence but still having that "ring of truth" to their work, humans will only have evolved to a peaceful species in harmony with this and other planets when they have achieved 12 strand DNA. If you want my source, the extreme range of my interests will probably be intrigueing.
    Quasi, I do find this interesting. Yes, in the book I am reading Lawrence has mentioned 12 often in reference to the Apogalypse. Also, the idea of time, not as a straightline, but as a circle. There are more significant numbers such as 3 which cannot be divided and leave a gap or space...something like that. You may know better than I. I will look it up in the book. The numbers 4, 3, 2, 1 add up to 10 - also significant, 10 being a mystical number in many cultures. Whatever information you have on this and what you have written above, about the number 12, would be very fascinating to me and I am sure to Virgil. That is particularly interesting about the "12 strand DNA". Yes, let us know the source of that information.

    Quasi, have you read the poem? Have you any ideas on the numerology as applied to the poem?
    Last edited by Janine; 07-11-2007 at 01:02 AM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  9. #39
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    To Janine and Virgil: Please don't ask me to go to any biblical reference becasue of my deep feelings and prejudices and my desire to not offend believers in the "good book". One interesting fact is that about two hundred years of so before the birth of Christ, the most important Rabbis (teachers) in the Jewish kindom had a large conclave the purpose of which was to decide what parts of the bible to keep and what parts to get rid of. This really happened. What are we to make of that. What are we to make of the Dead Sea Scrolls which the roman catholic church kept a tight and secret grip on for forty years. The contents only came out because they were so effecient ( and believe me the high clerics of the church are so) that they kept a card catalog of every word on every scroll (including the copper ones), where they were located on the fragment by number and sentence. Some really smart guys who were working for them realized all they had to do was feed this information into a mainframe and eureka...you have all the dead sea scrolls in original format. How do they get interpreted...now there's the rub. quasimodo1

  10. #40
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    Ok here's a book that you might not ever forget even if you want to. It is so far out that it's almost too much to dismiss. The astonomy of the Pliedies (spelling) is important to the case. Just who the author is channelling with is just plain baffling but then they almost got you with "K-Pax", didn't they? No further comment on this is required as we all might be thrown of the site as abductees. http://www.lightworks.com/MonthlyAsp...er/1298-02.htm

  11. #41
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Well, Quasi, we are getting a little off the topic, aren't we? Remember the Tortoise poem? I just skimmed the article; it's too long to read in depth; I am too tired now, but as you said who this woman is channeling with is beyond our comprehension - aliens or what? K-Pax? we should be in the movie thread. Also, the article mentions Y2K and it was written in 1995, before the millenium....the supposed big Y2K event. Now the 'dead sea scrolls' - they interest me. Any articles on those?
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

  12. #42
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    To Janine: Since I'm not up to speed on Lawrence's poems, I did manage to dig up this combination pub/shrine which thrives on D.H.'s work. Hope it is more than just a diversion...
    OUT OF STOCK
    978-1-55017-194-5 · 1-55017-194-1
    $16.95 · Paperback
    6 x 9 · 104 pp · 1998
    Table of Contents and Introductions by Purdy and Beardsley
    Excerpt
    Reviews
    No One Else is Lawrence!
    A Dozen of D.H Lawrence's Best Poems
    by Doug Beardsley & Al Purdy

    Winner of a BC 2000 Book Prize

    "Canada needs more books like this."
    -Wireweed

    Almost seventy years after his death, D.H. Lawrence (1885--1930) remains one of the most complex and controversial figures in English literature. Remembering the days when the English writer was vilified as a writer of "sexy books with four-letter words," twice Governor-General's Award-winning poet Al Purdy feels that Lawrence should be celebrated not only for his prose work, but for his poetry.

    "Lawrence's genius [as a poet] has long been obscured by the brilliance and fame of his novels and essays," Purdy writes in his introduction to this literary feast. "But let's ignore both critics and admirers and look at the poems. At his very best, Lawrence's poems are unequaled."

    from: http://www.harbourpublishing.com/tit...ElseisLawrence

  13. #43
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    Ok, here are my thoughts.

    I almost want to look at this poem inward out, for what we observe on the tortoise’s shell is in actuality like observing the composition of the tortoise itself. What interest me is the tortoise shell’s structure being likened to all these different creatures:

    “scale-lapping, like a lobster’s sections/or a bee’s; the crossways down his sides/tiger-stripes and wasp-bands; the kicking little beetle”

    The importance of these specific creatures…I don’t know; but I think the more important thing is we “see life playing” on the tortoise shell. In the last poem I questioned whether Lawrence believed in evolution; in this poem Lawrence states the Lord set out the plan on the tortoise; in this way I feel the tortoise did not evolve from other creatures as a result of there surroundings more than the tortoise came about in accordance to His plan.

    The other thing I noticed you two noticed as well: the importance of numbers in this poem. For me the denomination that stood out was five, since the tortoise was described as a “five-folded complex-natured” creature. I think if you go through the poem and count the number of creatures that are mentioned, you get five. And if you look at the grooves that run throughout the tortoise shell, it is analogous to one river that feeds into a whole bunch of smaller streams which crisscross each other. The numbers “fives and tens/threes and fours and twelves” can be obtained, depending on which streams you select for the river to feed into, sectioning off the spaces(like the sections of the tortoise shell) in between the streams.

    Even more important than the number five is every fifth integer: five, ten, fifteen, etc. This fifth integer was described as the keystone at one point in the poem, which is a kind of lock that is used as support by keeping arches locked to each other; in another part of the poem the fifth integer is the “wedge-balancing head” needed to balance off the “four rowing limbs”. But in another part of the poem it is described as the “problematic thumb-piece” to the other “four pin-point toes”. What? I don’t get this because it goes contradictory to the stabilization factor of this fifth integer.

  14. #44
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Lots of number in the poem, but I agree, five seems to be the most important. I have no idea why exactly. Here is where he brings together the cross symbol and the number five:
    The Cross!
    It goes right through him, the sprottling insect,
    Through his cross-wise cloven psyche,
    Through his five-fold complex-nature.
    In what way is nature "five fold?" That would seem to be the key to understanding this poem.

    Also, there is in the last stanza a neat little conclusion that sums the whole poem up.
    The Lord wrote it down on the little slate
    Of the baby tortoise.
    Outward and visible indication of the plan within,
    The complex, manifold involvedness of an individual creature
    Plotted out
    On this small bird, this rudiment,
    This little dome, this pediment
    Of all creation,
    This slow one.
    The Lord wrote the significance of life on the little slate of the baby tortoise shell. That is the central theme. But what exactly did He write?
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

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

  15. #45
    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    I have been reading you posts - all of them truly fascinating. I can tell you both have an engineering mind. I reviewed the "Apogalypse" book last night and I think I have come up with some answers/ideas - I have definitely come up with some correlations in L's thinking to the bibilical references of numbers and number systems. I will either scan parts that are of interest/relevant to this topic or type them out.

    I have a question, Virgil and ktd: The 'pentagon' is a plane figure with 5 angles and 5 sides. Could this have significance? Pentagons play heavily into myth and legend and mystiscism and the biblical. 5 is a very prominent number in the Apogalyspe/Revelations. I will look up the direct references to the number 5 and what significance it has.

    I think the last 2 lines of the poem embodies the theme, if taken in context with the whole stanza. This is the pattern found throughout nature - therefore the formula/pattern on the Tortoise is written down as the formula "Of all creation". The tortoise shell embodies the map or the numerical equation for all things in nature and creation. I will look up this fact in my nature books and also confer with a friend of mine who is heavy into botany and nature, and get back to you on this idea.

    This poem is truly a challenge and very exciting to me!

    I will be back soon with a full entry and also want to comment on both of your posts. ktd brings up some very interesting numerical facts, like the 5 creatures mentioned. I think I know what they may represent as well. I have to study the poem closer.
    Last edited by Janine; 07-11-2007 at 07:00 PM.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

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

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