Thursday, 25 October 2012
D H Lawrence's 'Shadows': "I Am In the Hands of the Unknown God"
I have never been a big fan of D H Lawrence, but that has more to do with the fact that I had to study Love Among the Haystacks in my first year of university than with anything else. I was unimpressed by the gender stereotypes and the professor's comment that little girls adored horses because they were a boyfriend substitute. (I was still riding at the time.)
Anyway, this inspiring poem has gone a long way towards rehabilitating Lawrence for me. It is also perfect for the time of year.
The painting is another John Atkinson Grimshaw, Figure in the Moonlight.
SHADOWS (D H Lawrence)
And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
And if, as weeks go round, in the dark of the moon
my spirit darkens and goes out, and soft strange gloom
pervades my movements and my thoughts and words
then I shall know that I am walking still
with God, we are close together now the moon’s in shadow.
And if, as autumn deepens and darkens
I feel the pain of falling leaves, and stems that break in storms
and trouble and dissolution and distress
and then the softness of deep shadows folding,
folding around my soul and spirit, around my lips
so sweet, like a swoon, or more like the drowse of a low, sad song
singing darker than the nightingale, on, on to the solstice
and the silence of short days, the silence of the year, the shadow,
then I shall know that my life is moving still
with the dark earth, and drenched
with the deep oblivion of earth’s lapse and renewal.
And if, in the changing phases of man’s life
I fall in sickness and in misery
my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
and strength is gone, and my life
is only the leavings of a life:
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches of renewal
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange flowers
such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me
then I must know that still
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
he is breaking me down to his own oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.