Monday, May 9, 2016

"You want some flowers," he said. Some images in DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers

He put the flower in his mouth. Unthinking, he bared his teeth, closed them on the blossom slowly, and had a mouthful of petals. These he spat into the fire, kissed his mother, and went to bed.

When she arose, he, looking on the ground all the time, saw suddenly sprinkled on the black, wet beech-roots many scarlet carnation petals, like splashed drops of blood; and red, small splashes fell from her bosom, streaming down her dress to her feet.

When she came downstairs, a great fire glowed in the grate, the room was hot, the breakfast was roughly laid, and seated in his armchair, against the chimney-piece, sat Morel, rather timid; and standing between his legs, the child--cropped like a sheep, with such an odd round poll--looking wondering at her; and on a newspaper spread out upon the hearthrug, a myriad of crescent-shaped curls, like the petals of a marigold scattered in the reddening firelight.

She touched the big, pallid flowers on their petals, then shivered. They seemed to be stretching in the moonlight. She put her hand into one white bin: the gold scarcely showed on her fingers by moonlight. She bent down to look at the binful of yellow pollen; but it only appeared dusky. Then she drank a deep draught of the scent. It almost made her dizzy.

Languidly she looked about her; the clumps of white phlox seemed like bushes spread with linen; a moth ricochetted over them, and right across the garden. Following it with her eye roused her. A few whiffs of the raw, strong scent of phlox invigorated her. She passed along the path, hesitating at the white rosebush. It smelled sweet and simple. She touched the white ruffles of the roses. Their fresh scent and cool, soft leaves reminded her of the morning-time and sunshine. She was very fond of them. But she was tired, and wanted to sleep. In the mysterious out-of-doors she felt forlorn.

Drawing farther off, there was a patch of lights at Bulwell like myriad petals shaken to the ground from the shed stars; and beyond was the red glare of the furnaces, playing like hot breath on the clouds.

They went along under the trees of the highroad. He was constantly informing her, but she was interested. They passed the end of Nethermere, that was tossing its sunshine like petals lightly in its lap.

Again, going down the hedgeside with the girl, he noticed the celandines, scalloped splashes of gold, on the side of the ditch. "I like them," he said, "when their petals go flat back with the sunshine. They seem to be pressing themselves at the sun."

Clara glanced through the window after him as he loitered among the chrysanthemums. She felt as if something almost tangible fastened her to him; yet he seemed so easy in his graceful, indolent movement, so detached as he tied up the too-heavy flower-branches to their stakes, that she wanted to shriek in her helplessness.

Clara had pulled a button from a hollyhock spire, and was breaking it to get the seeds. Above her bowed head the pink flowers stared, as if defending her. The last bees were falling down to the hive.

He led the two women back to his own garden, where the towzled bushes of flowers of all colours stood raggedly along the path down to the field. The situation did not embarrass him, to his knowledge.

She went down the path with her mouth to the flowers he had given her.

She sat propped in her chair, smiling, and so pretty. The gold wedding-ring shone on her white hand; her hair was carefully brushed. And she watched the tangled sunflowers, dying, the chrysanthemums coming out, and the dahlias.

They buried her in a furious storm of rain and wind. The wet clay glistened, all the white flowers were soaked.

Life ahead looked dead, as if the glow were gone out. She bowed her face over the flowers--the freesias so sweet and spring-like, the scarlet anemones, flaunting over the table. It was like him to have those flowers.
There are, of course, hundreds more references to flowers in Sons and Lovers. The book is full of flowers and unhappiness.

15 comments:

  1. like double chocolate cake, pretty rich but wonderful in small bites. he does tend to leave out the weeds, snails, mosquitos, aphids, spiders, snakes, moles, gophers, nettles, poison oak, sumac, but rarely he manages to throw in a butterfly, which is good. rather than read him, though, i'd prefer to go for a walk...

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    1. Sometimes he'll talk about the dirt, though. I haven't actually yet encountered Lawrence talking about the labor involved in gardening.

      Hey, we planted tomatoes and peas and beans this weekend. Okay, Mighty Reader planted them, but I helped erect the new trellis system in the raised bed, so while my "we" is weak, it is somewhat honest. We sawed some branches off a magnolia and an ailing cherry tree, as well. I just added a photo from the back forty.

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    2. i watched, devotedly, as Mary weeded, planted, and cleaned up the garden. i almost helped, but i didn't want to deprive her of the joy... (actually, i did help a little, when she wasn't looking)... mostly i chase moles...

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  2. That fourth one, with flowers in the moon, that was Love Poems and Others.

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    1. I wonder if there are actual phrases, specific and detailed images, that occur in both the poems and the novel. I'm not going to do that investigation.

      I just noticed how similar Lawrence's prose is to Fitzgerald's. The same sort of startling clumsiness, tripping into beauty.

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  3. I have read that his father began working in the mines when he was seven. And yet he taught his son the names of the flowers. Strange. Laurencian, really, the whole sense of duality, the dark and light, the underworld and the world, the heavy and the delicate.

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    1. I like the image of the man who lived essentially underground, in the dead lightless coal pits, knowing the names of all the flowers growing far above his head. I'm sure real life wasn't anything like so romantic.

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    2. It has the feel of Persephone--walking among her mother's flowers, plunging down to the lord of Hades and dark. And that... that reminds me of Lawrence's "Bavarian Gentians."

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  4. Lawrence and flowers (and beautiful Nature)? Surprise! Lawrence and unhappiness (so often due to pride and prejudice)? No surprise. I appreciate that way you have highlighting something I am sure I did not notice (well, I certainly don't remember) from my SaL encounter years ago.

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  5. He was one of the greatest flower artists in any medium.

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    1. Still lives with blossoms and frustration.

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  6. Note, for whatever it might be worth, Scott, that I have redirected my blogging energies into a new adventure, all designed to help me find a clean, well-lighted place, and here is the address:

    http://theernesthemingwayblog.blogspot.com/

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    1. Good luck with the new blog! I'll keep an eye out to see what you do with it.

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