d.h. lawrence | we are transmitters

25 03 2008
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Painting by D.H. Lawrence
Poetry Dispatch No. 223 | March 25, 2008

D. H. Lawrence

The first introduction was college. Cursory. The second (more intense) through a left-leaning, used book dealer in Chicago, Paul Romaine, (See CHI TOWN, Northwestern University Press or Ellis Press). Romaine, a mentor of sorts, who introduced me to Henry Miller about the same time and saw to it that as a young writer I read the right things: LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER and TROPIC OF CANCER, among other works by both writers. Some quite difficult to find at the time.

The third introduction to Lawrence (life changing…one of those writers you swallow whole, who becomes part of your literary bloodstream) came with my great love affair with the southwest (late 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s)…with Mexico, but even more, New Mexico, where I thought, in the 80’s, I was headed for good. So long, Chicago, “…city of the big shoulders,” [Sandburg] and GOODBYE WISCONSIN [Glenway Wescott]. Hello mountains, desert, and every writer and artist who had touched down around Santa Fe and Taos.

Circumstances, however, proved otherwise.

This is a period of time that needs more attending to, given the small shelf of Blei’s collected works. Which I plan to attend to, if time allows. At least three unfinished manuscripts with Southwestern backgrounds remain buried somewhere in this coop.

Aside from my unsophisticated/unheralded/mostly unknown “Henry Miller-influenced” watercolor paintings, probably the two main pieces of written work reflecting that time and Lawrence’s influence rest in a single somewhat acclaimed short story, “The Hour of the Sunshine Now”–the title story of a first collection of short stories published by Story Press in 1978. That and some Southwest references in two novels (ADVENTURES IN AN AMERICAN’S LITERATURE and THE SECOND NOVEL)…and scattered pieces of journalism which appeared in a number of national magazines and newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune which featured, page 1, two major ‘travel’ essays on Santa Fe. A place which became my obsession, dream, escape, home-away-from-home (thanks two close friends, both of them now gone—literally and figurative speaking). The place I had to go part of the year, each year for almost 30 years.

Lawrence was always waiting there, in that desert-mountain landscape. I connected with him on every visit, sought him out in books, carried him along on my walks, read him on sunny benches in the old plazas of Santa Fe and Taos, in the bar of the La Fonda, cafes, libraries, bookstores, and late at night, often read his poems and stories, nodding off to sleep.

I journeyed to his old haunts in and around Taos. Found his spirit alive and well, in this tiny part of America which so captivated him. One afternoon I discovered a small, extraordinary collection of his paintings owned by a lively old Greek businessman in Taos, who displayed them in his office. You couldn’t get any closer to the source than that. I took everything in—the myth and the man. The meaning was in the words he found to explain the life he described in his time. Here it was. Is.

It was all about the sun. About place. About passion. About love. About living a life free of the usual restraints. Any writer (or person) on the threshold of breaking out, needing a shove, or seeking to rise from whatever ashes his life has succumbed to (Lawrence’s symbol was the phoenix) could not find a better escape plan or route to a new life than the works of D. H. Lawrence.

He’s ‘still in the blood,’ though I have not given him the thought or credit he deserves in some time now…till I stumbled upon this poem the other night. Norbert Blei

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Painting by D.H. Lawrence

We Are Transmitters by D. H. Lawrence

As we live, we are transmitters of life.
And when we fail to transmit life, life fails to flow
through us.

That is part of the mystery of sex, it is a flow onwards,
Sexless people’ transmit nothing.

And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready
and we ripple with life through the days.
Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a
man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.
Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn’t mean handing it out to some mean fool, or letting
the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.

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portable.jpgEditor’s Note:

For those unfamiliar with Lawrence’s work, or wishing to re-visit him, I would recommend the Viking edition of: THE PORTABLE D. H. LAWRENCE which contains stories and novellas, poems, travel writing, letters, essays and critical work, excerpts from the novels THE RAINBOW and WOMEN IN LOVE, not to mention an excellent introduction by DianaTrilling.

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David Herbert Richards Lawrence (11 September 1885–2 March 1930) was an English writer of the 20th century, whose prolific and diverse output included novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings, translations, literary criticism, and personal letters. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, sexuality, and human instinct.

Lawrence’s opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile he called his “savage pilgrimage.” At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as “the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.” Later, the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence’s fiction within the canonical “great tradition” of the English novel. He is now generally valued as a visionary thinker and a significant representative of modernism in English literature, although some feminists object to the attitudes toward women and sexuality found in his works.

The fourth child of Arthur John Lawrence, a barely literate miner, and Lydia, née Beardsall, a former schoolmistress, Lawrence spent his formative years in the coal mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. His birthplace, in Eastwood, 8a Victoria Street, is now a museum. His working class background and the tensions between his parents provided the raw material for a number of his early works. Lawrence would return to this locality, which he was to call “the country of my heart,”as a setting for much of his fiction.

living.jpgThe young Lawrence attended Beauvale Board School (now renamed Greasley Beauvale D.H. Lawrence Infant School in his honour) from 1891 until 1898, becoming the first local pupil to win a County Council scholarship to Nottingham High School in nearby Nottingham. There is a house in the Junior School named after him. He left in 1901, working for three months as a junior clerk at Haywood’s surgical appliances factory before a severe bout of pneumonia ended this career. Whilst convalescing he often visited Haggs Farm, the home of the Chambers family and began a friendship with Jessie Chambers. An important aspect of this relationship with Jessie and other adolescent acquaintances was a shared love of books, an interest that lasted throughout Lawrence’s life. In the years 1902 to 1906 Lawrence served as a pupil teacher at the British School, Eastwood. He went on to become a full-time student and received a teaching certificate from University College Nottingham in 1908. During these early years he was working on his first poems, some short stories, and a draft of a novel, Laetitia, that was eventually to become The White Peacock. At the end of 1907 he won a short story competition in the Nottingham Guardian, the first time that he had gained any wider recognition for his literary talents.

In the autumn of 1908 the newly qualified Lawrence left his childhood home for London. While teaching in Davidson Road School in Croydon, he continued writing. Some of the early poetry, submitted by Jessie Chambers, came to the attention of Ford Madox Hueffer, editor of the influential The English Review. Hueffer then commissioned the story Odour of Chrysanthemums which, when published in that magazine, encouraged Heinemann, a London publisher, to ask Lawrence for more work. His career as a professional author now began in earnest, although he taught for a further year. Shortly after the final proofs of his first published novel The White Peacock appeared in 1910, Lawrence’s mother died. She had been ill with cancer. The young man was devastated and he was to describe the next few months as his “sick year.” It is clear that Lawrence had an extremely close relationship with his mother and his grief following her death became a major turning point in his life, just as the death of Mrs. Morel forms a major turning point in his autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers, a work that draws upon much of the writer’s provincial upbringing.

In 1911 Lawrence was introduced to Edward Garnett, a publisher’s reader, who acted as a mentor, provided further encouragement, and became a valued friend. Throughout these months the young author revised Paul Morel, the first sketch of what was to become Sons and Lovers. In addition, a teaching colleague, Helen Corke, gave him access to her intimate diaries about an unhappy love affair, which formed the basis of The Trespasser, his second novel. In November 1911, pneumonia struck once again. After recovering his health Lawrence decided to abandon teaching in order to become a full time author. He also broke off an engagement to Louie Burrows, an old friend from his days in Nottingham and Eastwood.

In March 1912 the author met Frieda Weekley (nee von Richthofen), with whom he was to share the rest of his life. She was six years older than her new lover, married and with three young children. She was then married to Lawrence’s former modern languages professor from Nottingham University, Ernest Weekley. She eloped with Lawrence to her parents’ home in Metz, a garrison town in Germany near the disputed border with France. Their stay here included Lawrence’s first brush with militarism, when he was arrested and accused of being a British spy, before being released following an intervention from Weekley’s father. After this encounter Lawrence left for a small hamlet to the south of Munich, where he was joined by Weekley for their “honeymoon,” later memorialised in the series of love poems entitled Look! We Have Come Through (1917).

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Painting by D.H. Lawrence

From Germany they walked southwards across the Alps to Italy, a journey that was recorded in the first of his travel books, a collection of linked essays entitled Twilight in Italy and the unfinished novel, Mr Noon. During his stay in Italy, Lawrence completed the final version of Sons and Lovers that, when published in 1913, was acknowledged to represent a vivid portrait of the realities of working class provincial life. The couple returned to England in 1913 for a short visit. Lawrence now encountered and befriended critic John Middleton Murry and New Zealand-born short story writer Katherine Mansfield. Lawrence and Weekley soon went back to Italy, staying in a cottage in Fiascherino on the Gulf of Spezia. Here he started writing the first draft of a work of fiction that was to be transformed into two of his better-known novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love. Eventually, Weekley obtained her divorce. The couple returned to England at the outbreak of World War I and were married on July 13, 1914.

womeninlove.jpgWeekley’s German parentage and Lawrence’s open contempt for militarism meant that they were viewed with suspicion in wartime England and lived in near destitution. The Rainbow (1915) was suppressed after an investigation into its alleged obscenity in 1915. Later, they were even accused of spying and signalling to German submarines off of the coast of Cornwall where they lived at Zennor. During this period he finished a sequel to The Rainbow, entitled Women in Love. In it Lawrence explores the destructive features of contemporary civilization through the evolving relationships of four major characters as they reflect upon the value of the arts, politics, economics, sexual experience, friendship and marriage. This book is a bleak, bitter vision of humanity and proved impossible to publish in wartime conditions. It is now widely recognised as an English novel of great dramatic force and intellectual subtlety.

In late 1917, after constant harassment by the military authorities, Lawrence was forced to leave Cornwall at three days’ notice under the terms of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA). This persecution was later described in an autobiographical chapter of his Australian novel Kangaroo, published in 1923. He spent some months in early 1918 in the small, rural village of Hermitage near Newbury, Berkshire. He then lived for just under a year (mid-1918 to early 1919) at Mountain Cottage, Middleton-by-Wirksworth, Derbyshire, where he wrote one of his most poetic short stories, The Wintry Peacock. Until 1919 he was compelled by poverty to shift from address to address and barely survived a severe attack of influenza.

After the traumatic experience of the war years, Lawrence began what he termed his ‘savage pilgrimage’, a time of voluntary exile. He escaped from England at the earliest practical opportunity, to return only twice for brief visits, and with his wife spent the remainder of his life travelling. This wanderlust took him to Australia, Italy, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), North America, Mexico and southern France.

Lawrence abandoned England in November 1919 and headed south; first to the Abruzzi district in central Italy and then onwards to Capri and the Fontana Vecchia in Taormina, Sicily. From Sicily he made brief excursions to Sardinia, Monte Cassino, Malta, Northern Italy, Austria and Southern Germany. Many of these places appeared in his writings. New novels included The Lost Girl (for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction), Aaron’s Rod and the fragment entitled Mr Noon (the first part of which was published in the Phoenix anthology of his works, and the entirety in 1984). He experimented with shorter novels or novellas, such as The Captain’s Doll, The Fox and The Ladybird. In addition, some of his short stories were issued in the collection England, My England and Other Stories. During these years he produced a number of poems about the natural world in Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Lawrence is widely recognized as one of the finest travel writers in the English language. Sea and Sardinia, a book that describes a brief journey from Taormina undertaken in January 1921, is a recreation of the life of the inhabitants of this part of the Mediterranean. Less well known is the brilliant memoir of Maurice Magnus, in which Lawrence recalls his visit to the monastery of Monte Cassino. Other non-fiction books include two studies of Freudian psychoanalysis and Movements in European History, a school textbook that was published under a pseudonym, a reflection of his blighted reputation in England.

In late February 1922 the Lawrences left Europe behind with the intention of migrating to the United States. They sailed in an easterly direction, first to Ceylon and then on to Australia. A short residence in Darlington, Western Australia, which included an encounter with local writer Mollie Skinner, was followed by a brief stop in the small coastal town of Thirroul, New South Wales, during which Lawrence completed Kangaroo, a novel about local fringe politics that also revealed a lot about his wartime experiences in Cornwall.

The Lawrences finally arrived in the U.S. in September 1922. Here they encountered Mabel Dodge Luhan, a prominent socialite, and considered establishing a utopian community on what was then known as the 160-acre (0.65 km²) Kiowa Ranch near Taos, New Mexico. They acquired the property, now called the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, in 1924 in exchange for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers. He stayed in New Mexico for two years, with extended visits to Lake Chapala and Oaxaca in Mexico.

mexico.jpgWhile in the U.S., Lawrence rewrote and published Studies in Classic American Literature, a set of critical essays begun in 1917, and later described by Edmund Wilson as “one of the few first-rate books that have ever been written on the subject.” These interpretations, with their insights into symbolism, New England Transcendentalism and the puritan sensibility, were a significant factor in the revival of the reputation of Herman Melville during the early 1920s. In addition, Lawrence completed a number of new fictional works, including The Boy in the Bush, The Plumed Serpent, St Mawr, The Woman who Rode Away, The Princess and assorted short stories. He also found time to produce some more travel writing, such as the collection of linked excursions that became Mornings in Mexico.

A brief voyage to England at the end of 1923 was a failure and he soon returned to Taos, convinced that his life as an author now lay in America. However, in March 1925 he suffered a near fatal attack of malaria and tuberculosis whilst on a third visit to Mexico. Although he eventually recovered, the diagnosis of his condition obliged him to return once again to Europe. He was dangerously ill and poor health limited his ability to travel for the remainder of his life.

lady.jpgThe Lawrences made their home in a villa in Northern Italy, living near to Florence while he wrote The Virgin and the Gipsy and the various versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). The latter book, his last major novel, was initially published in private editions in Florence and Paris and reinforced his notoriety. Lawrence responded robustly to those who claimed to be offended, penning a large number of satirical poems, published under the title of “Pansies” and “Nettles“, as well as a tract on Pornography and Obscenity.

The return to Italy allowed Lawrence to renew old friendships; during these years he was particularly close to Aldous Huxley, who was to edit the first collection of Lawrence’s letters after his death, along with a memoir. With artist Earl Brewster, Lawrence visited a number of local archaeological sites in April 1927. The resulting essays describing these visits to old tombs were written up and collected together as Sketches of Etruscan Places, a beautiful book that contrasts the lively past with Mussolini’s fascism.

Lawrence
continued to produce fiction, including short stories and The Escaped Cock (also published as The Man Who Died), an unorthodox reworking of the story of Christ’s Resurrection. During these final years Lawrence renewed a serious interest in oil painting. Official harassment persisted and an exhibition of some of these pictures at the Warren Gallery in London was raided by the British police in mid 1929 and a number of works were confiscated. Nine of the Lawrence oils have been on permanent display in the La Fonda Hotel in Taos since shortly after his death. They hang in a small office behind the hotel’s front desk and are available for viewing.

Lawrence continued to write despite his failing health. In his last months he wrote numerous poems, reviews, essays, and a robust defence of his last novel against those who sought to suppress it. His last significant work was a reflection on the Book of Revelation, Apocalypse. After being discharged from a sanatorium, he died at the Villa Robermond in Vence, France due to complications from tuberculosis. Weekley returned to live on the ranch in Taos and later her third husband brought Lawrence’s ashes to rest there in a small chapel set amid the mountains of New Mexico.

While writing Women in Love, Lawrence developed a sexual relationship, in the town of Tregerthen, with a Cornish farmer named William Henry Hocking. The affair, though brief, seems to indicate that Lawrence’s fascination with themes of homosexuality related to his own sexual orientation. Indeed, in a letter written during 1913, he writes, “I should like to know why nearly every man that approaches greatness tends to homosexuality, whether he admits it or not…” He is also quoted as saying, “I believe the nearest I’ve come to perfect love was with a young coal-miner when I was about 16.”

The obituaries following Lawrence’s death were, with the notable exception of E. M. Forster, unsympathetic or hostile. However, there were those who articulated a more balanced recognition of the significance of this author’s life and works. For example, his longtime friend Catherine Carswell summed up his life in a letter to the periodical Time and Tide published on March 16, 1930. In response to his critics, she claimed:

In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and life-long delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man’s, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls–each one secretly chained by the leg–who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people–if any are left–will turn Lawrence’s pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was.

Aldous Huxley also defended Lawrence in his introduction to a collection of letters published in 1932. However, the most influential advocate of Lawrence’s contribution to literature was the Cambridge literary critic F. R. Leavis who asserted that the author had made an important contribution to the tradition of English fiction. Leavis stressed that The Rainbow, Women in Love, and the short stories and tales were major works of art. Later, the Lady Chatterley Trial of 1960, and subsequent publication of the book, ensured Lawrence’s popularity (and notoriety) with a wider public.

A number of feminist critics, notably Kate Millett, have questioned Lawrence’s sexual politics, and this questioning has damaged his reputation in some quarters since then. On the other hand, Lawrence continues to find an audience, and the ongoing publication of a new scholarly edition of his letters and writings has demonstrated the range of his achievement.

lawrenceportraitklein.jpgLawrence is perhaps best known for his novels Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Within these Lawrence explores the possibilities for life and living within an Industrial setting. In particular Lawrence is concerned with the nature of relationships that can be had within such settings. Though often classed as a realist, Lawrence’s use of his characters can be better understood with reference to his philosophy. His use of sexual activity, though shocking at the time, has its roots in this highly personal way of thinking and being. It is worth noting that Lawrence was very interested in human touch behaviour (see Haptics) and that his interest in physical intimacy has its roots in a desire to restore our emphasis on the body, and re-balance it with what he perceived to be western civilization’s slow process of over-emphasis on the mind.

Among the most praised, The Prussian Officer and Other Stories provides insight into Lawrence’s attitudes during World War I. His American volume The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories develops his themes of leadership as explored in the novels Kangaroo, The Plumed Serpent and Fanny and Annie.

Although best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, Dreams Old and Dreams Nascent, were among his earliest published works in The English Review. His early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets, a group not only named after the present monarch but also to the romantic poets of the previous Georgian period whose work they were trying to emulate. What typified the entire movement, and Lawrence’s poems of the time, were well-worn poetic tropes and deliberately archaic language. Many of these poems display what John Ruskin called the “pathetic fallacy,” the tendency to ascribe human emotions to animals and even inanimate objects.

It was the flank of my wife
I touched with my hand, I clutched with my hand,
rising, new-awakened from the tomb!
It was the flank of my wife
whom I married years ago
at whose side I have lain for over a thousand nights
and all that previous while, she was I, she was I;
I touched her, it was I who touched and I who was touched.

– excerpt, New Heaven and Earth

rainbowold.jpgJust as World War I dramatically changed the work of many of the poets who saw service in the trenches, Lawrence’s own work saw a dramatic change, during his years in Cornwall. During this time, he wrote free verse influenced by Walt Whitman. He set forth his manifesto for much of his later verse in the introduction to New Poems. “We can get rid of the stereotyped movements and the old hackneyed associations of sound or sense. We can break down those artificial conduits and canals through which we do so love to force our utterance. We can break the stiff neck of habit…But we cannot positively prescribe any motion, any rhythm.” Many of his later works took the idea of free verse to the extremes of lacking all rhyme and metre so that they are little different from short ideas or memos, which could well have been written in prose.

Lawrence rewrote many of his novels several times to perfect them and similarly he returned to some of his early poems when they were collected in 1928. This was in part to fictionalise them, but also to remove some of the artifice of his first works. As he put in himself: “A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand over the demon’s mouth sometimes and speaks for him.” His best known poems are probably those dealing with nature such as those in Birds Beasts and Flowers and Tortoises. Snake, one of his most frequently anthologised, displays some of his most frequent concerns; those of man’s modern distance from nature and subtle hints at religious themes.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

– excerpt, Snake

Look! We have come through! is his other work from the period of the end of the war and it reveals another important element common to much of his writings; his inclination to lay himself bare in his writings. Although Lawrence could be regarded as a writer of love poems, his usually deal in the less romantic aspects of love such as sexual frustration or the sex act itself. Ezra Pound in his Literary Essays complained of Lawrence’s interest in his own “disagreeable sensations” but praised him for his “low-life narrative.” This is a reference to Lawrence’s dialect poems akin to the Scots poems of Robert Burns, in which he reproduced the language and concerns of the people of Nottinghamshire from his youth.

Tha thought tha wanted ter be rid o’ me.

‘Appen tha did, an’ a’.

Tha thought tha wanted ter marry an’ se
If ter couldna be master an’ th’ woman’s boss,
Tha’d need a woman different from me,
An’ tha knowed it; ay, yet tha comes across

Ter say goodbye! an’ a’.
– excerpt, The Drained Cup

Pound was the chief proponent of modernist poetry and although Lawrence’s works after his Georgian period are clearly in the Modernist tradition, they were often very different to many other modernist writers. Modernist works were often austere works in which every word was carefully worked on and hard-fought for. Lawrence felt all poems had to be personal sentiments and that spontaneity was vital for any work. He called one collection of poems Pansies partly for the simple ephemeral nature of the verse but also a pun on the French word panser, to dress or bandage a wound. His wounds still needed soothing for the reception he regularly received in England with The Noble Englishman and Don’t Look at Me being removed from the official edition of Pansies on the grounds of obscenity. Even though he lived most of the last ten years of his life abroad, his thoughts were often still on England. His last work Nettles published in 1930 just eleven days after his death were a series of bitter, “nettling” but often amusing attacks on the moral climate of England.

O the stale old dogs who pretend to guard
the morals of the masses,
how smelly they make the great back-yard
wetting after everyone that passes.

– excerpt, The Young and Their Moral Guardians

Two notebooks of Lawrence’s unprinted verse were posthumously published as Last Poems and More Pansies.

eroticworks.jpgLawrence’s criticism of other authors often provides great insight into his own thinking and writing. Of particular note is his Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays and Studies in Classic American Literature. In the latter, Lawrence’s responses to Whitman, Melville and Edgar Allan Poe shed particular light on the nature of Lawrence’s craft.

Lawrence continued throughout his life to develop his highly personal philosophy, many aspects of which would prefigure the counterculture of the 1960s. His unpublished introduction to Sons and Lovers established the duality central to much of his fiction. This is done with reference to the Holy Trinity. As his philosophy develops, Lawrence moves away from more direct Christian analogies and instead touches upon Mysticism, Buddhism, and Pagan theologies. In some respects, Lawrence was a forerunner of the growing interest in the occult that occurred in the 20th century, though he himself would have identified as a Christian.

D. H. Lawrence also painted a selection of erotic works. These were exhibited at the Dorothy Warren Gallery in London’s Mayfair in 1929. This exhibition included A Boccaccio Story, Spring and Fight with an Amazon. The exhibition was extremely controversial, with many of the 13,000 people visiting mainly to gawk. The Daily Express reported “Fight with an Amazon represents a hideous, bearded man holding a fair-haired woman in his lascivious grip while wolves with dripping jaws look on expectantly, [this] is frankly indecent.”

Quotation

  • * “Be a good animal, true to your instincts.” — The White Peacock
  • * “Mrs Morel always said the after-life would hold nothing in store for her husband: he rose from the lower world into purgatory, when he came home from pit, and passed into heaven in the Palmerston Arms.” — Sons and Lovers (edited out of the 1913 edition, restored in 1992)
  • * “I think I am much too valuable a creature to offer myself to a German bullet gratis and for fun.” — Letter to Harriet Monroe, 1 October 1914
  • * “Don’t you find it a beautiful clean thought, a world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass, and a hare sitting up.” – Women in Love
  • * “Never trust the artist. Trust the tale.” — Studies in Classic American Literature (also rendered as “Never trust the teller; trust the tale.”)
  • * “Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.” — Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • * “Her father was not a coherent human being, he was a roomful of old echoes.” — Women in Love
  • * “They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all.” — “Whales Weep Not”
  • * “If I were the moon, I know where I would fall down” — “The Rainbow”
  • * “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”

biobio.jpgD H Lawrence is considered by some to be one of the great literary artists of the twentieth century, but the texts of his writings, whether published during his lifetime or since, are, for the most part, textually corrupt.

The Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D H Lawrence represents a major scholarly undertaking, which aims to provide new versions of the texts which are as close as can now be determined to those which the author would have wished to see printed. This ongoing project, started in 1979, will eventually encompass over 40 separate volumes, each complete with a high quality critical apparatus. The following list is based around the books in this authoritative standard edition. In general, where a text is not yet available in the Cambridge series, reference has been made to other reliable sources.

Novels

  • * The White Peacock (1911), edited by Andrew Robertson, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-22267-2
  • * The Trespasser (1912), edited by Elizabeth Mansfield, Cambridge University Press,1981, ISBN 0-521-22264-8
  • * Sons and Lovers (1913), edited by Helen Baron and Carl Baron, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-24276-2
  • * The Rainbow (1915), edited by Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Cambridge University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-521-00944-8
  • * Women in Love (1920), edited by David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-23565-0
  • * The Lost Girl (1920), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1981, ISBN 0-521-22263-X
  • * Aaron’s Rod (1922) edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-521-25250-4
  • * Kangaroo (1923) edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-521-38455-9
  • * The Boy in the Bush (1924), edited by Paul Eggert, Cambridge University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-521-30704-X
  • * The Plumed Serpent (1926), edited by L.D. Clark, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-22262-1
  • * Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), edited by Michael Squires, Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-521-22266-4
  • * The Escaped Cock (1929) (later re-published as The Man Who Died)
  • * The Virgin and the Gypsy (1930)

Short stories

  • * The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (1914), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-24822-1
  • * England, My England and Other Stories (1922), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-521-35267-3
  • * The Fox, The Captain’s Doll, The Ladybird (1923), edited by Dieter Mehl, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-35266-5
  • * St Mawr and other stories (1925), edited by Brian Finney, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-22265-6
  • * The Woman who Rode Away and other stories (1928) edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-521-22270-2.
  • * The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories (1930), edited by Michael Herbert, Bethan Jones, Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 2006 (forthcoming), ISBN 0-521-36607-0
  • * Love Among the Haystacks and other stories (1930), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-26836-2
  • * Collected Stories (1994) – Everyman’s Library, a comprehensive one volume edition that prints all sixty two of Lawrence’s shorter fictions in chronological sequence
  • * The Rocking-Horse Winner (1926)
  • * The Horse Dealer’s Daughter (1922)
  • “The Odour of Chrysanthemums” (written between 1901 and 1914)

Poetry

  • * Love Poems and others (1913)
  • * Amores (1916)
  • * Look! We have come through! (1917)
  • * New Poems (1918)
  • * Bay: a book of poems (1919)
  • * Tortoises (1921)
  • * Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923)
  • * The Collected Poems of D H Lawrence (1928)
  • * Pansies (1929)
  • * Nettles (1930)
  • * Last Poems (1932)
  • * Fire and other poems (1940)
  • * The Complete Poems of D H Lawrence (1964), ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto and F. Warren Roberts

Plays

  • * The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (1914)
  • * Touch and Go (1920)
  • * David (1926)
  • * The Fight for Barbara (1933)
  • * A Collier’s Friday Night (1934)
  • * The Married Man (1940)
  • * The Merry-go-round (1941)
  • * The Complete Plays of D H Lawrence (1965)
  • * The Plays, edited by Hans-Wilhelm Schwarze and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-24277-0

Non-fiction

  • * Study of Thomas Hardy and other essays (1914), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-521-25252-0, Literary criticism and metaphysics
  • * Movements in European History (1921), edited by Philip Crumpton, Cambridge University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-521-26201-1, Originally published under the name of Lawrence H. Davison
  • * Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious (1921/1922), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-521-32791-1
  • * Studies in Classic American Literature (1923), edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-55016-5
  • * Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and other essays (1925), edited by Michael Herbert, Cambridge University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-521-26622-X
  • * A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover(1929) – Lawrence wrote this pamphlet to explain his most notorious novel
  • * Apocalypse and the writings on Revelation (1931) edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1980, ISBN 0-521-22407-1, His last book touching on primitive symbolism, paganism and pre-Christian religion
  • * Phoenix: the posthumous papers of D H Lawrence (1936)
  • * Phoenix II: uncollected, unpublished and other prose works by D H Lawrence (1968)
  • * Introductions and Reviews, edited by N. H. Reeve and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-83584-4
  • * Late Essays and Articles, edited by James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-58431-0

Travel books

  • * Twilight in Italy and Other Essays (1916), edited by Paul Eggert, Cambridge University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-521-26888-5
  • * Sea and Sardinia (1921), edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-521-24275-4
  • * Mornings in Mexico (1927)
  • * Sketches of Etruscan Places and other Italian essays (1932), edited by Simonetta de Filippis, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-25253-9

Works translated by Lawrence

  • * Lev Isaakovich Shestov All Things are Possible (1920)
  • * Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin The Gentleman from San Francisco (1922), tr. with S. S. Koteliansky
  • * Giovanni Verga Maestro-Don Gesualdo (1923)
  • * Giovanni Verga Little Novels of Sicily (1925)
  • * Giovanni Verga Cavalleria Rusticana and other stories (1928)
  • * Antonio Francesco Grazzini The Story of Doctor Manente (1929)

Manuscripts and early drafts of published novels and other works

Scholarly studies of Lawrence’s existing manuscripts reveal him to have been a careful craftsman. He often revised his works in a radical way by rewriting them, often over a period of years. Given this, it is interesting to compare these earlier drafts with the final, published versions

  • * Paul Morel (1911-12), edited by Helen Baron, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-56009-8, an early manuscript version of Sons and Lovers
  • * The First Women in Love (1916-17) edited by John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-521-37326-3
  • * Mr Noon (1920?) – Parts I and II, edited by Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-521-25251-2
  • * The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature, edited by Armin Arnold, Centaur Press, 1962
  • * Quetzalcoatl (1925), edited by Louis L Martz, W W Norton Edition, 1998, ISBN 0-8112-1385-4, Early draft of The Plumed Serpent
  • * The First and Second Lady Chatterley novels, edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-47116-8. These two books,The First Lady Chatterley and John Thomas and Lady Jane were earlier drafts of Lawrence’s last novel

Letters

  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume I, September 1901 – May 1913, ed. James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-521-22147-1
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume II, June 1913 – October 1916, ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1981, ISBN 0-521-23111-6
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume III, October 1916 – June 1921, ed. James T. Boulton and Andrew Robertson, Cambridge University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-521-23112-4
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume IV, June 1921 – March 1924 , ed. Warren Roberts, James T. Boulton and Elizabeth Mansfield, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-00695-3
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume V, March 1924 – March 1927, ed. James T. Boulton and Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-521-00696-1
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume VI, March 1927 – November 1928 , ed. James T. Boulton and Margaret Boulton with Gerald M. Lacy, Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-521-00698-8
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume VII, November 1928 – February 1930, ed. Keith Sagar and James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-521-00699-6
  • * The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, with index, Volume VIII, ed. James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-521-23117-5
  • * The Selected Letters of D H Lawrence, Compiled and edited by James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-521-40115-1

Works about Lawrence Bibliographic resources

  • * Paul Poplawski (1995) The Works of D H Lawrence: a Chronological Checklist (Nottingham, D H Lawrence Society)
  • * Paul Poplawski (1996) D. H. Lawrence: A Reference Companion (Westport, Conn, and London: Greenwood Press)
  • * P. Preston (1994)A D H Lawrence Chronology(London, Macmillan)
  • * W. Roberts and P. Poplawski (2001)A Bibliography of D H Lawrence. 3rd ed. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)
  • * Charles L Ross and Dennis Jackson, eds. (1995) Editing D H Lawrence: New Versions of a Modern Author (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press)
  • * Keith Sagar (1979)D H Lawrence: a Calendar of his Works (Manchester, Manchester University Press)
  • * Keith Sagar (1982) D H Lawrence Handbook (Manchester, Manchester University Press)

Biographical studies

  • * Catherine Carswell (1932) The Savage Pilgrimage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, reissued 1981)
  • * Frieda Lawrence (1934) Not I, But The Wind (Santa Fe: Rydal Press)
  • * E. T. (Jessie Chambers Wood) (1935) D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record (Jonathan Cape)
  • * Edward Nehls (1957-59) D. H. Lawrence: A Composite Biography, Volumes I-III (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press)
  • * Emile Delavenay (1972) D. H. Lawrence: The Man and his Work: The Formative Years, 1885-1919, trans. Katherine M. Delavenay (London: Heinemann)
  • * Harry T. Moore (1974) The Priest of Love: A Life of D. H. Lawrence (Heinemann)
  • * Paul Delany (1979) D. H. Lawrence’s Nightmare: The Writer and his Circle in the Years of the Great War (Hassocks: Harvester Press)
  • * G H Neville (1981) A Memoir of D. H. Lawrence: The Betrayal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * John Worthen (1991) D. H. Lawrence: The Early Years, 1885 – 1912 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Mark Kincaid-Weekes (1996) D. H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912 – 1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Brenda Maddox (1994) D. H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage (W. W. Norton & Co)
  • * David Ellis (1998) D. H. Lawrence: Dying Game, 1922 – 1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * John Worthen (2005) D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider (London: Penguin/Allen Lane)
  • * Scandalous! the musical based on the life of D. H. Lawrence. Created by Glyn Bailey, Keith Thomas and Theasa Tuohy. Website / Scandalousthemusical.com

Drama

  • * Look! We Have Come Through! based on the letters and works of D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Scripted by James Petosa and Carole Graham Lehan. Nominated for Helen Hayes Award 1998

Musical Theatre

  • * Scandalous! the musical based on the life of D. H. Lawrence. Created by Glyn Bailey, Keith Thomas and Theasa Tuohy. Website:/ Scandalousthemusical.com

Literary criticism

  • * Michael Bell (1992) D. H. Lawrence: Language and Being (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Richard Beynon, (ed.) (1997) D. H. Lawrence: The Rainbow and Women in Love (Cambridge: Icon Books)
  • * Michael Black (1986) D H Lawrence: The Early Fiction (Palgrave MacMillan)
  • * Michael Black (1991) D. H. Lawrence: The Early Philosophical Works: A Commentary (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan)
  • * Michael Black (1992) Sons and Lovers (Cambridge University Press)
  • * Michael Black (2001) Lawrence’s England: The Major Fiction, 1913 – 1920 (Palgrave-MacMillan)
  • * Keith Brown, ed. (1990) Rethinking Lawrence, Milton Keynes: Open University Press
  • * Anthony Burgess (1985) Flame Into Being: The Life And Work Of D.H. Lawrence (William Heinemann)
  • * Aidan Burns (1980) Nature and Culture in D. H. Lawrence (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan)
  • * L D Clark (1980) The Minoan Distance: The Symbolism of Travel in D H Lawrence, University of Arizona Press
  • * Colin Clarke (1969) River of Dissolution: D. H. Lawrence and English Romanticism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul)
  • * Carol Dix (1980) D H Lawrence and Women, Macmillan
  • * R P Draper (1970) D H Lawrence: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
  • * Anne Fernihough (1993) D. H. Lawrence: Aesthetics and Ideology (Oxford:Clarendon Press)
  • * Anne Fernihough, ed. (2001) The Cambridge Companion to D H Lawrence (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)
  • * Graham Holderness (1982) D. H. Lawrence: History, Ideology and Fiction (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan)
  • * John R. Harrison (1966) The Reactionaries: Yeats, Lewis, Pound, Eliot, Lawrence: A Study of the Anti-Democratic Intelligentsia (Victor Gollancz, London)
  • * Graham Hough (1956) The Dark Sun: A Study of D H Lawrence, Duckworth
  • * John Humma (1990) Metaphor and Meaning in D.H. Lawrence’s Later Novels, University of Missouri Press
  • * Frank Kermode (1973) Lawrence (London: Fontana)
  • * Mark Kinkead – Weekes (1968) The Marble and the Statue: The Exploratory Imagination of D. H. Lawrence, pp. 371-418. in Gregor, lan and Maynard Mack (eds.), Imagined Worlds: Essays in Honour of John Butt (London: Methuen,)
  • * F. R. Leavis (1955) D H Lawrence: Novelist (London, Chatto and Windus)
  • * F. R. Leavis (1976) Thought, Words and Creativity: Art and Thought in D H Lawrence (London, Chatto and Windus)
  • * Sheila Macleod (1985) Lawrence’s Men and Women (London: Heinemann)
  • * Barbara Mensch (1991) D. H. Lawrence and the Authoritarian Personality (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan)
  • * Kate Millett (1970) Sexual Politics (Garden City, NY: Doubleday)
  • * Colin Milton (1987) Lawrence and Nietzsche: A Study in Influence (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press)
  • * Robert E Montgomery (1994) The Visionary D. H. Lawrence: Beyond Philosophy and Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Alastair Niven (1978) D. H. Lawrence: The Novels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Cornelia Nixon (1986) Lawrence’s Leadership Politics and the Turn Against Women (Berkeley: University of California Press)
  • * Tony Pinkney (1990) D. H. Lawrence (London and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf)
  • * Charles L. Ross (1991) Women in Love: A Novel of Mythic Realism (Boston, Mass.: Twayne)
  • * Keith Sagar (1966) The Art of D H Lawrence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • * Keith Sagar (1985) D H Lawrence: Life into Art (University of Georgia Press)
  • * Daniel J. Schneider (1986) The Consciousness of D. H. Lawrence: An Intellectual Biography (Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas)
  • * Michael Squires and Keith Cushman (1990) The Challenge of D. H. Lawrence (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press)
  • * Peter Widdowson , ed. (1992) D. H. Lawrence (London and New York: Longman)
  • * John Worthen (1979) D. H. Lawrence and the Idea of the Novel (London and Basingstoke, Macmillan).
  • * T R Wright (2000) D H Lawrence and the Bible (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)

source

This well-known clip introduces Master Chief Urgayle to the CRT (SEAL) trainees. He recites a D.H. Lawrence poem, Self-Pity, “I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself….”, followed by the uncredited “The ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides, the drift of the continents, the very position of the sun along its ecliptic. These are just a few of the things I control in my world.”





johann wolfgang von goethe | outside of the gate | Faust I.

22 03 2008

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Poetry Dispatch No. 222 | March 23, 2008

HAPPY EASTER

~ Outside of the Gate ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I

From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook,
By the Spring’s enlivening, lovely look;
The valley’s green with joys of hope;
The Winter old and weak ascends
back to the rugged mountain slope.
From there, as he flees, he downward sends
An impotent shower of icy hail
Streaking over the verdant vale.
Ah! but the Sun will suffer no white,
Growth and formation stir everywhere,
‘Twould fain with colours make all things bright,
Though in the landscape are no blossoms fair.
Instead it takes gay-decked humanity.
Now turn around and from this height,
Looking backward, townward see.
Forth from the cave-like, gloomy gate
Crowds a motley and swarming array.
Everyone suns himself gladly today.
The Risen Lord they celebrate,
For they themselves have now arisen
From lowly houses’ mustiness,
From handicraft’s and factory’s prison,
From the roof and gables that oppress,
From the bystreets’ crushing narrowness,
From the churches’ venerable night,
They are all brought out into light.
See, only see, how quickly the masses
Scatter through gardens and fields remote;
How down and across the river passes
So many a merry pleasure-boat.
And over-laden, almost sinking,
The last full wherry moves away.
From yonder hill’s far pathways blinking,
Flash to us colours of garments gay.
Hark! Sounds of village joy arise;
Here is the people’s paradise,
Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
“Here I am Man, here dare it to be!”

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Vor dem Tor

Vom Eise befreit sind Strom und Bäche
Durch des Frühlings holden, belebenden Blick,
Im Tale grünet Hoffnungsglück;
Der alte Winter, in seiner Schwäche,
Zog sich in rauhe Berge zurück.
Von dort her sendet er, fliehend, nur
Ohnmächtige Schauer körnigen Eises
In Streifen über die grünende Flur.
Aber die Sonne duldet kein Weißes,
Überall regt sich Bildung und Streben,
Alles will sie mit Farben beleben;
Doch an Blumen fehlts im Revier,
Sie nimmt geputzte Menschen dafür.
Kehre dich um, von diesen Höhen
Nach der Stadt zurück zu sehen!
Aus dem hohlen finstern Tor
Dringt ein buntes Gewimmel hervor.
Jeder sonnt sich heute so gern.
Sie feiern die Auferstehung des Herrn,
Denn sie sind selber auferstanden:
Aus niedriger Häuser dumpfen Gemächern,
Aus Handwerks- und Gewerbesbanden,
Aus dem Druck von Giebeln und Dächern,
Aus der Straßen quetschender Enge,
Aus der Kirchen ehrwürdiger Nacht
Sind sie alle ans Licht gebracht.
Sieh nur, sieh! wie behend sich die Menge
Durch die Gärten und Felder zerschlägt,
Wie der Fluß in Breit und Länge
So manchen lustigen Nachen bewegt,
Und, bis zum Sinken überladen,
Entfernt sich dieser letzte Kahn.
Selbst von des Berges fernen Pfaden
Blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel,
Hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel,
Zufrieden jauchzet groß und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ichs sein!

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born 28 August 1749(1749-08-28) Free City of Frankfurt Died 22 March 1832 (aged 82) Weimar, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Occupation Poet, Novelist, Playwright, Natural Philosopher, Diplomat. Nationality: German. Writing period: Romanticism. Literary movement: Sturm und Drang; Weimar Classicism. Notable work(s) Faust; The Sorrows of Young Werther; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship Spouse(s) Christiane Vulpius Influences

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer. George Eliot called him “Germany’s greatest man of letters… and the last true polymath to walk the earth.” Goethe’s works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe’s magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Faust. Goethe’s other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentality (Empfindsamkeit), Sturm und Drang, and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text Theory of Colours, he influenced Darwin with his focus on plant morphology. He also served as the long-serving Privy Councilor (“Geheimrat”) of the duchy of Weimar.

Goethe is the originator of the concept of Weltliteratur (“world literature”), having taken great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, Persia, Arabic literature, amongst others. His influence on German philosophy is virtually immeasurable, having major impact especially on the generation of Hegel and Schelling, although Goethe himself expressly and decidedly refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense.

Goethe’s influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a primary source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry and philosophy. Goethe is widely considered to be one of the most important thinkers in Western culture and is generally acknowledged as the most important writer in the German language. Early in his career, however, he wondered whether painting might not be his true vocation; late in his life, he expressed the expectation that he would ultimately be remembered above all for his work in optics.

Goethe’s father, Johann Caspar Goethe (Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 29 July 1710 – Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 25 May 1782), lived with his family in a large house in Frankfurt am Main, then an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire. Goethe’s mother, Catharina Elisabeth Textor (Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 19 February 1731 – Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 15 September 1808), the daughter of the Mayor of Frankfurt Johann Wolfgang Textor (Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 11 December 1693 – Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 6 February 1771) and wife (married at Wetzlar, 2 February 1726) Anna Margaretha Lindheimer (Wetzlar, 23 July 1711 – Frankfurt-am-Main, Hessen, 18 April 1783, a descendant of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Henry III, Landgrave of Hesse-Marburg), married 38-year-old Johann Caspar when she was only 17 at Frankfurt am Main on 20 August 1748. All their children, except for Goethe and his sister, Cornelia Friderike Christiana, who was born in 1750, died at an early age

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Johann Caspar and private tutors gave Goethe lessons in all the common subjects of that time, especially languages (Latin, Greek, French and English). Goethe also received lessons in dancing, riding and fencing. Johann Caspar was the type of father who, feeling frustrated in his own ambitions by what he saw as a deficiency of educational advantages, was determined that his children would have all those advantages which he had not had.

Goethe had a persistent dislike of the church, characterizing its history as a “hotchpotch of mistakes and violence” (Mischmasch von Irrtum und Gewalt). His great passion was drawing. Goethe quickly became interested in literature; Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Homer were among his early favourites. He had a lively devotion to theatre as well and was greatly fascinated by puppet shows that were annually arranged in his home; a familiar theme in Wilhelm Meister.

Goethe studied law in Leipzig from 1765 to 1768. Learning age-old judicial rules by heart was something he strongly detested. He preferred to attend the poetry lessons of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. In Leipzig, Goethe fell in love with Käthchen Schönkopf and wrote cheerful verses about her in the Rococo genre. In 1770, he anonymously released Annette, his first collection of poems. His uncritical admiration for many contemporary poets vanished as he became interested in Lessing and Wieland. Already at this time, Goethe wrote a good deal, but he threw away nearly all of these works, except for the comedy Die Mitschuldigen. The restaurant Auerbachs Keller and its legend of Faust’s 1525 barrel ride impressed him so much that Auerbachs Keller became the only real place in his closet drama Faust Part One. Because his studies did not progress, Goethe was forced to return to Frankfurt at the close of August 1768.

In Frankfurt, Goethe became severely ill. During the next year and a half which followed, because of several relapses, the relationship with his father worsened. During convalescence, Goethe was nursed by his mother and sister. Bored in bed, he wrote an impudent crime comedy. In April 1770, his father lost his patience; Goethe left Frankfurt in order to finish his studies in Strasbourg.

In Alsace, Goethe blossomed. No other landscape has he described as affectionately as the warm, wide Rhine area. In Strasbourg, Goethe met Johann Gottfried Herder, who happened to be in town on the occasion of an eye operation. The two became close friends, and crucially to Goethe’s intellectual development, it was Herder who kindled his interest in Shakespeare, Ossian and in the notion of Volkspoesie (folk poetry). On a trip to the village Sesenheim, Goethe fell in love with Friederike Brion, but, after a couple of weeks, terminated the relationship. Several of his poems, like Willkommen und Abschied, Sesenheimer Lieder and Heideröslein, originate from this time.

Despite being based on his own ideas, his legal thesis was published uncensored. Shortly after, he was offered a career in the French government. Goethe rejected it; he did not want to commit himself, but to instead remain an “original genius”.

At the end of August 1771, Goethe was certified as a licensee in Frankfurt. He wanted to make the jurisdiction progressively more humane. In his first cases, he proceeded too vigorously, was reprimanded and lost the position. This prematurely terminated his career as a lawyer after only a few months. At this time, Goethe was acquainted with the court of Darmstadt, where his inventiveness was praised. From this milieu came Johann Georg Schlosser (who was later to become his brother-in-law) and Johann Heinrich Merck. Goethe also pursued literary plans again; this time, his father did not have anything against it, and even helped. Goethe obtained a copy of the biography of a noble highwayman from the Peasants’ War. In a couple of weeks the biography was reworked into a colourful drama. Entitled Götz von Berlichingen, the work went directly to the heart of Goethe’s contemporaries.

Goethe could not subsist on being one of the editors of a literary periodical (published by Schlosser and Merck). In May 1772, he once more began the practice of law at Wetzlar. In 1774 Goethe wrote the book which would bring him world-wide fame, The Sorrows of Young Werther. Despite the immense success of Werther, it did not bring Goethe much financial gain — copyright law at the time being essentially nonexistent. (In later years Goethe would bypass this problem by periodically authorizing “new, revised” editions of his Complete Works.)

In 1775 Goethe was invited, on the strength of his fame as the author of The Sorrows of Young Werther, to the court of Carl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. (The Duke at the time was 18 years of age, to Goethe’s 26.) Goethe thus went to live in Weimar where he remained throughout the rest of his life, and where, over the course of many years, he held a succession of offices; becoming the Duke’s chief adviser.

Goethe was ennobled in 1782 (this being indicated by the “von” in his name).

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Goethe’s journey to the Italian peninsula from 1786 to 1788 was of great significance in his æsthetical and philosophical development. His father had made a similar journey during his own youth, and his example was a major motivating factor for Goethe to make the trip. More importantly, however, the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann had provoked a general renewed interest in the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome. Thus Goethe’s journey had something of the nature of a pilgrimage to it. During the course of his trip Goethe met and befriended the artists Angelica Kauffmann and Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, as well as encountering such notable characters as Lady Hamilton and Alessandro Cagliostro.

He also journeyed to Sicily during this time, and wrote intriguingly that “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” While in Sicily, Goethe encountered, for the first time genuine Greek (as opposed to Roman) architecture, and was quite startled by its relative simplicity. Winckelmann had not recognized the distinctness of the two styles.

Goethe’s diaries of this period form the basis of the non-fiction Italian Journey. Italian Journey only covers the first year of Goethe’s visit. The remaining year is largely undocumented, aside from the fact that he spent much of it in Venice. This “gap in the record” has been the source of much speculation over the years.

In the decades which immediately followed its publication in 1816 Italian Journey inspired countless German youths to follow Goethe’s example. This is pictured, somewhat satirically, in George Elliot’s Middlemarch.

In late 1792, Goethe took part in the battle of Valmy against revolutionary France, assisting Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar during the failed invasion of France. Again during the Siege of Mainz he assisted Carl August as a military observer. His written account of these events can be found within his Complete Works.

In 1794 Friedrich Schiller wrote to Goethe offering friendship; they had previously had only a mutually wary relationship ever since first becoming acquainted in 1788. This collaborative friendship lasted until Schiller’s death in 1805.

In 1806, Goethe was living in Weimar with his mistress Christiane Vulpius, the sister of Christian A. Vulpius, and their son Karl August. On October 13, Napoleon’s army invaded the town. The French “spoon guards”, the least-disciplined soldiers, occupied Goethe’s house.

The ‘spoon guards’ had broken in, they had drunk wine, made a great uproar and called for the master of the house. Goethe’s secretary Riemer reports: ‘Although already undressed and wearing only his wide nightgown … he descended the stairs towards them and inquired what they wanted from him … . His dignified figure, commanding respect, and his spiritual mien seemed to impress even them.’ But it was not to last long. Late at night they burst into his bedroom with drawn bayonets. Goethe was petrified, Christiane raised a lot of noise and even tangled with them, other people who had taken refuge in Goethe’s house rushed in, and so the marauders eventually withdrew again. It was Christiane who commanded and organized the defense of the house on the Frauenplan. The barricading of the kitchen and the cellar against the wild pillaging soldiery was her work. Goethe noted in his diary: “Fires, rapine, a frightful night … Preservation of the house through steadfastness and luck.” The luck was Goethe’s, the steadfastness was displayed by Christiane.

The next day, Goethe legitimized their relationship by marrying Christiane in a quiet marriage service at the court chapel. Christiane Vulpius and Goethe produced a son, Karl August von Goethe (25 December 1789 – 28 October 1830), whose wife, Ottilie von Pogwisch (31 October 1796 – 26 October 1872), cared for the elder Goethe until his death in 1832. They had three children: Walther, Freiherr von Goethe (9 April 1818 – 15 April 1885), Wolfgang, Freiherr von Goethe (18 September 1820 – 20 January 1883) and Alma von Goethe (29 October 1827 – 29 September 1844). Christiane Vulpius died in 1816.

By 1820, he was on amiable terms with Kaspar Maria von Sternberg. Post-1793, Goethe devoted his endeavour principally to literature. In 1832, after a life of vast productivity, Goethe died in Weimar. He is buried in the Ducal Vault at Weimar’s Historical Cemetery.

Eckermann closes his famous work, Conversations with Goethe, with this passage:

The morning after Goethe’s death, a deep desire seized me to look once again upon his earthly garment. His faithful servant, Frederick, opened for me the chamber in which he was laid out. Stretched upon his back, he reposed as if asleep; profound peace and security reigned in the features of his sublimely noble countenance. The mighty brow seemed yet to harbour thoughts. I wished for a lock of his hair; but reverence prevented me from cutting it off. The body lay naked, only wrapped in a white sheet; large pieces of ice had been placed near it, to keep it fresh as long as possible. Frederick drew aside the sheet, and I was astonished at the divine magnificence of the limbs. The breast was powerful, broad, and arched; the arms and thighs were elegant, and of the most perfect shape; nowhere, on the whole body, was there a trace of either fat or of leanness and decay. A perfect man lay in great beauty before me; and the rapture the sight caused me made me forget for a moment that the immortal spirit had left such an abode. I laid my hand on his heart – there was a deep silence – and I turned away to give free vent to my suppressed tears.

(p. 426, Da Capo Press edition, John Oxenford translation)

The most important of Goethe’s works produced before he went to Weimar were his tragedy Götz von Berlichingen (1773), which was the first work to bring him recognition, and the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), which gained him enormous fame as a writer in the Sturm und Drang period which marked the early phase of Romanticism – indeed the book is often considered to be the “spark” which ignited the movement, and can arguably be called the world’s first “best-seller”. (For the entirety of his life this was the work with which the vast majority of Goethe’s contemporaries associated him.) During the years at Weimar before he met Schiller he began Wilhelm Meister, wrote the dramas Iphigenie auf Tauris (Iphigenia in Tauris), Egmont, Torquato Tasso, and the fable Reineke Fuchs.To the period of his friendship with Schiller belong the continuation of Wilhelm Meister, the idyll of Hermann and Dorothea, and the Roman Elegies. In the last period, between Schiller’s death, in 1805, and his own, appeared Faust Part One, Elective Affinities, the West-Eastern Divan (a collection of poems in the Persian style, influenced by the work of Hafez), his autobiographical Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit (From My Life: Poetry and Truth) which covers his early life and ends with his departure for Weimar, his Italian Journey, and a series of treatises on art. His writings were immediately influential in literary and artistic circles.

Faust Part Two was only finished in the year of his death, and was published posthumously.

As to what I have done as a poet,… I take no pride in it… But that in my century I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colours – of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here I have a consciousness of a superiority to many.

– Johann Eckermann, Conversations of Goethe

Although his literary work has attracted the greatest amount of interest, Goethe was also keenly involved in studies of natural science. He wrote several works on plant morphology, and colour theory.

With his focus on morphology he influenced Darwin. His studies led him to independently discover the human intermaxillary bone in 1784, which Broussonet (1779) and Vicq d’Azyr (1780) had (using different methods) identified several years earlier. While not the only one in his time to question the prevailing view that this bone did not exist in humans, Goethe, who believed ancient anatomists had known about this bone, was the first to prove its peculiarity to all mammals.

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Light spectrum, from Theory of Colours – Goethe observed that with a prism, colour arises at the edges, and the spectrum occurs where these coloured edges overlap.
Light spectrum, from Theory of Colours – Goethe observed that with a prism, colour arises at the edges, and the spectrum occurs where these coloured edges overlap.

During his Italian journey, Goethe formulated a theory of plant metamorphosis in which the archetypal form of the plant is to be found in the leaf – he writes, “from top to bottom a plant is all leaf, united so inseparably with the future bud that one cannot be imagined without the other.” .

In 1810, Goethe published his Theory of Colours, which he considered his most important work. In it, he (contentiously) characterized colour as arising from the dynamic interplay of darkness and light. After being translated into English by Charles Eastlake in 1840, this theory became widely adopted by the art world, most notably J. M. W. Turner (Bockemuhl, 1991. It also inspired the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, to write his Remarks on Colour. Goethe was vehemently opposed to Newton’s analytic treatment of colour, engaging instead in compiling a comprehensive description of a wide variety of colour phenomena. Although Goethe cannot necessarily be criticized for the accuracy and extent of his observations, scientists in general have found little use for his theory because not much can be predicted by means of it. Goethe was, however, the first to systematically study the physiological effects of colour, and his observations on the effect of opposed colors led him to a symmetric arrangement of his colour wheel, ‘for the colours diametrically opposed to each other… are those which reciprocally evoke each other in the eye. (Goethe, Theory of Colours, 1810. In this, he anticipated Ewald Hering’s opponent color theory (1872).

Goethe outlines his method in the essay, The experiment as mediator between subject and object (1772). In the Kurschner edition of Goethe’s works, the science editor, Rudolf Steiner, presents Goethe’s approach to science as phenomenological. Steiner elaborated on this in the books The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception and Goethe’s World View, in which he emphasizes the need of the perceiving organ of intuition in order to grasp Goethe’s biological archetype.

The short epistolary novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, or The Sorrows of Young Werther, published in 1774, recounts an unhappy romantic infatuation that ends in suicide. Goethe admitted that he “shot his hero to save himself”: a reference to Goethe’s own near-suicidal obsession with a young woman during this period, an obsession he quelled through the writing process. The novel remains in print in dozens of languages and its influence is undeniable; its central hero, an obsessive figure driven to despair and destruction by his unrequited love for the young Lotte, has become a pervasive literary archetype. The fact that Werther ends with the protagonist’s suicide and funeral — a funeral which “no clergyman attended” — made the book deeply controversial upon its (anonymous) publication, for on the face of it, it appeared to condone and glorify suicide. Suicide was considered sinful by Christian doctrine: suicides were denied Christian burial with the bodies often mistreated and dishonoured in various ways; in corollary, the deceased’s property and possessions were often confiscated by the Church. Epistolary novels were common during this time, letter-writing being a primary mode of communication. What set Goethe’s book apart from other such novels was its expression of unbridled longing for a joy beyond possibility, its sense of defiant rebellion against authority, and of principal importance, its total subjectivity: qualities that trailblazed the Romantic movement.

The next work, his epic closet drama Faust, was to be completed in stages, and only published in its entirety after his death. The first part was published in 1808 and created a sensation. The first operatic version, by Spohr, appeared in 1814, and was subsequently the inspiration for operas and oratorios by Schumann, Gounod, Boito, Busoni, and Schnittke as well as symphonic works by Liszt, Wagner, and Mahler. Faust became the ur-myth of many figures in the 19th century. Later, a facet of its plot, i.e., of selling one’s soul to the devil for power over the physical world, took on increasing literary importance and became a view of the victory of technology and of industrialism, along with its dubious human expenses. In 1919, the Goetheanum staged the world premiere of a complete production of Faust. On occasion, the play is still staged in Germany and other parts around the world.

Goethe’s poetic work served as a model for an entire movement in German poetry termed Innerlichkeit (“introversion”) and represented by, for example, Heine. Goethe’s words inspired a number of compositions by, among others, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz and Wolf. Perhaps the single most influential piece is “Mignon’s Song” which opens with one of the most famous lines in German poetry, an allusion to Italy: “Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?” (“Do you know the land where the lemons bloom?”).

He
is also widely quoted. Epigrams such as “Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him”, “Divide and rule, a sound motto; unite and lead, a better one”, and “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must”, are still in usage or are often paraphrased. Lines from Faust, such as “Das also war des Pudels Kern”, “Das ist der Weisheit letzter Schluss”, or “Grau ist alle Theorie” have entered everyday German usage. Although a success of less tasteful appeal, the famous line from the drama Götz von Berlichingen (“Er kann mich am Arsche lecken”: “He can lick my arse”) has become a vulgar idiom in many languages, and shows Goethe’s deep cultural impact extending across social, national, and linguistic borders.

It may be taken as another measure of Goethe’s fame that other well-known quotations are often incorrectly attributed to him, such as Hippocrates’ “Art is long, life is short”, which is found in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister.

Many of Goethe’s works, especially Faust, the Roman Elegies, and the Venetian Epigrams, depict hetero- and homosexual erotic passions and acts. In Faust, having signed (the Devil insists on his signature in an actual contract) his deal with the devil, the very first use of his new power thus gained sees Faust ravishing a young teenage girl. In fact, some of the Venetian Epigrams were held back from publication due to their sexual content. However, Karl Hugo Pruys caused national controversy in Germany when his 1999 book The Tiger’s Tender Touch: The Erotic Life of Goethe tentatively deduced from Goethe’s writings the possibility of Goethe’s homosexuality. The sexual portraitures and allusions in his work may stem from one of the many effects of Goethe’s eye-opening sojourn in Italy, where men, who shunned the prevalence of women’s venereal diseases and unconscionable conditions, embraced homosexuality as a solution that was not widely imitated outside of Italy.Whatever the case, Goethe clearly saw sexuality in general as a topic that merited poetic and artistic depiction. This went against the thought of his time, when the very private nature of sexuality was rigorously normative, and makes him appear more modern than he is typically thought to be.

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Born into a Protestant (Lutheran) family, Goethe’s early faith was shaken by news of such events as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the Seven Years’ War. His later spiritual perspective evolved among pantheism, humanism, and various elements of Western esotericism, as seen most vividly in Part II of Faust.

A year before his death he expressed an identification with the Hypsistarians, an ancient Jewish-pagan sect of the Black Sea region. After describing his difficulties with mainstream religion, Goethe laments:

…I have found no confession of faith to which I could ally myself without reservation. Now in my old age, however, I have learned of a sect, the Hypsistarians, who, hemmed in between heathens, Jews and Christians, declared that they would treasure, admire, and honour the best, the most perfect that might come to their knowledge, and inasmuch as it must have a close connection to the Godhead, pay it reverence. A joyous light thus beamed at me suddenly out of a dark age, for I had the feeling that all my life I had been aspiring to qualify as a Hypsistarian. That, however, is no small task, for how does one, in the limitations of one’s individuality, come to know what is most excellent?

– from a letter to Sulpiz Boisserée dated 22 March 1831

Goethe is remembered with special fondness by followers of 20th century esoteric figure Rudolf Steiner.

Goethe had a great effect on the changing dynamics of the 19th century. In many respects, he was the originator of—or at least the first to cogently express—many ideas which would later become familiar. Goethe produced volumes of poetry, essays, criticism, and scientific work, including a theory of optics and early work on evolution and linguistics. He was fascinated by minerals and early mineralogy (the mineral goethite is named for him). His non-fiction writings, most of which are philosophic and aphoristic in nature, spurred on the development of many philosophers, such as G.W.F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Cassirer, Carl Gustav Jung, Ludwig Wittgenstein and others, and of various literary movements, such as romanticism. The mystical philosopher Rudolf Steiner, founder of the anthroposophist movement, named two buildings after Goethe. In contemporary culture, he stands in the background as the author of the story upon which Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is based.

Goethe embodied many of the contending strands in art over the next century: his work could be lushly emotional, and rigorously formal, brief and epigrammatic, and epic. He would argue that classicism was the means of controlling art, and that romanticism was a sickness, even as he penned poetry rich in memorable images, and rewrote the formal rules of German poetry.

His poetry was set to music by almost every major Austrian and German composer from Mozart to Mahler, and his influence would spread to French drama and opera as well. Beethoven declared that a “Faust” Symphony would be the greatest thing for Art. Liszt and Mahler both created symphonies in whole or in large part inspired by this seminal work, which would give the 19th century one of its most paradigmatic figures: Doctor Faustus. The Faust tragedy/drama, often called “Das Drama der Deutschen” (the drama of the Germans), written in two parts published decades apart, would stand as his most characteristic and famous artistic creation.

Goethe was also a cultural force, and by researching folk traditions, he created many of the norms for celebrating Christmas, and argued that the organic nature of the land moulded the people and their customs—an argument that has recurred ever since, including recently in the work of Jared Diamond. He argued that laws could not be created by pure rationalism, since geography and history shaped habits and patterns. This stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing Enlightenment view that reason was sufficient to create well-ordered societies and good laws.

Goethe’s influence was dramatic because he understood that there was a transition in European sensibilities, an increasing focus on sense, the indescribable, and the emotional. This is not to say that he was emotionalistic or excessive; on the contrary, he lauded personal restraint and felt that excess was a disease: “There is nothing worse than imagination without taste”. He argued in his scientific works that a “formative impulse”, which he said is operative in every organism, causes an organism to form itself according to its own distinct laws, and therefore rational laws or fiats could not be imposed at all from a higher, transcendent sphere; this placed him in direct opposition to those who attempted to form “enlightened” monarchies based on “rational” laws by, for example, Joseph II of Austria or, the subsequent Emperor of the French, Napoleon I. A quotation from his Scientific Studies will suffice:

We conceive of the individual animal as a small world, existing for its own sake, by its own means. Every creature is its own reason to be. All its parts have a direct effect on one another, a relationship to one another, thereby constantly renewing the circle of life; thus we are justified in considering every animal physiologically perfect. Viewed from within, no part of the animal is a useless or arbitrary product of the formative impulse (as so often thought). Externally, some parts may seem useless because the inner coherence of the animal nature has given them this form without regard to outer circumstance. Thus…[not] the question, What are they for? but rather, Where do they come from?

Suhrkamp ed., vol 12, p. 121; trans. Douglas Miller, Scientific Studies

This change later became the basis for 19th century thought; organic rather than geometrical, evolving rather than created, and based on sensibility and intuition, rather than on imposed order, culminating in, as he said, a “living quality” wherein the subject and object are dissolved together in a poise of inquiry. Consequently, he embraced neither teleological nor deterministic views of growth within every organism. Instead, the world as a whole grows through continual, external, and internal strife. Moreover, he did not embrace the mechanistic views that contemporaneous science subsumed during his time, and therewith he denied rationality’s superiority as the sole interpretation of reality. Furthermore, he declared that all knowledge is related to humanity through its functional value alone and that knowledge presupposes a perspectival quality. He also stated that the fundamental nature of the world is aesthetic.

His views make him, along with Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Ludwig van Beethoven, a figure in two worlds: on the one hand, devoted to the sense of taste, order, and finely crafted detail, which is the hallmark of the artistic sense of the Age of Reason and the neo-classicistic period of architecture; on the other, seeking a personal, intuitive, and personalized form of expression and society, firmly supporting the idea of self-regulating and organic systems. Thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson would take up many similar ideas in the 1800s. His ideas on evolution would frame the question which Darwin and Wallace would approach within the scientific paradigm.

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source





susan o’leary | in and out

21 03 2008
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Poetry Dispatch No. 221 | March 21, 2008

Susan O’Leary

In and Out

Writers, artists, musicians, seekers, journey East when they are called, creating their own map along the way.

For every seeker, a singular journey.

Intuition. Awareness. Perception.

Not a religion, no one to worship. Only to live, deeply.

Deeper.

Nothing is everything.

There are many pathways. Find your own.

Practice.

For some, to begin: just breathe…knowingly.

This is the journey celebrated in BREATH TAKING.

This is the fragile awareness of Susan O’Leary’s map within, of being and non being, of breathing words that can’t be said. Norbert Blei

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Just

Just
this
space
in
be
tween
in
and
out

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Let it go

Let it go,
the weathered teaching,
let it go.
Fear, love, anger, desire,
Release them all.
Stay.
Stay here.

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What Have You Learned About the Breath Today?

There is this story of the teacher who gave his students this practice: come fresh each day with something new they have learned about the breath. Each day, a new recognition. Or dawning. Or delicate understanding of the feel, touch, awareness, heartbeat of the breath. For years. This same, one, practice for years. It is in and out. It is not simply in and out. It is. In and out.

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Being home

Ours is an old house in the heart of a Midwestern American city. This is where we daily breathe (not always in mindfulness), where we daily walk, where we daily sit. This is where our practice starts in the morning and ends at night. We do not always practice well, we don’t always remember we’re practicing. But this is the space where our mindfulness over years has grown. And as we quiet and settle, our house quiets and settles with us.

The kitchen reminds us we are home, and I love to stand in its silence. There are two windows in the kitchen – one above the sink looking over the back yard, one on the stairs that come down into the kitchen from the second floor. In the seasons when windows are open, you feel the breeze move with bare attention through the room. When I open the door for the back hall leading to the basement, and open the window on the landing, the breeze then moves differently. It comes together with fullness, entering from three directions. Inside and outside. In and out. Silence. Air.

Right now there are tomatoes on the windowsill from our younger son Tom’s garden. There has been little rain this year, and they have ripened unusually small, a lovely coral red. In the morning, when I’m making coffee, I watch our collie in the back yard through this window. He goes to the border of the garden and stands. Still. Then, after this pause, he walks around the edge of the garden fence (we put it up to keep him out), and makes his way in. Each day since they have ripened he goes to the tomato plants, slowly pulls a tomato off, then comes back out of the garden, sets the tomato on the ground, and begins to eat. He is a timid dog, and it is a surprise to see him be so bold.

And the dailiness of life here is just this: we stop more now, we see more slowly. My husband Jim notices a need, and answers it before anyone asks. Tom stops at the bell in passing, and invites it. I see the pleasure of a dog trespassing in a garden. The transformation is small and present. And it has changed our life.

No one has accused us yet of enlightenment. We still argue. We still have days that start wrong and stay wrong, old hurts that get remembered and then nurtured. But this is the difference: we know more easily our way back now. Somewhere in old patterns of distance, we will be kind. Or stop and listen. We will decide out of love to understand, to open our heart just a little more, though instinct and pattern say to close it.

A presence, a sense, cannot help but change what surrounds it; I have seen that as a teacher. Being with children you learn how families nurture kinship, responsibility and happiness. And also how repeated disappointment and want in a family can turn to anger and despair. Each year some few children bring that anger to school, and you see how their anger affects other children, how it can change a room. It took me years of practice to understand this simple thing: mindfulness transforms not just the practitioner, but the place. If we all know that anger can suddenly change a room, change a space – doesn’t, too, love? Doesn’t, too, mindfulness?

The practice entered our house twelve years ago with the breath. With that simple, surprising awareness of now. Now our practice has become home. There is emptiness to sense in the house, to quiet in. The awareness of our two older children, Nate and Nora, both grown, both gone to lives beyond this house, and yet always returning. Difficulty, sorrow, illness; celebration, joy, all have passed here, all have found their way, some staying, some surely to come again. But moments of peace, of mindfulness, have grown over years, and settled in the rooms, too. The breath sent out and brought in. Presence becoming. This is our home, where we are.

We are here, a family. The walking of daily life takes us from room to room, from cupboard to table, from book to bed. The sitting of daily life brings the family together at meals, gets bills paid, offers the refuge of a favorite chair. The breath of daily life, often unnoticed, is life itself. Walk. Sit. Breathe. This is where we know our path. Footsteps repeat. The movement of the house becomes known parts of our life. The practice settles in our hearts here.

crp023.jpgfrom BREATH TAKING, Cross+Roads Press, 2005, 71 pp. illustrated by Emmett Johns, $12





taha muhammad ali | three poems

20 03 2008
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Taha Muhammad Ali | Photo: Nina Subin
Poetry Dispatch No. 220 | March 20, 2008

Three Poems by Taha Muhammad Ali

Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in a village in Galilee–then Saffuriya in Mandatory Palestine. At seventeen he fled to Lebanon with his family after the village came under heavy bombardment during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he slipped back across the border with his family and settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since.

In the fifties and sixties, he sold souvenirs during the day and studied poetry (everything from classical Arabic to contemporary American free-verse) at night. Still owner of a small souvenir/antiques shop he operates with his sons, he writes vividly of his childhood in Saffuriya and of the political upheavals he has survived.

The Saffuriya of his youth has served as the nexus of his poetry and fiction, which are grounded in everyday experience and driven by a storyteller’s vivid imagination. He is self-taught and began his poetry career late.

Taha Muhammad Ali writes in a forceful and direct style, with disarming humor and an unflinching, at times painfully honest approach; his poetry’s apparent simplicity and homespun truths conceal the subtle grafting of classical Arabic onto colloquial forms of expression. In Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Europe and in America, audiences have been powerfully moved his poems of political complexity and humanity. He has published several collections of poetry and is also a short story writer.

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Where by Taha Muhammad Ali

Poetry hides
somewhere
behind the night of words
behind the clouds of hearing,
across the dark of sight,
and beyond the dusk of music
that’s hidden and revealed.
But where is it concealed?
And how could I
possibly know
when I am
barely able,
by the light of day,
to find my pencil?

from SO WHAT New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005, Copper Canyon Press, 2006, $18

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Empty Words

Ah, little notebook,
yellow as a spike of wheat
and still as a face,
I’ve protected you
from dampness and rodents
and entrusted you with
my sadness and fear,
and my dreams—
though in exchange I’ve gotten from you
only disobedience and betrayal…
For otherwise where are the words
that would have me saying:
If only I were a rock on a hill…
unable to see or hear,
be sad or suffer!
And where is the passage
whose tenor is this:
I wish I could be
a rock on a hill
which the young men
from Hebron explode
and offer as a gift to Jerusalem’s children,
ammunition for their palms and slings!

And where is the passage
in which I wanted
to be a rock on a hill
gazing. out from on high
hundreds of years from now
over hordes ,.
of masked liberators!

And where is what belongs
to my dream of being
a rock on a hill
along the Carmel—
where I call on the source of my sadness,
gazing out over the waves
and thinking of her
to whom I bade
farewell at the harbor pier
in Haifa forty years ago
and still…
I await her return
one evening
with the doves of the sea.

Is it fair, little notebook,
yellow as a spike of wheat
and still as a face,
that you conceal
what you cancel and erase,
simply because it consists of empty words—
which frighten no enemy
and offer no hope to a friend?

from NEVER MIND, Twenty Poems and a Story, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, Gabriel Levin, IBIS Editions, POB 8074, German Colony, Jerusalem, Israel, $11.95

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Meeting at an Airport

You asked me once,
on our way back
from the midmorning
trip to the spring:
“What do you hate,
and who do you love?”

And I answered,
from behind the eyelashes
of my surprise,
my blood rushing
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure…
I love the spring
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”
And you laughed…
and the almond tree blossomed
and the thicket grew loud with nightingales.

…A question now four decades old:
I salute that question’s answer;
and an answer
as old as your departure;
I salute that answer’s question…

And today,
it’s preposterous,
here we are at a friendly airport
by the slimmest of chances,
and we meet.
Ah, Lord!
we meet.
And here you are
asking—again,
it’s absolutely preposterous—
I recognized you
but you didn’t recognize me.
“Is it you?!”
But you wouldn’t believe it.
And suddenly
you burst out and asked:
“If you’re really you,
What do you hate
and who do you love?!”

And I answered—
my blood
fleeing the hall,
rushing in me
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure,
and I love the spring,
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”

And you wept,
and flowers bowed their heads,
and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled.

from SO WHAT New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005, Copper Canyon Press, 2006, $18]





norbert blei | red hands

19 03 2008

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Standing on the right-hand side of Condoleezza Rice is “freedom fighter” Desiree Fairooz. No comments needed for this little episode that happened on Oct 24th. Fairooz was yelling out, “You have the blood of millions of Iraqis on your hands!” into Rice’s face. [source]

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NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No. 136 | March 19, 2008

RED HANDS

by

Norbert Blei

On today, the 5th Anniversary of the War beyond reason or redemption in a faraway land called Iraq…I look at an old clipping on my desk from the New York Times, March 13, 2008, wondering why I saved it.

It’s the photo that caught my attention, not the story. I’m tired of the story.

The caption under the photo reads: Antiwar protesters raised red-painted hands during testimony by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before a House committee on Wednesday..

It’s the surreal in me, in works of art and literature, that I love. That I don’t address often enough in my own words and images. The surreal that is not celebrated enough in daily life, especially in these, our most surreal times.

A war without images of the dead, the maimed, the crazed, the innocent victims bombed out of their country, their homes, their minds… A war without images of grief on the evening news…which we are left to imagine on the faces of American families who have sacrificed their sons and daughters—so that we can keep shopping, as our leaders advises…while our country…no, our economy goes through “a rough patch,” according to the President.

Where are the dead? Show us the dead. Come clean. There is more grief in our hearts than the American debt, the real cost of war. Show us the truth.

In 2005 I published a limited edition broadside of a poem by the great American poet of spirit and protest, Robert Bly, “Call and Answer” The first two stanzas of that poem read:

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!

This is a day to remember the dead. Our tortuous trail of secrecy and blank pages of history. All that blood not appropriate for prime time news, the ghost-parade of flag-draped coffins quietly landing in the dark nights of American airports.

This is a day we should all paint our hands red. And shake the hand of our President.





mark leyner | a bug’s life, really

19 03 2008

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NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No. 135 | March 18, 2008

Oh Brendan, Oh Brother, Oh My–“Who is he?” (Oh, No!)

I was a little startled too concerning yesterday’s dispatch on Irish writer, Brendan Behan and a few readers who responded: Who?

Bear in mind these dispatches go out to an extensive list of recipients…not all of them writers…some of them students, beginning writers, writers stuck-in-time, editors, publishers, newspaper people, radio-TV people, friends. family, readers with all kinds of interests (beyond and including literary interests), teachers, clergy, librarians, doctors, business owners, lawyers, musicians, etc.) Including a few folks who may open a dispatch simply because there’s no other mail, possibly wondering: “What the hell is he up to today?”

I was also taken to task yesterday by responses from a few readers and veteran writers who opined: “I thought your audience was on the high-end of literate?” (“It shows how old we’re getting,” said another.)

I pondered the matter a bit more last night and into this morning:

How many college students, English majors/college grads these days would know who Behan was? (Let’s not even consider high school English classes, where he would be banned for all kinds of reasons.) How many librarians have ever heard of him? (How many of Behan’s books are in your public library?) How many clerks in any Barnes & Noble store would know who you were asking about–without a computer in front of them? How many men and women sitting on editorial committees (manuscript acquisitions) of major New York publishing houses could say they knew Behan, his life, his work? How many people with MFA’s in Creative Writing could say they had read BORSTAL BOY, saw “The Hostage” or “The Quare Fellow” on stage?

Case closed.

The topic for today is directly related to #217 Poetry Dispatch of last week concerning “Celebrity” and the false memoir.

(Please, no questions as to Who was Franz….) Norbert Blei

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A Bug’s Life, Really by Mark Leyner

In a scandal that’s sending shock waves through both the publishing industry and academia, the author Franz Kafka has been revealed to be a fraud.

“ ‘The Metamorphosis’—purported to be the fictional account of a man who turns into a large cockroach—is actually non-fiction,” according to a statement released by Mr. Kafka’s editor, who spoke only on the condition that he be identified as E.

“The story is true. Kafka simply wrote a completely verifiable, journalistic account of a neighbor by the name of Gregor Samsa who because of some bizarre medical condition, turned into a “monstrous vermin.” Kafka assured us that he’d made the whole thing up. We now know that to be completely false. The account is 100 percent true.”

In the wake of recent revelations concerning Margaret B. Jones’ memoir LOVE AND CONSEQUENCES and Misha Defonseca’s, MISHA: A MÉMOIRE OF THE HOLOCAUST YEARS, the disclosure that Mr. Kafka’s work was based on reality has embarrassed editors and scholars.

“I’ve been teaching “The Metamorphosis” for years, said a professor of literature at Princeton, who insisted that he be identified as P. “I’ve called it one of the most sublime pieces of literature ever written. Elias Canetti called it ‘one of the few great and perfect poetic works written during this century,’ To find out that it’s actually true is devastating.”

The actual condition of Kafka’s neighbor, a Prague salesman who didn’t return our calls or e-mail messages requesting comment, is known as entomological dysplasia, and is somewhat rare. It results in the development over a period of time of a hard carapace, a segmented body and antennas.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Kafka was contrite and tearful. “I know what I did was wrong,” he said. “I’m very alienated from myself, but that’s no excuse to lie. I took someone’s life and selfishly turned it into an enigmatic literary parable.”

“I’m not sure how this happened,” said Mr. Kafka’s brother, B., of Oxnard, Calif. “My brother is weird, but he doesn’t have that good an imagination. A man who becomes a big bug…my brother couldn’t make that up if his life depended on it. As soon as I read ‘The Metamorphosis” I knew it was true. Don’t they fact-check fiction?”

Mr. Kafka’s publishers are now reviewing all his works if fiction—stories about singing mice, “hunger artists” and men on trial for crimes they’re not aware of having committed—to determine whether they are true,

“We were duped,” said E., Mr. Kafka’s editor. “The whole story is pure, unadulterated non-fiction. This guy’s a complete con man.”

from The New York Times, March 9, 2008

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