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David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)

The Revolutionary


              1Look at them standing there in authority
              2The pale-faces,
              3As if it could have any effect any more.

              4Pale-face authority,
              5Caryatids,
              6Pillars of white bronze standing rigid, lest the skies fall.

              7What a job they've got to keep it up.
              8Their poor, idealist foreheads naked capitals
              9To the entablature of clouded heaven.

            10When the skies are going to fall, fall they will
            11In a great chute and rush of débâcle downwards.

            12Oh and I wish the high and super-gothic heavens would come down now,
            13The heavens above, that we yearn to and aspire to.

            14I do not yearn, nor aspire, for I am a blind Samson.
            15And what is daylight to me that I should look skyward?
            16Only I grope among you, pale-faces, caryatids, as among a forest of pillars that hold up the dome of high ideal heaven
            17Which is my prison,
            18And all these human pillars of loftiness, going stiff, metallic-stunned with the weight of their responsibility
            19I stumble against them.
            20Stumbling-blocks, painful ones.

            21To keep on holding up this ideal civilisation
            22Must be excruciating: unless you stiffen into metal, when it is easier to stand stock rigid than to move.

            23This is why I tug at them, individually, with my arm round their waist
            24The human pillars.
            25They are not stronger than I am, blind Samson.
            26The house sways.

            27I shall be so glad when it comes down.
            28I am so tired of the limitations of their Infinite.
            29I am so sick of the pretensions of the Spirit.
            30I am so weary of pale-face importance.

            31Am I not blind, at the round-turning mill?
            32Then why should I fear their pale faces?
            33Or love the effulgence of their holy light,
            34The sun of their righteousness?

            35To me, all faces are dark,
            36All lips are dusky and valved.

            37Save your lips, O pale-faces,
            38Which are slips of metal,
            39Like slits in an automatic-machine, you columns of give-and-take.

            40To me, the earth rolls ponderously, superbly
            41Coming my way without forethought or afterthought.
            42To me, men's footfalls fall with a dull, soft rumble, ominous and lovely,
            43Coming my way.

            44But not your foot-falls, pale-faces,
            45They are a clicketing of bits of disjointed metal
            46Working in motion.

            47To me, men are palpable, invisible nearnesses in the dark
            48Sending out magnetic vibrations of warning, pitch-dark throbs of invitation.

            49But you, pale-faces,
            50You are painful, harsh-surfaced pillars that give off nothing except rigidity,
            51And I jut against you if I try to move, for you are everywhere, and I am blind,
            52Sightless among all your visuality,
            53You staring caryatids.

            54See if I don't bring you down, and all your high opinion
            55And all your ponderous roofed-in erection of right and wrong
            56Your particular heavens,
            57With a smash.

            58See if your skies aren't falling!
            59And my head, at least, is thick enough to stand it, the smash.

            60See if I don't move under a dark and nude, vast heaven
            61When your world is in ruins, under your fallen skies.
            62Caryatids, pale-faces.
            63See if I am not Lord of the dark and moving hosts
            64Before I die.

Florence.

Notes

5] Caryatids: draped female statues supporting an entablature.

14] Samson: Biblical hero, husband of Delilah, who betrayed him to his enemies by shearing off his hair, the source of his strength. Samson pulled down, on his enemies' heads, the temple to which they chained him.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: D. H. Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems (London: Martin Secker, 1923): 25-27. PR 6023 A93B5 1923 Robarts Library. Roberts A27.
First publication date: 1921
Publication date note: New Republic 25 (Jan. 19, 1921): 231. See Roberts C76
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/8

Composition date: 10 September 1920 - 16 September 1920
Composition date note: See Kinkead-Weekes, 747
Form: Free Verse


Other poems by David Herbert Lawrence