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Short poem

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)

Tortoise Gallantry

              1Making his advances
              2He does not look at her, nor sniff at her,
              3No, not even sniff at her, his nose is blank.

              4Only he senses the vulnerable folds of skin
              5That work beneath her while she sprawls along
              6In her ungainly pace,
              7Her folds of skin that work and row
              8Beneath the earth-soiled hovel in which she moves.

              9And so he strains beneath her housey walls
            10And catches her trouser-legs in his beak
            11Suddenly, or her skinny limb,
            12And strange and grimly drags at her
            13Like a dog,
            14Only agelessly silent, with a reptile's awful persistency.

            15Grim, gruesome gallantry, to which he is doomed.
            16Dragged out of an eternity of silent isolation
            17And doomed to partiality, partial being,
            18Ache, and want of being,
            20Self-exposure, hard humiliation, need to add himself on to her.

            21Born to walk alone,
            23Now suddenly distracted into this mazy side-track,
            24This awkward, harrowing pursuit,
            25This grim necessity from within.

            26Does she know
            27As she moves eternally slowly away?
            28Or is he driven against her with a bang, like a bird flying in the dark against a window,
            29All knowledgeless?

            30The awful concussion,
            31And the still more awful need to persist, to follow, follow, continue,
            32Driven, after æons of pristine, fore-god-like singleness and oneness,
            33At the end of some mysterious, red-hot iron,
            34Driven away from himself into her tracks,
            35Forced to crash against her.

            36Stiff, gallant, irascible, crook-legged reptile,
            37Little gentleman,
            38Sorry plight,
            39We ought to look the other way.

            40Save that, having come with you so far,
            41We will go on to the end.


1] The next poem in the Tortoises group is "Tortoise Shout." The previous poem in the Tortoises group is "Lui et Elle."

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, Tortoises (New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1921): 37-41. PR 6023 A93 T6 1921 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1921
Publication date note: See Roberts A19
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/12

Composition date: 15 September 1921 - 30 September 1920
Composition date note: Composed in the garden of La Canovaia (See Kinkead-Weekes, 604-05, 748, 859)
Form: Free Verse

Other poems by David Herbert Lawrence