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David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)

The Wild Common


[Version 1: 1921]
              1The quick sparks on the gorse bushes are leaping,
              2Little jets of sunlight-texture imitating flame;
              3Above them, exultant, the peewits are sweeping:
              4They are lords of the desolate wastes of sadness their screamings proclaim.

              5Rabbits, handfuls of brown earth, lie
              6Low-rounded on the mournful grass they have bitten down to the quick.
              7Are they asleep? -- Are they alive? -- Now see, when I
              8Move my arms the hill bursts and heaves under their spurting kick.

              9The common flaunts bravely; but below, from the rushes
            10Crowds of glittering king-cups surge to challenge the blossoming bushes;
            11There the lazy streamlet pushes
            12Its curious course mildly; here it wakes again, leaps, laughs, and gushes.

            13Into a deep pond, an old sheep-dip,
            14Dark, overgrown with willows, cool, with the brook ebbing through so slow,
            15Naked on the steep, soft lip
            16Of the bank I stand watching my own white shadow quivering to and fro.

            17What if the gorse flowers shrivelled and kissing were lost?
            18Without the pulsing waters, where were the marigolds and the songs of the brook!
            19If my veins and my breasts with love embossed
            20Withered, my insolent soul would be gone like flowers that the hot wind took.

            21So my soul like a passionate woman turns,
            22Filled with remorseful terror to the man she scorned, and her love
            23For myself in my own eyes' laughter burns,
            24Runs ecstatic over the pliant folds rippling down to my belly from the breast-lights above.

            25Over my sunlit skin the warm, clinging air,
            26Rich with the songs of seven larks singing at once, goes kissing me glad.
            27And the soul of the wind and my blood compare
            28Their wandering happiness, and the wind, wasted in liberty, drifts on and is sad.

            29Oh but the water loves me and folds me,
            30Plays with me, sways me, lifts me and sinks me as though it were living blood,
            31Blood of a heaving woman who holds me,
            32Owning my supple body a rare glad thing, supremely good.

[Version 2: 1928]
              1The quick sparks on the gorse-bushes are leaping
              2Little jets of sunlight texture imitating flame;
              3Above them, exultant, the peewits are sweeping:
              4They have triumphed again o'er the ages, their screamings proclaim.

              5Rabbits, handfuls of brown earth, lie
              6Low-rounded on the mournful turf they have bitten down to the quick.
              7Are they asleep? -- are they living? -- Now see, when I
              8Lift my arms, the hill bursts and heaves under their spurting kick!

              9The common flaunts bravely; but below, from the rushes
            10Crowds of glittering king-cups surge to challenge the blossoming bushes;
            11There the lazy streamlet pushes
            12His bent course mildly; here wakes again, leaps, laughs, and gushes

            13Into a deep pond, an old sheep-dip,
            14Dark, overgrown with willows, cool, with the brook ebbing through so slow;
            15Naked on the steep, soft lip
            16Of the turf I stand watching my own white shadow quivering to and fro.

            17What if the gorse-flowers shrivelled, and I were gone?
            18What if the waters ceased, where were the marigolds then, and the gudgeon?
            19What is this thing that I look down upon?
            20White on the water wimples my shadow, strains like a dog on a string, to run on.

            21How it looks back, like a white dog to its master!
            22I on the bank all substance, my shadow all shadow looking up to me, looking back!
            23And the water runs, and runs faster, runs faster,
            24And the white dog dances and quivers, I am holding his cord quite slack.

            25But how splendid it is to be substance, here!
            26My shadow is neither here nor there; but I, I am royally here!
            27I am here! I am here! screams the peewit; the may-blobs burst out in a laugh as they hear!
            28Here! flick the rabbits. Here! pants the gorse. Here! say the insects far and near.

            29Over my skin in the sunshine, the warm, clinging air
            30Flushed with the songs of seven larks singing at once, goes kissing me glad.
            31You are here! You are here! We have found you! Everywhere
            32We sought you substantial, you touchstone of caresses, you naked lad!

            33Oh but the water loves me and folds me,
            34Plays with me, sways me, lifts me and sinks me, murmurs: Oh marvellous stuff!
            35No longer shadow! -- and it holds me
            36Close, and it rolls me, enfolds me, touches me, as if never it could touch me enough.

            37Sun, but in substance, yellow water-blobs!
            38Wings and feathers on the crying, mysterious ages, peewits wheeling!
            39All that is right, all that is good; all that is God takes substance! a rabbit lobs
            40In confirmation, I hear sevenfold lark-songs pealing.

Notes

1.1] Common: a public ground or land.
Lawrence regularly placed this poem first in his volumes of poetry.
gorse: dense spiny evergreen shrub like the yellow-flowered furze.

1.3] peewits: small birds.

1.10] king-cups: buttercups.

1.13] sheep-dip: water for cleaning sheep.

1.18] marigolds: showy coloured flowers.

2.18] gugdeon: carp-like freshwater fish.

2.20] wimples: covers.

2.27] may-blobs: marigolds.

2.39] lobs: jumps in an arc.


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: (1) D. H. Lawrence, Amores: Poems (London: Duckworth, [1921]): 4-6. PR 6023 A93A7 Robarts Library. Roberts A9. (2) D. L. Lawrence, Collected Poems, 2 vols. (New York: Jonathan Cape, 1929), I: 9-10.
First publication date: 1921
Publication date note: Revision: 1928
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/12

Composition date: 1905
Composition date note: See Kinkead-Weekes, 748. Revised Nov. 1927 (See Ellis, 568)
Rhyme: abab


Other poems by David Herbert Lawrence