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Short poem

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)

Worm Either Way

              1If you live along with all the other people
              2and are just like them, and conform, and are nice
              3you're just a worm --

              4and if you live with all the other people
              5and you don't like them and won't be like them and won't conform
              6then you're just the worm that has turned,
              7in either case, a worm.

              8The conforming worm stays just inside the skin
              9respectably unseen, and cheerfully gnaws away at the heart of life,
            10making it all rotten inside.

            11The unconforming worm -- that is, the worm that has turned --
            12gnaws just the same, gnawing the substance out of life,
            13but he insists on gnawing a little hole in the social epidermis
            14and poking his head out and waving himself
            15and saying: Look at me, I am not respectable,
            16I do all the things the bourgeois daren't do,
            17I booze and fornicate and use foul language and despise your honest man.--

            18But why should the worm that has turned protest so much?
            19The bonnie bonnie bourgeois goes a-whoring up back streets just the same.
            20The busy busy bourgeois imbibes his little share
            21just the same
            22if not more.
            23The pretty pretty bourgeois pinks his language just as pink
            24if not pinker,
            25and in private boasts his exploits even louder, if you ask me,
            26than the other.
            27While as to honesty, Oh look where the money lies!

            28So I can't see where the worm that has turned puts anything over
            29the worm that is too cunning to turn.
            30On the contrary, he merely gives himself away.
            31The turned worm shouts. I bravely booze!
            32the other says. Have one with me!
            33The turned worm boasts: I copulate!
            34the unturned says: You look it.
            35You're a d----- b----- b----- p----- bb-----, says the worm that's turned.
            36Quite! says the other. Cuckoo!


13] epidermis: outermost skin.

23] pinks: pretties up (OED, "pink," v. 4).

36] Cuckoo!: "crazy!" or perhaps "and so on, ad nauseum!" (OED "cuckoo," v. sense 2).

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, Pansies: Poems (London: Martin Secker, 1929): 22-23. PR 6023 A93P3 1929 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1929
Publication date note: See Roberts A47
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/12

Composition date: 17 November 1928 - 24 November 1928
Composition date note: See Ellis, 584
Form: Free Verse

Other poems by David Herbert Lawrence