Monday, June 2, 2008

D.H. Lawrence and Political Poetry

Originally published on the Mailstrom blog.

I don't profess to be an expert on poetry . School gave me a fondness for the war-poets and the only anthology of poems i ever possessed was by Wilfred Owen . I have read and enjoyed Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol and i have also enjoyed Percy Shelley's The Mask of Anarchy .

It was a pleasnt surprise for me to come across in a socialist journal a few of D.H. Lawrence's more biting political poems originally published in 1929 in a volume called Pansies .

O! Start A Revolution

O! start a revolution , somebody !
not to get the money
but to lose it forever .

O! start a revolution , somebody!
not to install the working classes
but to abolish the working classes forever
and have a world of men .

Kill Money

Kill money , put money out of existence .
It is a perverted instinct , a hidden thought
which rots the brain , the blood , the bones , the stones , the soul.

Make up your mind about it all:
that society must establish itself upon a different principle
from the one we’ve got now.

We must have the courage of mutual trust.
We must have the modesty of simple living.
And the individual must have his house , food and fire all free - like a bird.


Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.

And of course , if the multitude is mad
The individual carries his own grain of insanity around with him.

I doubt if any man living hands out a pound note without a pang;
And a real tremor , if he hands out a ten-pound note.
We quail, money makes us quail .
It has got us down , we grovel before it in strange terror .
And no wonder, for money has a fearful cruel power among men .

But it is not money we are terrified of ,
it is the collective money - madness of mankind.
For mankind says with one voice : How much is he worth ?
Has he no money ? Then let him eat dirt , and go cold -

And if I have no money , they will give me a little bread ,
So I do not die,
but they will make me eat dirt for it .
I shall have to eat dirt , I shall have to eat dirt
if I have no money

It is that I am afraid of .
And that fear can become a delirium .
It is fear of my money-mad fellow-man.

We must have some money
To save us from eating dirt .

And this is wrong.

Bread should be free ,
shelter should be free ,
fire should be free
to all and anybody , all and anybody , all over the world.

We must regain our sanity about money
before we start killing one another about it .
It’s one thing or the other.

How Beastly The Bourgeois Is

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species -

Presentable , eminently presentable -
shall I make you a present of him ?

Isn’t he handsome ? isn’t he healthy? Isn’t he a fine specimen ?
doesn’t he look the fresh clean englishman , outside ?
Isn’t if god’s own image ? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges , or a little rubber ball ?
wouldn’t you like to be like that , well off , and quite the thing ?

Oh , but wait !
Let him meet a new emotion , let him be faced with another man’s
need ,
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty , let life face him with
a new demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy , like a wet meringue .
Watch him turn into a mess , either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him , confronted with a new demand on his intelligence ,
a new life-demand.

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species -
Nicely groomed like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable -
and like a fungus , living on the remains of bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own .

And even so , he’s stale , he’s been there too long .
Touch him , and you’ll find he’s all gone inside
just like an old mushroom , all wormy inside , and hollow
under a smooth skin and an upright appearance .

Full of seething , wormy , hollow feelings
rather nasty -
How beastly the bourgeois is !

Standing in their thousands , these appearances , in damp England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools , and left to melt back , swiftly
into the soil of England .


The wages of work is cash .
The wages of cash is want more cash .
The wages of want more cash is vicious competition.
The wages of vicious completion is - the world we live in .

The work-cash-want circle is the viciousest circle
that ever turned men into fiends.

Earning a wage is a prison occupation
and a wage - earner is a sort of gaol-bird
Earning a salary is a prison overseer’s job ,
a gaoler instead of a gaol-bird .

Living on your income is strolling grandly outside the prison
in terror lest you have to go in .And since the work-prison covers
almost every scrap of living earth , you stroll up and down
on a narrow beat, about the same as a prisoner taking his exercise .

This is called universal freedom


Why have money?
Why have a financial system to strangle us all in its octopus arms?
Why have industry?
Why have the industrial system ?
Why have machines , that we only have to serve?
Why have a soviet , that only wants to screw us all in as parts of the machine?
Why have working classes at all , as if men only embodied jobs?
Why not have men as men , and the work as merely part of the game of life?

True , we’ve got all these things
industrial and financial systems , machines and soviets, working
But why go on having them , if they belittle us ?
Why should we be belittled any longer?

The Mosquito Knows

The mosquito knows full well, small as he is
he’s a beast of prey.
But after all
he only takes his bellyful ,
he doesn’t put my blood in the bank.

D.H. Lawrence