David Herbert Lawrence

The Argonauts The Greeks Are Coming! Bavarian Gentians


The Argonauts

They are not dead, they are not dead!
Now that the sun, like a lion, licks his paws
and goes slowly down the hill:
now that the moon, who remembers, and only cares
that we should be lovely in the flesh, with bright, crescent feet,
pauses near the crest of the hill, climbing slowly, like a queen
looking down on the lion as he retreats–

Now the sea is the Argonauts’ sea, and in the dawn
Odysseus calls the commands, as he steers past those foamy islands;
wait, wait, don’t bring me the coffee yet, nor the pain grillĂ©.
The dawn is not off the sea, and Odysseus’ ships
have not yet passed the islands, I must watch them still.


The Greeks Are Coming!

Little islands out at sea, on the horizon
keep suddenly showing a whiteness, a flash and a furl, a hail
of something coming, ships a-sail from over the rim of the sea.

And every time, it is ships, it is ships,
it is ships of Cnossos coming, out of the morning end of the sea,
it is Aegean ships, and men with archaic pointed beards
coming out of the eastern end.

But it is far-off foam.
And an ocean liner, going east, like a small beetle walking the edge
is leaving a long thread of dark smoke
like a bad smell.


Bavarian Gentians

Not every man has gentians in his house
in soft September, at slow, sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the day-time, torch-like with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom,
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendour of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the lost bride and her groom.


4 June 2021