Jun 6, 2014

D.H. Lawrence's "Bavarian Gentians" and Dylan Thomas, Follow-up

Here is D.H. Lawrence’s poem, “Bavarian Gentians.” I think I know why it came to mind as I talked last time about Dylan Thomas and “The Force that through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower," but I'm not sure. Ideas?  Which of the two poems do you prefer, and of course, why?

I don't have a photo of a Bavarian Gentian, but I'm including some with important blues or purples and darkening and excess.

My posting twice about the same poem has never elicited much visitor interest, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Here are some further questions and thoughts about Dylan Thomas’ “The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.”

One word that might confuse or alienate readers is “the green fuse,” which I take to mean the flower’s stem. Does Thomas get enough bang for his buck with “fuse” as a metaphor? In exchange for potential confusion in some readers, what, if anything, does he gain by using “fuse”?

Same question for “dumb”?

Why is the poem so full of violence? About a hundred and fifty years before Dylan Thomas came along in Wales, the English Romantics, especially Wordsworth, had conceived of a dynamism in Nature—its potential for destructive activity along with its beauty and spirituality. But isn’t Thomas going further than the Romantics in seeing and insisting upon Nature’s fearsome extremes and thus complicating its beauty with its violence? Thomas’ Nature wreaks such havoc that he cannot express its extremes; he can only give examples and ask us to perceive natural presences as he does. 

Do you think a single force governs the life and death of humans, plants, and animals? Are we that much a part of nature?

Where in the human being would you locate that force? The heart? The brain? The mouth? The hand? The genitals? Or the mind or soul or spirit?—none of which can be located on an anatomical chart.
English teachers are sex-crazed nerds; that’s old news. Therefore, I ask if the poem has anything to do with sex—potency and lack of it, or Freud’s “libido” versus “thanatos.” I’m pretty sure I recall accurately that Freud expanded his concept of the libido from a specifically erotic drive to a broader meaning of life force, a quest for survival, which of course was in continuous conflict with “thanatos,” or death drive.

Thus, Freud, like the Romantics, saw the essential condition of humans as one of tumult,  inner turmoil, conflict, unlike Buddhism’s sense of a calm inner place, nirvana, which we should try to reach. Do you favor one of these views of human nature over the other? If the human is an onion and you keep peeling off layers, what’s at the center—a roiling ocean or a still pond?


RuneE said...

You ask a lot of interesting questions which demands some deep thought (and I'm leaving on a holiday in about an hour) and the Dylan link was "Temporarily out of order, but we are working on it".

All I can say is that humans are part of the animal kingdom and as such are governed by whatever laws Nature have. How we treat Nature is quite another matter. We dee some of the results right now - the Sixth Great Extinction is probably on the way. Maybe Dylan Thomas (and others) saw the consequences of how we have behaved.

BTW Your reference to onion is the same as Henrik Ibsen uses in the last act of "Peer Gynt" :-)

Banjo52 said...

Thanks, Rune. Hope the Dylan link is fixed soon, although that poem should also be easy to find elsewhere. I agree about Nature--how could anyone disagree? Yet people apparently do. I had no idea where the onion peeling metaphor came from! Thanks for that. And good travels to you.

Julie Brown said...

I prefer the Lawrence poem. It is more lyrical.

Anonymous said...

Over and over again, I wonder how some alcoholics were able to produce such brilliance. When I drink too much, all I want to do is nap. Thomas, all the way. Lawrence wasn't much of a poet, and it all sounds so unsubtle and naively sexual.

But then, I came to Lawrence via a prof with a Freudian bent, where a blade of grass could never be just a blade of grass.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll like this: http://the-toast.net/2014/02/05/put-this-in-your-poetry/

Banjo52 said...

Julie and AH, thanks for the visit. AH, that site is clever, as is your take on the Freudian prof.

Stickup Artist said...

My first impression was that the D.T. poem is more visceral, the D.H.L. poem more lyrical. I like both but D.H.L. easier to live with day to day. As for the rest, I personally view humanity in general as highly strung, tightly wound, quick to judge, and punitive. It's a drag and pretty negative I admit. Consequently, I fly well under the radar and keep my head down.

Pasadena Adjacent said...


^ ^ ^ ^

they missed 'birds'

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I had some trouble understanding DH Lawrence. Several trips to the dictionary. I also may have liked it best too. It reminded me of my best friend who I met in art school. We didn't know this till after her death, but she would turn a tape recorder and do this verbal dance between sleep and consciousness. Lyrical and mysterious. What I felt with the DH Lawrence's references to entering into dark blue, purple blue, deep blue, pluntonian blue…...

DT - yes, more visceral and easier to understand. I was fond of this verse

" The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax."

except I would have (yes, the gaul of it all) edited down to this

The force that drives the water through the rocks turns mine to wax.

Banjo52 said...

PA, I've seen that list of poetic subjects, and it's kinda fun, but you're right, no birds. I think you're on solid ground if you're thinking of Lawrence and the border between the conscious and unconscious. And yes, I think most people today who are serious about poetry would say he and Thomas and others could use some trimming. Of course, on the other hand, that very excess is a defining trait of Romanticism.

Hope your health is back to 100%.

Lovers' Lane