Man and Bat
When I went into my room, at midmorning,
Say ten o’clock.…
My room, a crash-box over that great stone rattle
The Via de’ Bardi.…
When I went into my room at midmorning
Why? … a bird!
Flying round the room in insane circles.
In insane circles!
A disgusting bat
At midmorning! …
Out! Go out!
Round and round and round
With a twitchy, nervous, intolerable flight,
And a neurasthenic lunge,
And an impure frenzy;
A bat, big as a swallow.
Out, out of my room!
The Venetian shutters I push wide
To the free, calm upper air;
Loop back the curtains.…
Now out, out from my room!
So to drive him out, flicking with my white handkerchief: Go!
But he will not.
Round and round and round
In an impure haste
Fumbling, a beast in air,
And stumbling, lunging and touching the walls, the bell-wires
About my room!
Always refusing to go out into the air
Above that crash-gulf of the Via de’ Bardi,
Yet blind with frenzy, with cluttered fear.
At last he swerved into the window bay,
But blew back, as if an incoming wind blew him in again.
A strong inrushing wind.
And round and round and round!
Blundering more insane, and leaping, in throbs, to clutch at a
At a wire, at a bell-rope:
On and on, watched relentless by me, round and round in my room,
Round and round and dithering with tiredness and haste and increasing
Flicker-splashing round my room.
I would not let him rest;
Not one instant cleave, cling like a blot with his breast to the wall
In an obscure corner.
Not an instant!
I flicked him on,
Trying to drive him through the window.
Again he swerved into the window bay
And I ran forward, to frighten him forth.
But he rose, and from a terror worse than me he flew past me
Back into my room, and round, round, round in my room
Clutch, cleave, stagger,
Dropping about the air
Something seemed to blow him back from the window
Every time he swerved at it;
Back on a strange parabola, then round, round, dizzy in my room.
He could not go out,
I also realised.…
It was the light of day which he could not enter.
Any more than I could enter the white-hot door of a blast-furnace.
He could not plunge into the daylight that streamed at the window.
It was asking too much of his nature.
Worse even than the hideous terror of me with my handkerchief
Saying: Out, go out! …
Was the horror of white daylight in the window!
So I switched on the electric light, thinking: Now
The outside will seem brown. …
The outside did not seem brown.
And he did not mind the yellow electric light.
He was having a silent rest.
Not in my room.
Round and round and round
Near the ceiling as if in a web,
Plunging, falling out of the web,
Broken in heaviness,
And clutching, clutching for one second’s pause,
Always, as if for one drop of rest,
One little drop.
Never, I say.…
Seeming to stumble, to fall in air.
Yet never able to pass the whiteness of light into freedom.…
A bird would have dashed through, come what might.
Fall, sink, lurch, and round and round
Even wings heavy:
And cleave in a high corner for a second, like a clot, also a prayer.
Out, you beast.
Till he fell in a corner, palpitating, spent.
And there, a clot, he squatted and looked at me.
With sticking-out, bead-berry eyes, black,
And improper derisive ears,
And shut wings,
And brown, furry body.
Brown, nut-brown, fine fur!
But it might as well have been hair on a spider; thing
With long, black-paper ears.
So, a dilemma!
He squatted there like something unclean.
No, he must not squat, nor hang, obscene in my room!
Yet nothing on earth will give him courage to pass the sweet fire of day.
Hit him and kill him and throw him away?
I didn’t create him.
Let the God that created him be responsible for his death.…
Only, in the bright day, I will not have this clot in my room.
Let the God who is maker of bats watch with them in their unclean
I admit a God in every crevice.
But not bats in my room;
Nor the God of bats, while the sun shines.
So out, out you brute! …
And he lunged, flight-heavy, away from me, sideways, a sghembo!
And round and round and round my room, a clot with wings
Impure even in weariness.
Wings dark skinny and flapping the air,
Lost their flicker.
He fell again with a little thud
Near the curtain on the floor.
And there lay.
Ah, death, death,
You are no solution!
Bats must be bats.
Only life has a way out.
And the human soul is fated to wide-eyed responsibility
So I picked him up in a flannel jacket,
Well covered, lest he should bite me.
For I would have had to kill him if he’d bitten me, the impure one.…
And he hardly stirred in my hand, muffled up.
Hastily, I shook him out of the window.
And away he went!
Fear craven in his tail.
Great haste, and straight, almost bird-straight above the Via de’ Bardi.
Above that crash-gulf of exploding whips,
Towards the Borgo San Jacopo.
And now, at evening, as he flickers over the river,
Dipping with petty triumphant flight, and tittering over the sun’s
I believe he chirps, pipistrello, seeing me here on this terrace writing:
There he sits, the long loud one!
But I am greater than he.…
I escaped him.…
The author of the book you hold in your hands had a similar experience in Italy (though in Perugia). The poem makes some great points. Lawrence refuses to harm the bat—a creature responsible for more rabies transmissions than any other animal—because he is not the vicegerent of the bat. A man only represents a man, and is not an agent of the Gods. The Gods have made things such that all living things experience death, and resurrection, but it is not for man to kill. Never, never should a man kill except in exceptional circumstances. Most of the great Greek sages of the past worshiped the great Gods and abstained from meat.
Additionally, Lawrence states “I admit a God in every crevice.” There are Gods all around us. They may not present themselves openly, and they may not take on the corporeal form of Aphrodite or Apollo, but they are there. Lawrence also states he doesn’t admit the God of bats in his room during the day. This, itself, is a profound statement. We have day and night, seasons, and different ages of life. It is not right to worship the God of death in the prime of one’s life—though offerings and prayers should still be made to the Gods of life—but there is a time when worship should be made to the God of death, asking to be guided to the other side safely.
Lawrence loved all of creation, even the inconvenient and dangerous parts. He knew that everything on earth has its place, and only humans destroy life without reason. Lawrence believed in life, he worshiped life, and he knew better than most that life is a gift from the Gods, and that the purpose in life is to get into touch with the Gods. All animals know this and they live their lives rightly, but many humans don’t believe in anything beyond the tangible corporeal realm, whether Gods, or angels, or fairies. Even for the few who do, they are confused because of the teachings of the modern world, which has inverted all values, including religious values. Science cannot teach us about life, but neither can most religious teachers today. Ancient texts help, but they are barely understandable by most moderns. Lawrence translates the wisdom of the ages into words a modern person can understand, but it is still up to the individual person to utilize Lawrence’s guidance to follow the callings of his or her soul, and to strive to get into touch with the Divine. Lawrence lays out the nature of man and his calling:
The study of collective psychology to-day is absurd in its inadequacy. Man is supposed to be an automaton working in certain automatic ways when you touch certain springs. These springs are all labelled: they form a keyboard to the human psyche, according to modern psychology. And the chief labels are herd instinct, collective interest, hunger, fear, collective prestige, and so on.
But the only way to make any study of collective psychology is to study the isolated individual. Upon your conception of the single individual, all your descriptions will be based, all your science established. For this reason, the human sciences, philosophy, ethics, psychology, politics, economics, can never be sciences at all. There can never be an exact science dealing with individual life. L’anatomia presuppone il cadavere: anatomy presupposes a corpse, says D’Annunzio. You can establish an exact science on a corpse, supposing you start with the corpse, and don’t try to derive it from a living creature. But upon life itself, or any instance of life, you cannot establish a science.
Because even science must start from definition, or from precise description. And you can never define or precisely describe any living creature. Iron must remain iron, or cease to exist. But a rabbit might evolve into something which is still rabbit, and yet different from that which a rabbit now is. So how can you define or precisely describe a rabbit? There is always the unstable creative element present in life, and this science can never tackle. Science is cause-and-effect.
Before we can begin any of the so-called humane sciences we must take on trust a purely unscientific fact: namely, that every living creature has an individual soul, however trivial or rudimentary, which connects it individually with the source of all life, as man, in the religious terminology, is connected with God, and inseparable from God. So is every creature, even an ant or a louse, individually in contact with the great life-urge which we call God. To call this connection the will-to-live is not quite sufficient. It is more than a will-to-persist. It is a will-to-live in the further sense, a will-to-change, a will-to-evolve, a will towards further creation of the self. The urge towards evolution if you like. But it is more than evolution. There is no simple cause-and-effect sequence. The change from caterpillar to butterfly is not cause and effect. It is a new gesture in creation. Science can wriggle as hard as it likes, but the change from caterpillar to butterfly is utterly unscientific, illogical, and unnatural, if we take science’s definition of nature. It is an answer to the strange creative urge, the God-whisper, which is the one and only everlasting motive for everything.
So then man. He is said to be a creature of cause-and-effect, or a creature of free-will. The two are the same. Free-will means acting according to reasoned choice, which is a purest instance of cause-and-effect. Logic is the quintessence of cause-and-effect. And idealism, the ruling of life by the instrumentality of the idea, is precisely the mechanical, even automatic cause-and-effect process. The idea, or ideal, becomes a fixed principle, and life, like any other force, is driven into mechanical repetition of given motions—millions of times over and over again—according to the fixed ideal. So, the Christian-democratic world prescribes certain motions, and men proceed to repeat these motions, till they conceive that there are no other motions but these. And that is pure automatism. When scientists describe savages, or ancient Egyptians, or Aztecs, they assume that these far-off peoples acted, but in a crude, clumsy way, from the same motives which move us. “Too much ego in his cosmos.” Men have had strange, inconceivable motives and impulses, which were just as “right” as ours are. And our “right” motives will cease to activate, even as the lost motives of the Assyrians have ceased. Our “right” and our righteousness will go pop, and there will be another sort of right and righteousness.
The mob, then. Now, the vast bulk of mankind has always been, and always will be, helpless. By which we mean, helpless to interpret the new prompting of the God-urge. The highest function of mind is its function of messenger. The curious throbs and pulses of the God-urge in man would go on forever ignored, if it were not for some few exquisitely sensitive and fearless souls who struggle with all their might to make that strange translation of the low, dark throbbing into open act or speech. Like a wireless message the new suggestion enters the soul, throb-throb, throb-throb-throb. And it beats and beats for years, before the mind, frightened of this new knocking in the dark, can be brought to listen and attend.
For the mind is busy in a house of its own, which house it calls the universe. And how can there be anything outside the universe?
There is though. There is always something outside our universe. And it is always at the doors of the innermost, sentient soul. And there throb-throb, throb-throb-throb, throb-throb. It is like the almost inaudible beating of a wireless machine. Nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand hear nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. They racket away in their nice, complete, homely universe, running their trains and making their wars and saving the world for democracy. They hear not a thing. A tiny minority of sensitive souls feel the throb, and are frightened, and cry for more virtue, more goodness, more righteousness à la mode. But all the righteousness and goodness in all the world won’t answer the throb, or interpret the faint but painful thresh of the message.
There is no Morse-code. There never will be. Every new code supersedes the current code. Nowadays, when we feel the throb, vaguely, we cry: “More love, more peace, more charity, more freedom, more self-sacrifice.” Which makes matters all the worse, because the new throb interpreted mechanically according to the old code breeds madness and insanity[…] Alas, there is no Morse-code for interpreting the new life-prompting, the new God-urge. And there never will be. It needs a new term of speech invented each time. A whole new concept of the universe gradually born, shedding the old concept.
Well now. There is the dark god knocking afresh at the door. The vast mass hear nothing, but say: “We know all about the universe. Our job is to make a real smart place of it.” So they make more aeroplanes and old-age-pensions and are furious when Kaiser William interrupts them. The more sensitive hear something, feel a new urge and are uneasy. They cry: “We are not pure in heart. We are too selfish. Let us educate the poor. Let us remove the slums. Let us save the children. Let us spend all we have on the noble work of education.” So they spend a bit more than before, but by no means all they have, with the result that now everybody reads the newspapers and discusses world-politics and feels himself most one-sidedly a bit of the great Godhead of the sacred People.
And still the knocking goes on, on, on, till some soul that dares as well as can, listens, and struggles to interpret. Every new word is anathema—bound to be. Jargon, rant, mystical tosh, and so on. Evil, and anti-civilisation. Naturally. For the machine of the human psyche, once wound up to a certain ideal, doesn’t want to stop.
And still, all the time, even in the vulgar uneducated—perhaps more in them than in the hearty money-makers of the lower middle-classes—throb-throb-throb goes the god urge deep in their souls, driving them almost mad. They are quite stone-deaf to any new meaning. They would jeer an attempt at a new interpretation, jeer it to death. So there they are, between the rocky Scylla of the fixed, established ideal, and the whirling Charybdis of the conservative opposition to this ideal. Between these two perils they must pass. For behind them drives the unknown current of the god-urge, on, on through the straits.
They will never get through the straits. They do not know that there is any getting through. Scylla must beat Charybdis, and Charybdis must beat Scylla. So the monster of humanity, with a Scylla of an ideal of equality for the head, and a Charybdis of industrialism and possessive conservatism for the tail, howls with frenzy, and lashes the straits till every boat goes down, that tries to make a passage.
Well, Scylla must have it out with Charybdis, that’s all, and we must wait outside the straits till the storm is over.
Life is a constant struggle, a constant tug-of-war between opposing sides. Life is not beautiful despite these struggles, but because of them. A static life would be boring and meaningless, but the Gods want us to experience, and experience fully. Experience comes with pain, suffering, and anguish, but also with love, hope, and joy. Though we live in terrible times, we still live, and we all should be thankful to the Gods for the great gift of life.
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge
of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
Humans have a responsibility and duty to protect the earth and her creatures. All on the earth, and the earth herself is alive, and, as such, has certain rights. All plants, all animals, the air we breathe, and the water we drink should be honored, respected, and cherished. Even a poisonous snake should be loved and honored. One may fear that which can harm, such as a snake, but one should never act with injustice. All animals are far more afraid of man than of any other thing. As J. A. Baker writes: “For a bird, there are only two sorts of bird: their own sort, and those that are dangerous. No others exist. The rest are just harmless objects, like stones, or trees, or men when they are dead.”Additionally, animals, though divine in and of themselves, may be something higher, namely a messenger of the Gods, or even a God itself. Snakes, in traditional religions, are known to be bringers of revelations, and lords of life. To be visited by a snake is a great boon and omen, and may prefigure a vision of great importance. All traditional peoples knew this, yet our modern human education weakens us, teaches us to cower in fear, then instructs us—the stronger beast—to deal deadly blows lacking in any sort of justice. Is it any wonder that we are experiencing increasing calamities on a global scale? We kill, maim, and torture manifestations of the Gods, incurring their anger and wrath. Is it no wonder we can no longer sleep well or live happy lives? We have turned the world upside down and have disturbed the spirits of place, who haunt us day and night. There is only one solution: we must get back into touch with things.
To get back into touch with things, we need living symbols, and we need vital education, not the claptrap of modern education-factories. But most men and women are not born equipped to understand how symbols relate to archetypes, so there must be sun-men to instruct them. This is why Lawrence took the side of Catholicism over Protestant churches: the Gods must have representatives on earth, and it is certain that many Catholic priests in the past were men of the sun, men of Jesus Christ son/sun of God. To get back into touch, we must give up western, modern education and accept guidance and leadership from the sun-men, who may imbue our hearts with the inner meaning of symbols. To not do so will lead us to a spiritual death. As Lawrence writes:
Education means leading out the individual nature in each man and woman to its true fullness. You can’t do that by stimulating the mind. To pump education into the mind is fatal. That which sublimates from the dynamic consciousness into the mental consciousness has alone any value. This, in most individuals, is very little indeed. So that most individuals, under a wise government, would be most carefully protected from all vicious attempts to inject extraneous ideas into them. Every extraneous idea, which has no inherent root in the dynamic consciousness, is as dangerous as a nail driven into a young tree. For the mass of people, knowledge must be symbolical, mythical, dynamic. This means, you must have a higher, responsible, conscious class: and then in varying degrees the lower classes, varying in their degree of consciousness. Symbols must be true from top to bottom. But the interpretation of the symbols must rest, degree after degree, in the higher, responsible, conscious classes. To those who cannot divest themselves again of mental consciousness and definite ideas, mentality and ideas are death, nails through their hands and feet.
Climbing through the January snow, into the Lobo canyon
Dark grow the spruce-trees, blue is the balsam, water sounds still
unfrozen, and the trail is still evident
Men! The only animal in the world to fear!
They have a gun.
We have no gun.
Then we all advance, to meet.
Two Mexicans, strangers, emerging out of the dark and snow and
inwardness of the Lobo valley.
What are they doing here on this vanishing trail?
What is he carrying?
¿Qué tiene amigo?
He smiles foolishly as if he were caught doing wrong.
And we smile, foolishly, as if we didn’t know.
He is quite gentle and dark-faced.
It is a mountain lion,
A long, long, slim cat, yellow like a lioness.
He trapped her this morning, he says, smiling foolishly.
Lift up her face,
Her round, bright face, bright as frost.
Her round, fine-fashioned head, with two dead ears:
And stripes in the brilliant frost of her face, sharp, fine dark rays,
Dark, keen, fine rays in the brilliant frost of her face.
Beautiful dead eyes.
They go out towards the open;
We go on into the gloom of Lobo.
And above the trees I found her lair,
A hole in the blood-orange brilliant rocks that stick up, a little cave.
And bones, and twigs, and a perilous ascent.
So, she will never leap up that way again, with the yellow flash of a
mountain lion’s long shoot!
And her bright striped frost-face will never watch any more, out of the
shadow of the cave in the blood-orange rock,
Above the trees of the Lobo dark valley-mouth!
Instead, I look out.
And out to the dim of the desert, like a dream, never real;
To the snow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, ice of the mountains of
And near across at the opposite steep of snow, green trees motionless
standing in snow, like a Christmas toy.
And I think in this empty world there was room for me and a mountain
And I think in the world beyond, how easily we might spare a million or
two of humans
And never miss them.
Yet what a gap in the world, the missing white frost-face of that slim
yellow mountain lion!
Only man is to be feared. Animals only kill out of need or out of a perceived need for defense of themselves or their offspring. An animal will kill for food or if its life is in danger, but will not kill gratuitously. Man kills, and kills wantonly. It is no wonder that all of creation cowers before man, and not because man has so much power, but because man uses the power he has so indiscriminately. This world has room for all creatures; and no creature save for man has ever exceeded its natural bounds. But man expands his population relentlessly, forcing many species into extinction, and this is a grave, grave injustice.By having so many people, each person loses meaning, but by having such dwindled populations of animals, they all have great meaning, yet we still wantonly kill and maim them, and in doing so we kill and maim our very souls. Even in the world beyond, Heaven, or the celestial spheres, there will be enough men, but we would sorely miss the mountain lions, gentians, and snakes who we ruthlessly and ceaselessly kill without provocation or justification. We have become monsters. You want to see the devil? Look in a mirror. To judge a person, look to how they treat the world around them. As it stands, most people are evil, some consciously, others inadvertently. As J. A. Baker writes:
No pain, no death, is more terrible to a wild creature than its fear of man. A red-throated diver, sodden and obscene with oil, able to move only its head, will push itself out from the sea-wall with its bill if you reach down to it as it floats like a log in the tide. A poisoned crow, gaping and helplessly floundering in the grass, bright yellow foam bubbling from its throat, will dash itself up again and again on to the descending wall of air, if you try to catch it. A rabbit, inflated and foul with myxomatosis, just a twitching pulse beating in a bladder of bones and fur, will feel the vibration of your footstep and will look for you with bulging, sightless eyes. Then it will drag itself away into a bush, trembling with fear.
We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away.
People can be good, and most people in the past were good, but far too many of the people of today are corrupted, such that good, decent people would do well to stay close to other inhabitants of Rananim/—even if /Rananim right now is only a dream and inspiration—and animals. As Lawrence stated: “I can see you make your life a good deal with the horses. I don’t wonder. They’re better—than people.”As Ludwig Klages makes clear, a man who disrespects the earth is himself spiritually dead, but that mankind caused this spiritual death through a gradual change in metaphysical outlook:
By now it should be perfectly clear, however, that he who seeks to enrich himself—whilst he stomps Earth’s blossoms into dust—is man as the bearer of calculating reason and the will-to-acquisition. The gods whom he has torn from the tree of life are the perpetually changing images of the phenomenal world, from which he has exiled himself. The hostility to images, which was inwardly nurtured by the self-lacerating Middle Ages, had to emerge into the light of day, as soon as it had achieved its goal, which was to sever the bond connecting man to the soul of the Earth. In man’s bloody atrocities against his fellow creatures, he could only complete that which he himself had already begun: to exchange the multiform patterns of living images for the homeless transcendence of the world-alienated spirit. He has shown enmity to the planet that bore and nursed him, and even to the revolutions of the starry heavens, because he is now possessed by a power that resembles a vampire, which introduces into the “music of the spheres” sounds of an ear-shattering dissonance. At this point it is clear, however, that in the course of this very ancient evolutionary process, Christianity signifies but one epoch; from distant beginnings, this process has now reached its final stage. Certainly, the unique physiognomy of Europe was decisively shaped by this process.
Through the destruction of old symbols, and the rejection of the old Gods, we have, in fact, cursed ourselves, and brought about our own destruction. Distorted forms of Christianity were part of this, but not the only part. Parts of the old ways live on in Christianity, and we should be thankful for that, but atheistic, scientific materialism is devoid of truth and can do naught else than lead men into grave error.Our original sin was not the eating of the apple, but creation of the very first technological contrivances, which facilitated the killing of animals for food, despite plentiful nuts, seeds, and berries to be had. Perhaps, these two notions of original sin go together. Without the knowledge that came from the tree, we would not have allowed our egos to convince us to develop spears. It is not just Semitic religions that have the story of original sin; Native American and Greek mythologies have similar stories. Perhaps the acceptance of fire from Prometheus was our original sin. As Jeffers writes:
The man-brained and man-handed ground-ape, physically
The most repulsive of all hot-blooded animals
Up to that time of the world: they had dug a pitfall
And caught a mammoth, but how could their sticks and stones
Reach the life in that hide? They danced around the pit, shrieking
With ape excitement, flinging sharp flints in vain, and the stench of their
Stained the white air of dawn; but presently one of them
Remembered the yellow dancer, wood-eating fire
That guards the cave-mouth: he ran and fetched him, and others
Gathered sticks at the wood’s edge; they made a blaze
And pushed it into the pit, and they fed it high, around the mired sides
Of their huge prey. They watched the long hairy trunk
Waver over the stifle trumpeting pain,
And they were happy.
Meanwhile the intense color and nobility of
Rose and gold and amber, flowed up the sky. Wet rocks were shining, a
Stirred the leaves of the forest and the marsh flag-flowers; the soft valley
between the low hills
Became as beautiful as the sky; while in its midst, hour after hour, the
Roasted their living meat slowly to death.
These are the people.
This is the human dawn. As for me, I would rather
Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man.
But we are what we are, and we might remember
Not to hate any person, for all are vicious;
And not be astonished at any evil, all are deserved;
And not fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.
Is it any wonder that we suffer? Look at all the suffering we cause. What we receive in recompense is divine justice and retribution. All we can do is be good, cleanse our souls of the filth of our sins, live simply, without attachments, and cause no harm to any living thing. God willing, it will be enough, and the Gods will forgive us, even if our efforts are imperfect, so long as we have sincere intentions.
A lizard ran out on a rock and looked up, listening
no doubt to the sounding of the spheres.
And what a dandy fellow! the right toss of a chin for you
and swirl of a tail!
If men were as much men as lizards are lizards
they’d be worth looking at.
Think about that for a second: “If men were as much men as lizards are lizards / they’d be worth looking at.” Lawrence is correct: everything in the universe is what it is, complete in the fullness of its being. Only man decides he is more than man, and in the process he becomes immeasurably less than man. A true man today—and nearly all ancient men—would be secure in and of himself, and through this would get to know other beings and have joy with them, rather than robbing the world of joy. As David Bentley Hart writes:
I’d dally with the fairies, dance with fauns,
Join their carousals till the morrow dawns;
But we have chased them from our hills and dells—
Forsaken them for our bright plastic hells.
All of creation, from the sun to an amoeba, is a miracle. Moderns think they love the planet and its animals because they want to save the pandas and polar bears, but they have no real interest in changing their habits, nor in saving the world. Bears are cute, but all is sacred, and so one should care about everything, from the lion to the earthworm. Lawrence writes of the wonder of creation as follows:
[T]he mystery of creation, the wonder and fascination of creation shimmers in every leaf and stone, in every thorn and bud, in the fangs of the rattlesnake, and in the soft eyes of a fawn. Things utterly opposite are still pure wonder of creation[; …] the endless quivering unfolding of creation, in the yell of the mountain-lion, and the breeze in the aspen leaves.
Think how a peacock in a forest of high trees
shimmers in a stream of blueness and long-tressed magnificence!
And women even cut their shimmery hair!
The point of this poem is to state that we should be happy as we are. No other creature cuts its hair, wears make-up, or changes its body through plastic surgery. All of us are unique and special, and we should be happy in our uniqueness. But, we are human, and humans do have need of clothing. So, while we should not change our bodies, we should wear simple, natural, hand-made clothes that accentuate our individuality.As Lawrence writes:
Let us scramble out of this ash-hole at the foot of Pisgah. The universe isn’t a machine after all. It’s alive and kicking. And in spite of the fact that man with his cleverness has discovered some of the habits of our old earth, and so lured him into a trap; in spite of the fact that man has trapped the great forces, and they go round and round at his bidding like a donkey in a gin; the old demon isn’t quite nabbed. We didn’t quite catch him napping. He’ll turn round on us with bare fangs, before long. He’ll swallow us with the very forces that go round and round at our bidding. They’ll turn into a python, coiling, coiling, coiling till we’re nicely mashed. Then they’ll bolt us.
Let’s get out of the vicious circle. Put on bright pants to show that we’re meditative fowl who have thought the thing out and decided to migrate. To assert that our legs are not grey machine-sections, but live and limber members who know what it is to have their rear well scraped and punished, in the slither down Pisgah, and are not going to be diddled any more into mechanical service of mountain-climbing up to the great summit of Wholeness and of Bunk.
And think how the nightingale, who is so shy
makes of himself a belfry of throbbing sound!
While people mince mean words through their teeth.
And think how wild animals trot with splendor
till man destroys them!
how vividly they make their assertion of life!
But how paltry, mingy and dingy and squalid people look
in their rag garments scuttling through the streets,
or sitting stuck like automata in automobiles!
If we are to live—and we should, if we can live justly—we should live truly and fully in the brightness of being. Sitting in automobiles, being cooped up in offices and apartments, and staring at screens is an insult to the Gods that have created us. Unlike the human, “the animal lives and plays and has finer, different qualities from those of simple human beings: and really fights against good words and against the machine. With our real animal nature, which we still bear within us, we must battle and fight against the world of the ‘pure idea’—particularly pure—and of the machine.”
As Lawrence makes clear, animals, just by being who and what they are, fight against the Machine. Man, if he was simply man, would never have created the infernal Machine. True man, aboriginal man, was a man of gentleness and tenderness and did not have our destructive tendencies. Lawrence makes a passionate plea for sensitiveness opposed to brute force, in the following passage:
Brute force and overbearing may make a terrific effect. But in the end, that which lives lives by delicate sensitiveness. If it were a question of brute force, not a single human baby would survive for a fortnight. It is the grass of the field, most frail of all things, that supports all life all the time. But for the green grass, no empire would rise, no man would eat bread: for grain is grass; and Hercules or Napoleon or Henry Ford would alike be denied existence.
Brute force crushes many plants. Yet the plants rise again. The Pyramids will not last a moment compared with the daisy. And before Buddha or Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and Buddha are gone into oblivion, the nightingale still will sing. Because it is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.
Because a fool kills a nightingale with a stone, is he therefore greater than the nightingale? Because the Roman took the life out of the Etruscan, was he therefore greater than the Etruscan? Not he!
Countless times it is argued that if primitive societies were better, they would have survived; countless times it has been argued that Christianity must be superior to the pagan faiths since it, and not the pagan faiths survived. All those arguments prove is that the brute force tactics of moderns, Christian states, Muslims, Mongolians, and Huns were successful in the worldly realm, but those same tactics ruined, corrupted, and diminished those movements. In fact, through their sensitiveness and tenderness, the ancient ways have proven themselves to be more worthy than modern ways. Force doesn’t make one great; fullness of being makes one great. By that measure, birds are far greater than modern man, since “birds are so triumphantly positive in their created selves, eternally new from the hand of the rich bright God, and perfect. The nightingale ripples with his own perfection.”We could be—and have been—like the birds, but we lost our way, and now we destroy innocent creatures, and by doing so, we bring down the curses of the Gods. As Jeffers makes clear, these curses are just, so long as we continue to wreak havoc on the face of the earth:
Cattle in the slaughter-pens, laboratory dogs
Slowly tortured to death, flogged horses, trapped fur-bearers,
Agonies in the snow, splintering your needle teeth on chill steel,—look:
Mankind, your Satans, are not very happy either. I wish you had seen the
battle-squalor, the bombings,
The screaming fire-deaths. I wish you could watch the endless hunger, the
cold, the moaning, the hopelessness.
I wish you could smell the Russian and German torture-camps. It is quite
natural the two-footed beast
That inflicts terror, the cage, enslavement, torment, and death on all other
Should eat the dough that he mixes and drink the death-cup. It is just and
decent. And it will increase, I think.
The sight of the ocean
or of huge waterfalls
or of vast furnaces pouring forth fire
does not impress me as one butterfly does
when it settles by chance on my shoe.
When I see its veined wings lifted
as it sips at the dirt on my shoe
my soul says at once:
God is born!
One butterfly is more splendorous and worthy than all the machines and technological contraptions mankind has ever fabricated. Not only does Lawrence make clear that one single butterfly is of inestimable value, but that each creature, even an insect, is a manifestation of the Divine. Each creature is a manifestation of the Divine, even man, but man has brought curses down upon himself, and he destroys wherever he goes. As Lawrence writes:
Do you think creation depends on man! Ha, the stinking conceit of human beings! Who was that impudent dirty Frenchman who said that God couldn’t get on without him? God would get on a great deal better without him, and without all the lot of Frenchmen. Do you think creation begins and ends with mankind? I tell you, mankind is an obstruction and a hindrance to creation. If man was swept off the face of the earth, creation would continue, perfect and marvellous and non-human. It would never create man again, as it does not create mammoths or ichthyosauri. But what lovely things would be created, which man obstructs now! What lovely things, what lovely things would come out of creation, save for the obstruction of man! I could howl in my soul, to know how lovely creation is prevented by man. The lovely things that would be, which I do not know, which humanity can never know, because humanity is the one condition which prevents their being! Think of bluebells and elderblossom, and realise what non-human things can be, how lovely. Humanity is like the ichthyosauri, a creation gone wrong, become enormous instead of becoming wonderful and lovely. Even the tiger is lovely—and how long, I wonder, will it continue to exist? But man is neither lovely nor clean, he is a mere anti-creation, like the baboon.
Ludwig Klages makes the same point as Lawrence in the following passage:
Whereas every non-human organism pulsates in accord with the rhythms of cosmic life, the law of Spirit has ordained man’s exile from that life. What appears to man, as bearer of ego-consciousness, in the light of the superiority of calculating thought above all else, appears to the metaphysician, if he has pondered the matter deeply enough, in the light of an enslavement of life to the yoke of concepts!
There is no denying that mankind has done its upmost to destroy, defile, and desecrate the world. The devices man makes turn beauty into ugliness, but nature has a way of triumphing in the end, so all the devices man makes, may turn out to be man’s undoing, and may lead the world back to beauty. As Italo Svevo writes:
Present-day life is polluted at the roots. Man has put himself in the place of trees and animals and has polluted the air, has blocked free space. Worse can happen. The sad and active animal could discover other forces and press them into his service. There is a threat of this kind in the air. It will be followed by a great gain… in the number of humans. Every square meter will be occupied by a man. Who will cure us of the lack of air and of space? Merely thinking of it, I am suffocated!
But it isn’t this, not only this.
Any effort to give us health is vain. It can belong only to the animal who knows a sole progress, that of his own organism. When the swallow realized that for her no other life was possible except migration, she strengthened the muscle that moves her wings, and it then became the most substantial part of her organism. The mole buried herself, and her whole body adapted to her need. The horse grew and transformed his hoof. We don’t know the process of some animals, but it must have occurred and it will never have undermined their health.
But bespectacled man, on the contrary, invents devices outside of his body, and if health and nobility existed in the inventor, they are almost always lacking in the user. Devices are bought, sold, and stolen, and man becomes increasingly shrewd and weaker. His first devices seemed extensions of his arm and couldn’t be effective without its strength; but, by now, the device no longer has any relation to the limb. And it is the device that creates sickness, abandoning the law that was, on all earth, the creator. The law of the strongest vanished, and we lost healthful selection. We would need much more than psychoanalysis. Under the law established by the possessor of the greatest number of devices, sickness and the sick will flourish.
Perhaps, through an unheard-of catastrophe produced by devices, we will return to health. When poison gases no longer suffice, an ordinary man, in the secrecy of a room in this world, will invent an incomparable explosive, compared to which the explosives currently in existence will be considered harmless toys. And another man, also ordinary, but a bit sicker than others, will steal this explosive and will climb up at the center of the earth, to set it on the spot where it can have the maximum effect. There will be an enormous explosion that no one will hear, and the earth, once again a nebula, will wander through the heavens, freed of parasites and sickness.
Baker, J. A. The Peregrine. New York: New York Review of Books, 2005.
Hart, David Bentley. Roland in Moonlight. Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2021.
Jeffers, Robinson. The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Edited by Tim Hunt. Vol. Three. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988.
———. The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Edited by Tim Hunt. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2001.
Klages, Ludwig. Cosmogonic Reflections. Translated by Joseph D. Pryce. London: Arktos, 2015.
———. The Biocentric Worldview. Translated by Joseph D. Pryce. London: Arktos, 2013.
Lawrence, D. H. Kangaroo. Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company, 2018.
———. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Edited by Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
———. Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays. Edited by Simonetta De Filippis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The First Women in Love. Edited by John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence. Edited by James T. Boulton, Margaret H. Boulton, and Gerald M. Lacy. Vol. VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Svevo, Italo. Zeno’s Conscience. Translated by William Weaver. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 295–300.
D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company, 2018), 338–42.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:303–5.
J. A. Baker, The Peregrine (New York: New York Review of Books, 2005), 47.
D. H. Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 111.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:351–52.
Man’s technological capacity allows the appropriation and destruction of habitat relied on by other species, driving them toward extinction. We are reaching the limits and may have exceeded them for exploiting available resources, which will lead almost certainly to a “die-off” of humans. In that sense, man cannot exceed certain bounds of nature.
Baker, The Peregrine, 121.
D. H. Lawrence, The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton, Margaret H. Boulton, and Gerald M. Lacy, vol. VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 255.
Ludwig Klages, The Biocentric Worldview, trans. Joseph D. Pryce (London: Arktos, 2013), 41.
Not that scientific materialism is “devoid” of truth, but that its parameters are so narrow, it ignores and/or denies the truths of the higher orders or reality.
Robinson Jeffers, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, ed. Tim Hunt (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2001), 585–86.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:455.
David Bentley Hart, Roland in Moonlight (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2021), 282.
D. H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 66.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:460.
Of course, face painting, hair styling, even tattooing—practiced by many “primitive” tribes, as distinct from the corrupt Western models—may be viewed as a natural expression of artistic impulse.
D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 229.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:460–61.
Lawrence, The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, VI:161.
D. H. Lawrence, Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays, ed. Simonetta De Filippis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 36.
Robinson Jeffers, The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, ed. Tim Hunt, vol. Three (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988), 138.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:590.
D. H. Lawrence, The First Women in Love, ed. John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 114.
Ludwig Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections, trans. Joseph D. Pryce (London: Arktos, 2015), 7–8.
Italo Svevo, Zeno’s Conscience, trans. William Weaver (New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001), 436–37.
I've yet to finish this chapter, but I was delighted to see The Peregrine make an appearance. It's one of my favourite books. I recently read Baker's biography where it is surmised that the reason he was able to observe peregrines so well was because of the effect of DDT, which made them sickly and slothful -- a scientific detail that only serves to reinforce the perspective you give here. On Klages, however, I do find myself wondering whether 'calculating reason' alone suffices to explain the behaviour of, say, modern, industrial 'farmers'. In their rape of the countryside, I see a kind of maniacal will-to-power and enchantment with technique, to which they then apply their reason, but which precedes, and is distinct from, that reason. Finally, I am reading a late essay by Toynbee, titled "The religious background of the present environmental crisis" (1972) in which he, of all people, advocates the abandonment of the monotheistic religions and the embrace of pantheism and Buddhism as way of reorienting our relationship with the natural world. I couldn't help thinking of you on DHL as I read it.