Last Words to Miriam

By D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885–1930
Version 1 (1921)
Yours is the shame and sorrow,
       But the disgrace is mine;
Your love was dark and thorough,
Mine was the love of the sun for a flower
       He creates with his shine.

I was diligent to explore you,
       Blossom you stalk by stalk,
Till my fire of creation bore you
Shrivelling down in the final dour
       Anguish — then I suffered a balk.

I knew your pain, and it broke
       My fine, craftsman's nerve;
Your body quailed at my stroke,
And my courage failed to give you the last
       Fine torture you did deserve.

You are shapely, you are adorned,
       But opaque and dull in the flesh,
Who, had I but pierced with the thorned
Fire-threshing anguish, were fused and cast
       In a lovely illumined mesh.

Like a painted window: the best
       Suffering burnt through your flesh,
Undrossed it and left it blest
With a quivering sweet wisdom of grace: but now
       Who shall take you afresh?

Now who will burn you free
       From your body's terrors and dross,
Since the fire has failed in me?
What man will stoop in your flesh to plough
       The shrieking cross?

A mute, nearly beautiful thing
       Is your face, that fills me with shame
As I see it hardening,
Warping the perfect image of God,
       And darkening my eternal fame.

Version 2 (1928)
Yours is the sullen sorrow,
       The disgrace is also mine;
Your love was intense and thorough,
Mine was the love of a growing flower
       For the sunshine.

You had the power to explore me,
Blossom me stalk by stalk;
You woke my spirit, you bore me
To consciousness, you gave me the dour
       Awareness — then I suffered a balk.

Body to body I could not
       Love you, although I would.
We kissed, we kissed though we should not.
You yielded, we threw the last cast,
       And it was no good.

You only endured, and it broke
       My craftsman's nerve.
No flesh responded to my stroke;
So I failed to give you the last
       Fine torture you did deserve.

You are shapely, you are adorned
       But opaque and null in the flesh;
Who, had I but pierced with the thorned
Full anguish, perhaps had been cast
       In a lovely illuinined mesh

Like a painted window; the best
       Fire passed through your flesh,
Undrossed it, and left it blest
In clean new awareness. But now
       Who shall take you afresh?

Now who will burn you free
       From your body's deadness and dross?
Since the fire has failed in me,
What man will stoop in your flesh to plough
       The shrieking cross?

A mute, nearly beautiful thing
       Is your face, that fills me with shame
As I see it hardening;
I should have been cruel enough to bring
       You through the flame.

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Poet D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885–1930

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Relationships, Living, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence

Biography

English writer D.H. Lawrence’s prolific and diverse output included novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings, translations, and literary criticism. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality and instinct. After a brief . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Living, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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