The Repetitive, Meditative Style of Lawrence's Birds, Beasts, and Flowers
D. H. Lawrence is not a formalist. He derives his free verse style from prolonged experience with imaginative essays in which he objectively and vividly contemplates things, people, and places in their singleness rather than in their relationship to each other. Lawrence's purpose, according to Gilbert, is "knowledge through meditation": he essays "to know something . . . intuitively . . . obliquely . . . fragmentarily; not through orderly ratiocination, but through emotional perception." As his style developed, Lawrence's essays became "increasingly idiosyncratic, increasingly elliptical, spontaneous and jazzy, as though reflecting the process rather than the product of thought." Gilbert finds Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, Lawrence's sixth volume of poetry, written in a "casual, improvisational, unfinished style" that "functions not only as a means of communication but [also] as a process of discovery" (131-32). Building on Gilbert's studies, an examination of "Fruits," the first sequence of the nine-part Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, reveals that Lawrence's repetitive, meditative style employs three types of repetition.
"Fruits," an archetypal sequence about eating fruit and being changed by its magical properties, admits readers into Lawrence's meditations and his Blakeian journey to the natural world (Gilbert 333). The poet/narrator tantalizes his prissy countrymen by suggestively dangling fruits that hold "a secret that can be experienced with the senses, but cannot be grasped intellectually" (Lockwood 105). Lawrence accomplishes his poetic journey through revisions of myths. The opening poem, "Pomegranate," which alludes to the myth of Persephone and her morally neutral fall through hunger, addresses pious Victorian England, which exiled Lawrence because it somehow found him wrong (Gilbert 333-36).
Troubled by a point of pain, his wrongness, Lawrence essays meditatively, verbally circling his pain with key words, to refute the wrongness thrust upon him by his countrymen. The words "wrong," "you," "tell," "me," and "I" echo throughout "Pomegranate's" opening stanza:
You tell me I am wrong.
Who are you, who is anybody to tell me I am wrong?
I am not wrong.
Lawrence circles this point of pain, his wrongness in the eyes of his countrymen, in a triad of sentences then abruptly reels away to begin a meditation on another point of interest, the pomegranate. Just as Lawrence spiraled around his wrongness, he now circles the pomegranate. Lawrence uses the word "pomegranate" and its plural thee times to place the fruit in flower, in growth, and in maturity at his travel stops: Syracuse, Venice, and Tuscany. In considering the maturing pomegranate, Lawrence repeats the words "green," "barbed," "crown," and the variation "crowns."
Lawrence not only circles a point of interest through repetition and variation but also...