By M. Lockwood
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Additional info for A Study of the Poems of D. H. Lawrence: Thinking in Poetry
Lawrence called Virgin Youth one of those poems that had 'the demon fuming in them smokily', 'the demon' being the author of his 'real poems' as opposed to the 'compositions' of 'the young man', or young lady. Of these 'real poems', he said, 'They seemed to me to come from somewhere, I didn't quite know where, out of a me whom I didn't know and didn't want to know, and to say things I would much rather not have said: for choice' (849). Virgin Youth is about just such a takeover of the young man's consciousness by the 'other', unknown 'I' for a time (sexual and poetic-creative impulses being often linked by Lawrence), and Early Poetry 27 then the gradual yielding back to the usual self, and the poem, actually the work of neither, is formed out of the interaction between the two.
Yet there is a confusion in Dreams Nascent, never resolved, between a celebration of being alive in the present ('Here in the subtle, rounded flesh I Beats the active ecstasy'), and the need to see a brave new future, parallel to the confusion of actuality and abstraction. On the one hand, the poem seems to be promoting a kind of self-responsible, progressive humanism; and then, on the other, something more like a transcendental determinism. We have the schoolboys and the railway navvies, in whom the secret at first seems to reside, and the picture of 'the gigantic flesh of the world' swelling like a bud into blossom, but also the conception of the 'restless Creator', the 'Unseen Shaper', or 'gfeat, mysterious One'.
The poetic which is associated with this conception of the nascent is correspondingly a celebration of the destructive, of that which is the enemy not just of poetic form, but of order generally, and all social convention. The change is evident if one compares 'Poetry of the Present' (1919), which tends to connect with the earlier 'Whitmanesque' Dreams Nascent, with the essay 'Chaos in Poetry' of 1928. 35 In the later essay the poet's role is seen as Early Poetry 39 destructive and creative at one and the same time: the act of creation is, by necessity, a stab at the fabric of the social structure.