The Type of Poem I Read at 2 a.m. After a Cold, Snowy Day

I love this poem by D.H. Lawrence, and recently rediscovered it. I love the willingness to trust the speaker of this poem expresses. It resonates with the Self I wish I were.  My Self-in-Reality, alas, is more likely to protest being broken down into oblivion than to rejoice in being remade, but I guess that just means I’m not finished yet. This poem reminds me of John Donne’s poem that begins “Batter my heart, three-person’d God. . . .” (another favorite of mine) because they both deal with how God can remake humans. I find this poem gentler, though; less confrontational certainly, but also less of an invitation or a yearning for God and more of a humble acknowledgement of what happens anyway. Where Donne challenges (and thereby pleads) for God to tear him down and remake him, Lawrence issues the challenge to himself– to remain faithful and trusting in the process of remaking. I read his refrain at the end of each stanza (or so) of still knowing that he’s with God in some way as an attempt to remind himself of that fact. Anyway. I find this poem beautiful and immensely comforting. I’ll take off my English Geek hat now and let you read it for yourself. What do you think of it?

 Shadows

And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a newly opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
And if, as weeks go round, in the dark of the moon
my spirit darkens and goes out, and soft strange gloom
pervades my movements and my thoughts and words
then I shall know that I am walking still
with God, we are close together now the moon’s in shadow.

And if, as autumn deepens and darkens
I feel the pain of falling leaves, and stems that break in storms
and trouble and dissolution and distress
and then the softness of deep shadows folding, folding
around my soul and spirit, around my lips
so sweet, like a swoon, or more like the drowse of a low, sad song
singing darker than the nightingale, on, on to the solstice
and the silence of short days, the silence of the year, the shadow,
then I shall know that my life is moving still
with the dark earth, and drenched
with the deep oblivion of earth’s lapse and renewal.

And if, in the changing phases of man’s life
I fall in sickness and misery
my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
and strength is gone, and my life
is only the leavings of a life:
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches of renewal
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange flowers
such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me–

then I must know that still
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
he is breaking me down to his own oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.

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