Poems For Pleasure 3
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) was a famous English novelist, storywriter, critic, poet and painter, one of the greatest figures in 20th-century English literature. "Snake" is probably his most anthologized poem. It was in our own Intermediate Certificate Poetry anthology at school. I won’t mention any of his famous or even infamous novels here, but I remember delighting in them when studying English literature at college many years ago. The Rainbow remains one of my favourite novels to date. However, I always loved his poems. While I was training as a teacher I used many of his wonderful little poems on animals. That’s what’s so appealing about Lawrence – his empathy with the animal kingdom, and what child does not like animals? So I taught many of his poems as a trainee teacher back in the late seventies of the last century. One of my favourite animal poems by D.H. is one about elephants.
Elephants in the Circus
Elephants in the circus
Have aeons of weariness around their eyes.
Yet they sit up
and show vast bellies to the children.
There is so much in this simple little poem. Like all great poems it has many levels – so all ages will get as much as they want from this beautifully wrought poem. “Aeons of weariness” is a loaded image and you can spend ages teasing out the “meaning” or rather implications or connotations here. With a senior class one could go into the difference between denotation and connotation. Asking the class how they feel about this poem is also a worthwhile question. How did the author feel, do you think? How do the children feel? How does the elephant? Can animals feel the way we do? (Is this too deep?) Why do they sit up? Why do they show their bellies? What does showing your belly imply? (I’m getting at trust here, because belly is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable spots in one’s physiology). Then the words about size are also worth looking at. Brilliant little poem, I’m sure you will agree.