Home  »  Amores: Poems  »  54. Snap-Dragon

D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930). Amores. 1916.

54. Snap-Dragon

SHE bade me follow to her garden, where

The mellow sunlight stood as in a cup

Between the old grey walls; I did not dare

To raise my face, I did not dare look up,

Lest her bright eyes like sparrows should fly in

My windows of discovery, and shrill “Sin.”

So with a downcast mien and laughing voice

I followed, followed the swing of her white dress

That rocked in a lilt along: I watched the poise

Of her feet as they flew for a space, then paused to press

The grass deep down with the royal burden of her:

And gladly I’d offered my breast to the tread of her.

“I like to see,” she said, and she crouched her down,

She sunk into my sight like a settling bird;

And her bosom couched in the confines of her gown

Like heavy birds at rest there, softly stirred

By her measured breaths: “I like to see,” said she,

“The snap-dragon put out his tongue at me.”

She laughed, she reached her hand out to the flower,

Closing its crimson throat. My own throat in her power

Strangled, my heart swelled up so full

As if it would burst its wine-skin in my throat,

Choke me in my own crimson. I watched her pull

The gorge of the gaping flower, till the blood did float

Over my eyes, and I was blind—

Her large brown hand stretched over

The windows of my mind;

And there in the dark I did discover

Things I was out to find:

My Grail, a brown bowl twined

With swollen veins that met in the wrist,

Under whose brown the amethyst

I longed to taste. I longed to turn

My heart’s red measure in her cup,

I longed to feel my hot blood burn

With the amethyst in her cup.

Then suddenly she looked up,

And I was blind in a tawny-gold day,

Till she took her eyes away.

So she came down from above

And emptied my heart of love.

So I held my heart aloft

To the cuckoo that hung like a dove,

And she settled soft.

It seemed that I and the morning world

Were pressed cup-shape to take this reiver

Bird who was weary to have furled

Her wings in us,

As we were weary to receive her.

This bird, this rich,

Sumptuous central grain,

This mutable witch,

This one refrain,

This laugh in the fight,

This clot of night,

This core of delight.

She spoke, and I closed my eyes

To shut hallucinations out.

I echoed with surprise

Hearing my mere lips shout

The answer they did devise.

Again I saw a brown bird hover

Over the flowers at my feet;

I felt a brown bird hover

Over my heart, and sweet

Its shadow lay on my heart.

I thought I saw on the clover

A brown bee pulling apart

The closed flesh of the clover

And burrowing in its heart.

She moved her hand, and again

I felt the brown bird cover

My heart; and then

The bird came down on my heart,

As on a nest the rover

Cuckoo comes, and shoves over

The brim each careful part

Of love, takes possession, and settles her down,

With her wings and her feathers to drown

The nest in a heat of love.

She turned her flushed face to me for the glint

Of a moment. “See,” she laughed, “if you also

Can make them yawn.” I put my hand to the dint

In the flower’s throat, and the flower gaped wide with woe.

She watched, she went of a sudden intensely still,

She watched my hand, to see what I would fulfil.

I pressed the wretched, throttled flower between

My fingers, till its head lay back, its fangs

Poised at her. Like a weapon my hand was white and keen,

And I held the choked flower-serpent in its pangs

Of mordant anguish, till she ceased to laugh,

Until her pride’s flag, smitten, cleaved down to the staff.

She hid her face, she murmured between her lips

The low word “Don’t.” I let the flower fall,

But held my hand afloat towards the slips

Of blossom she fingered, and my fingers all

Put forth to her: she did not move, nor I,

For my hand like a snake watched hers, that could not fly.

Then I laughed in the dark of my heart, I did exult

Like a sudden chuckling of music. I bade her eyes

Meet mine, I opened her helpless eyes to consult

Their fear, their shame, their joy that underlies

Defeat in such a battle. In the dark of her eyes

My heart was fierce to make her laughter rise.

Till her dark deeps shook with convulsive thrills, and the dark

Of her spirit wavered like water thrilled with light;

And my heart leaped up in longing to plunge its stark

Fervour within the pool of her twilight,

Within her spacious soul, to grope in delight.

And I do not care, though the large hands of revenge

Shall get my throat at last, shall get it soon,

If the joy that they are searching to avenge

Have risen red on my night as a harvest moon,

Which even death can only put out for me;

And death, I know, is better than not-to-be.