Irises (Lawrence and Van Gogh)

D. H. Lawrence, Scent of Irises (from Amores, New York: 1916).

A faint, sickening scent of irises
Persists all morning. Here in a jar on the table
A fine proud spike of purple irises
Rising above the class-room litter, makes me unable
To see the class’s lifted and bended faces
Save in a broken pattern, amid purple and gold and
sable.

I can smell the gorgeous bog-end, in its breathless
Dazzle of may-blobs, when the marigold glare overcast
you
With fire on your cheeks and your brow and your
chin as you dipped
Your face in marigold bunch, to touch and contrast
you,
Your own dark mouth with the bridal faint lady-smocks,
Dissolved in the golden sorcery you should not
outlast.

You amid the bog-end yellow incantation,
You sitting on the cowslips of the meadow above,
Me, your shadow on the bog-flame, flowery may-blobs,
Me full length in the cowslips, muttering you love;
You, your soul like a lady-smock, lost, evanescent,
You with your face all rich, like the sheen of a dove.

You are always asking, do I remember, remember
The butter-cup bog-end where the flowers rose up
And kindled you over deep with a cast of gold?
You ask again, do the healing days close up
The open darkness which they drew us in,
The dark which then drank up our brimming cup.

You upon the dry, dead beech-leaves, in the fire of
night
Burnt like a sacrifice; you invisible;
Only the fire of darkness, and the scent of you!
– And yes, thank God, it is still possible
The healing days shall close the darkness up
Wherein we fainted like a smoke or dew.

Like vapour, dew, or poison. Now, thank God,
The fire of night has gone, and your face is ash
Indistinguishable on the grey, chill day;
The night has burnt us out, at last the good
Dark fire burns on untroubled, without clash
Of you upon the dead leaves saying me Yea.

Illustration: Vincent van Gogh, Irises (1890).

Links: D. H. Lawrence – Celebrating a Literary Life: an excellent resource for “students, academic researchers and members of the general public with an interest in Lawrence and his work“. Includes a virtual tour of Lawrence’s landmark place in Nottinghamshire.

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