LUI ET ELLE
by: D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
- HE is large
- And rather dirty,
- A little sardonic-looking, as if domesticity had driven her
- Though what she does, except lay four eggs at random in the
garden once a year
- And put up with her husband,
- I don't know.
- She likes to eat.
- She hurries up, striding reared on long uncanny legs,
- When food is going.
- Oh yes, she can make haste when she likes.
- She snaps the soft bread from my hand in great mouthfuls,
- Opening her rather pretty wedge of an iron, pristine face
- Into an enormously wide-beaked mouth
- Like sudden curved scissors,
- And gulping at more than she can swallow, and working her
thick, soft tongue,
- And having the bread hanging over her chin.
- O Mistress, Mistress,
- Reptile mistress,
- Your eye is very dark, very bright,
- And it never softens
- Although you watch.
- She knows,
- She knows well enough to come for food,
- Yet she sees me not;
- Her bright eye sees, but not me, not anything,
- Sightful, sightless, seeing and visionless,
- Reptile mistress.
- Taking bread in her curved, gaping, toothless mouth,
- She has no qualm when she catches my finger in her steel
- But she hangs on, and my shout and my shrinking are nothing
- She does not even know she is nipping me with her curved
- Snake-like she draws at my finger, while I drag it in horror
- Mistress, reptile mistress,
- You are almost too large, I am almost frightened.
- He is much smaller,
- Dapper beside her,
- And ridiculously small.
- Har laconic eye has an earthy, materialistic look,
- His, poor darling, is almost fiery.
- His wimple, his blunt-prowed face,
- His low forehead, his skinny neck, his long, scaled, striving
- So striving, striving,
- Are all more delicate than she,
- And he has a cruel scar on his shell.
- Poor darling, biting at her feet,
- Running beside her like a dog, biting her earthy, splay feet,
- Nipping her ankles,
- Which she drags apathetic away, though without retreating
into her shell.
- Agelessly silent,
- And with a grim, reptile determination,
- Cold, voiceless age-after-age behind him, serpents' long
- Of horizontal persistence.
- Little old man
- Scuffling beside her, bending down, catching his opportunity,
- Parting his steel-trap face, so suddenly, and seizing her
- And hanging grimly on,
- Letting go at last as she drags away,
- And closing his steel-trap face.
- His steel-trap, stoic, ageless, handsome face.
- Alas, what a fool he looks in this scuffle.
- And how he feels it!
- The lonely rambler, the stoic, dignified stalker through
- The immune, the animate,
- Enveloped in isolation,
- Now look at him!
- Alas, the spear is through the side of his isolation.
- His adolescence saw him crucified into sex,
- Doomed, in the long crucifixion of desire, to seek his consummation
- Divided into passionate duality,
- He, so finished and immune, now broken into desirous fragmentariness,
- Doomed to make an intolerable fool of himself
- In his effort toward completion again.
- Poor little earthy house-inhabiting Osiris,
- The mysterious bull tore him at adolescence into pieces,
- And he must struggle after reconstruction, ignominiously.
- And so behold him following the tail
- Of that mud-hovel of his slowly-rambling spouse,
- Like some unhappy bull at the tail of a cow,
- But with more than bovine, grim, earth-dank persistence,
- Suddenly seizing the ugly ankle as she stretches out to walk,
- Roaming over the sods,
- Or, if it happen to show, at her pointed, heavy tail
- Beneath the low-dropping back-board of her shell.
- Their two shells like doomed boats bumping,
- Hers huge, his small;
- Their splay feet rambling and rowing like paddles,
- And stumbling mixed up in one another,
- In the race of love--
- Two tortoises,
- She huge, he small.
- She seems earthily apathetic,
- And he has a reptile's awful persistence.
- I heard a woman pitying her, pitying the Mère Tortue.
- While I, I pity Monsieur.
- "He pesters her and torments her," said the woman.
- How much more is he pestered and tormented, say I.
- What can he do?
- He is dumb, he is visionless,
- His black, sad-lidded eye sees but beholds not
- As her earthen mound moves on,
- But he catches the folds of vulnerable, leathery skin,
- Nail-studded, that shake beneath her shell,
- And drags at these with his beak,
- Drags and drags and bites,
- While she pulls herself free, and rows her dull mound along.
POEMS BY D.H. LAWRENCE
"Lui et Elle" is reprinted
from Tortoises. D.H. Lawrence. New York: Thomas Seltzer,