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The DH Lawrence hummingbird poem was a break from his usual genre. He was best known for his novels – Sons and Lover, Women in Love, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and others. However, he wrote somewhere between 800 -1000 poems. His style changed from the formed Georgian style to the modern, spontaneous style as used in “Humming-bird".
DH Lawrence was a prolific English writer who was born in 1885. He lived a short life, dying in 1930 at the age of 45. Lawrence spent his childhood in the coal mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England.
This famous author was the son of a barely literate miner, Arthur Lawrence and a former schoolmistress, Lydia Lawrence.
After his education, he moved to London to begin a career in teaching and writing. Lawrence married Frieda Weekly in 1912. Due to her German parentage, the couple was regarded as suspicious during the years of World War 1. Eventually, they were forced to live a life of exile traveling extensively to Australia, Italy, Ceylon, the United States, Mexico, and France.
I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.
Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chirped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.
I believe there were no flowers then,
In the world where humming-birds flashed ahead of creation
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.
Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say, were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the telescope of time,
Luckily for us.
It has been noted that the poet did not glorify the rapid industrialization which began during his lifetime. Personally, growing up in a coal mining town myself, I understand how he could have learned its flaws at a young age. I myself, watched the coal banks burning, polluting the land and darkening the water. We can only guess if these factors inspired any of this poet’s later writings.
What is it about this bird that creates such an emotional reaction in this DH Lawrence hummingbird poem? It is the fragility of the creature that has natural predators as small as a spider and as large as man’s industrial future. Today with the awareness of many endangered hummingbird species due to a loss of habitat, man is also an active ally.
By providing hummingbird feeders with nectar, planting a hummingbird flower garden or a hummingbird vine and trees, and supplying a water source, we are expanding the habitat for these precious little birds. Eco-travel is helping the hummingbird by encouraging the creation of natural preserves, offsetting the timbering of rainforests.
DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda were exiles in life; let us hope that man can co-exist with the hummingbird helping it live a healthy life in its natural environment.