The Tortoise

     I recently discovered this poem by D. H. Lawrence, and I find it a perceptive and good-humored portrayal of the tortoise.  Enjoy.–April Moore

by: D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

      On he goes, the little one,
      Bud of the universe,
      Pediment of life.
      Setting off somewhere, apparently.
      Whither away, brisk egg?
      His mother deposited him on the soil as if he were no more than droppings,
      And now he scuffles tinily past her as if she were an old rusty tin.
      A mere obstacle,
      He veers round the slow great mound of her–
      Tortoises always foresee obstacles.
      It is no use my saying to him in an emotional voice:
      “This is your Mother, she laid you when you were an egg.”
      He does not even trouble to answer: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”
      He wearily looks the other way,
      And she even more wearily looks another way still,
      Each with the utmost apathy,
      As for papa,
      He snaps when I offer him his offspring,
      Just as he snaps when I poke a bit of stick at him,
      Because he is irascible this morning, an irascible tortoise
      Being touched with love, and devoid of fatherliness.
      Father and mother,
      And three little brothers,
      And all rambling aimless, like little perambulating pebbles scattered in the garden,
      Not knowing each other from bits of earth or old tins.
      Except that papa and mama are old acquaintances, of course,
      But family feeling there is none, not even the beginnings.
      Fatherless, motherless, brotherless, sisterless
      Little tortoise.
      Row on then, small pebble,
      Over the clods of the autumn, wind-chilled sunshine,
      Young gayety.
      Does he look for a companion?
      No, no, don’t think it.
      He doesn’t know he is alone;
      Isolation is his birthright,
      This atom.
      To row forward, and reach himself tall on spiny toes,
      To travel, to burrow into a little loose earth, afraid of the night,
      To crop a little substance,
      To move, and to be quite sure that he is moving:
      To be a tortoise!
      Think of it, in a garden of inert clods
      A brisk, brindled little tortoise, all to himself–
      In a garden of pebbles and insects,
      Slow, and unquestioned,
      And inordinately there, O stoic!
      Wandering in the slow triumph of his own existence,
      Ringing the soundless bell of his presence in chaos,
      And biting the frail grass arrogantly,
      Decidedly arrogantly.



3 Responses to “The Tortoise”

  1. Elizabeth Cottrell Says:

    Delightful! I love the line “isolation is his birthright.” That should be a title of something :-)

  2. RK Logos Says:

    Highly appreciated.

  3. Rebekah Mungomery Says:

    More areas are converted into concrete foests to accommodate the human needs and greeds.
    The flora and fauna of this planet is being destroyed at an alarming pace and if sincere efforts are not made at the right time,a huge socio-economic cost can be paid by us,humans.
    However, be sure to define or explain the terms you use, even though you
    know that the teacher is familiar with them.

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