I once wrote a series of limericks about DH Lawrence’s changing fortunes. It seemed to me very sad that Lawrence was so reviled in his lifetime for simply speaking the truth – as he saw it – about sex: and that now, since the zeitgeist has completely overtaken him, the poor man is all-but forgotten. I know, I know – limericks are not exactly the most appropriate form for such a writer – but perhaps that’s the point.
They don’t give a fig about Lawrence
now sex is cascading in torrents
it’s harder to credit
that folk who’d not read it
once looked on his work with abhorrence.
They don’t give a damn about Dave
the Messiah who came up to save
our bodies from virtue
that bodice can hurt you
– but now he just spins in his grave.
His family christened him Bert
but sadly considered it dirt
the stuff that he wrote
‘it’s filth’ – and I quote
a word which must surely have hurt.
He flirted with Bloomsbury briefly
they loved his costumery chiefly
by the man with no vest
but his chest was infected with TB
And that was his downfall at last
though critics continued to blast
the hot air of the priggish
his fame grew quite biggish
respected in spite of his caste
but he died when the war was yet young
the Battle of Britain begun
while we stood alone
his spirit had flown
the air could not enter his lung.
And then, in the sixties, reborn!
The Chatterley verdict’s ‘not porn’
now naked men tussle
in films by Ken Russell
they no longer held you in scorn
But now? Now that Harry’s met Sally?
It doesn’t take much to get pally
and everyone’s grabbing
to have what she’s having
and that’s not at all up your alley.
And so, DHL, RIP
much better than sex on TV;
a seer of souls
hauled under the coals
a painter of flowers
and soul-mate of ploughers
whatever death gives you
your beauty outlives you –
for those who have bodies to see.