“THE TOWN HAS OPENED TO THE SUN. LIKE A FLAT RED LILY WITH A MILLION PETALS SHE UNFOLDS, SHE COMES UNDONE”: AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF D. H. LAWRENCE’S POEM “BOMBARDMENT”
LAWRENCE, D.H. Autograph manuscript poem, “Bombardment.” No place, no date. Octavo, one leaf, written on one side only, 12 lines, four verses in black ink. Housed in custom cloth portfolio.
Autograph manuscript of the poem “Bombardment” in Lawrence’s hand.
The poem reads as follows:
“The town has opened to the sun.
Like a flat red lily with a million petals
She unfolds, she comes undone.
A sharp sky brushes upon
The myriad glittering chimney-tips
As she gently exhales to the sun.
Hurrying creatures run
Down the labyrinth of the sinister flower.
What is it they shun?
A dark bird falls from the sun.
It curves in a rush to the heart of the vast
Flower: the day has begun.”
This poem was first published in 1919 in Bay, a collection of poems Lawrence composed and published in response to World War I. “These poems, with those published in Poetry for July 1919 under the collective title of ‘War Films,’ and the ‘Nightmare,’ chapter of Kangaroo, comprise the greater part of Lawrence’s literary reaction to the war” (Roberts A12). Lawrence began seriously working on the collection during the spring and summer of 1918. In a letter to Cecil Gray dated April 18, 1918, Lawrence writes: “I have made a little book of poems that Beaumont asked me for-all smallish, lyrical pieces. I have been doing poetry for a few weeks now… But it is exhausting to keep up. The first book has 18 poems, it more or less refers to the war, and is called Bay” (The Letters, 442).
World War I proved to be a particularly difficult time for Lawrence. He and Frieda had returned to England shortly before war was declared, remaining there for the duration. Lawrence was not compelled to active service as a result of his poor health, and he and Frieda spent most of the war moving from house to house, in part because Frieda’s German background raised local suspicions. The Rainbow was published in November 1915, only to be seized and suppressed immediately. “Such personal upheavals… represent a period of crisis for Lawrence. What Lawrence made of the war is seen in his writings… His response was not particularly unusual-an initial welcoming of the war, followed by horror, disgust and anger-but, at its height, the frenzy as we can discern it in letters and in biographical accounts was verging on pathological. The war rapidly became for Lawrence the obscene madness of an ‘unclean world,’ which, in its ‘persistent nothingness,’ had become hell” (Literature of Crisis, 114). Roberts A12. Originally sold by famed bookseller Jake Zeitland of California.