Birds, Beasts and Flowers

London: Martin Secker. 1923.

First edition, 8vo, 230 x 155mm.  206pp. Near-fine in quarter bound black cloth with yellow paper over boards and title label to backstrip. Deckle-edged with some edges uncut, tope edge black. Previous owner's small label to bottom of rear pastedown. In a good pistachio-green DJ with black titles (some light toning, chipping to edges, tiny closed tear to front bottom corner and clean, straight split to bottom 1/3 of front fore edge fold).

Lawrence started the poems in this collection during a stay in San Gervasio near Florence in September 1920. He continued working on individual poems in Taormina (Sicily), Ceylon and Australia before completing the book in February 1923 whilst staying in New Mexico.

“Lawrence remarked that ‘The poems of Birds, Beasts and Flowers were begun in Tuscany, in the autumn of 1920, and finished in New Mexico in 1923, in my thirty-eighth year’ (Preface to Collected Poems, 1928). During these years Lawrence travelled in Italy where most of the poems were written, Ceylon, Australia and New Mexico. On this ‘savage pilgrimage’ he sought less developed countries as an antidote to life in advanced, ‘mechanised’ Western society. The unfamiliar vistas and perspectives prompted in him new insights and perceptions of animals and plants. Natural imagery had always been a staple of his verse but now he began to write poems taking a specific creature as subject, exploring its emotional, spiritual and ethical significance for him as well as its appearance and biology. In these poems living things are seen in the context of human life but on their own, rather than on human, terms, for Lawrence realises that evolution implies both the genesis of difference as well as of empathy. The poems are in free form, improvisatory, speculative and exploratory. As Keith Sagar writes ‘Lawrence is interested in making discoveries, not artifacts. What he hopes to discover cannot be fixed like a fly in amber. Each poem...does not seek to be gem-like, selfcontained, finished, outside time. It exists in the dimension of time and process, and that is its life...’ (John Warehan: Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems of D.H. Lawrence)