Thursday, February 25, 2010

Expiation: Entr'acte

Follows Expiation: Prologue, Part One and Part Two

Before we get into the long-awaited by none Expiation: Part Three, let's refresh our memories about DH Lawrence for a moment. When we left him near the end of Part One he (or his surrogate in poetry-land, but let's take a leap into the aether and just refer to Lawrence's narrator as Lawrence, what say?) was flitting about in his pyjamas in a courtyard in Sicily somewhere close to Etna. He'd run into a snake at his water trough and had decided that he was just fine waiting for a few minutes before approaching said trough, because:

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

So to wrap up: an expat-Brit in his PJs doesn't want to get too close to the pretty gold snake for fear of becoming said snake's breakfast. The snake himself isn't too fussed about Lawrence and is far more interested in getting a sip of cool water on a hot day. It's Lawrence who's got issues. He's the one who's thinking that, what the hell, let's kill the snake. It's what one does, after all. A snake un-killed is a snake to bite somebody at an inconvenient time and ruin lunch at best and Christmas for their next of kin at worst. But Lawrence isn't quite into the whole violent approach either:

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

DH Lawrence the author, rather than his eponymous poem narrator, had a touch of TB once or twice in his life and fled to Sicily for the fresh air. Let's assume that TB patients didn't meet much of a welcome wagon in the days before advanced antibiotics and ol' DH was finding it hard to fill the hours in his cottage. If I were DH the author, I might be amused to see a snake at my water trough. Company is company, right?

As Lawrence the narrator, he can go a bit over the top about it:

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

Pay special attention to the word honoured. A gold snake might not be great news in close quarters, but is still a pretty formidable creature and something to admire if you're into beasts with an elegant sense of locomotion. As long as he wasn't getting bitten, having a snake around might be sort of cool. Of course, he's supposed to kill it or at least supposed to listen to those voices of his education. These voices inconvenience Lawrence the narrator, fascinated DH the author and messed with the head of a kid early in his grade 12 year because it reminded him of a girl. Or of being a jerk around said girl, to be precise.

Let's not get into that just yet. It's a long story that doesn't end particularly well in terms of logic.

Let's leap forward to the part after the next part, where the aforementioned kid was listening to too much Don McLean. Before Hannah and Elora and DH Lawrence and the rest, he listened to Crossroads a lot. It's contemplative early 70's folk music, the kind of thing one could sing while staring meaningfully into the middle distance. A pleasant enough bit of nonsense, tailor-made for teenagers who take things too seriously.

Given what happens next, the kid would have loved this video. Solitary imagery and the promise of great portent. All in 3min 40sec.

Followed by Expiation: Part Three.


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