Tortoise Gallantry

Original Text: 
D. H. Lawrence, Tortoises (New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1921): 37-41. PR 6023 A93 T6 1921 Robarts Library
2He does not look at her, nor sniff at her,
3No, not even sniff at her, his nose is blank.
4Only he senses the vulnerable folds of skin
5That work beneath her while she sprawls along
6In her ungainly pace,
7Her folds of skin that work and row
8Beneath the earth-soiled hovel in which she moves.
9And so he strains beneath her housey walls
10And catches her trouser-legs in his beak
11Suddenly, or her skinny limb,
12And strange and grimly drags at her
13Like a dog,
14Only agelessly silent, with a reptile's awful persistency.
15Grim, gruesome gallantry, to which he is doomed.
16Dragged out of an eternity of silent isolation
17And doomed to partiality, partial being,
18Ache, and want of being,
20Self-exposure, hard humiliation, need to add himself on to her.
21Born to walk alone,
23Now suddenly distracted into this mazy side-track,
24This awkward, harrowing pursuit,
25This grim necessity from within.
26Does she know
27As she moves eternally slowly away?
28Or is he driven against her with a bang, like a bird flying in the dark against a window,
29All knowledgeless?
30The awful concussion,
31And the still more awful need to persist, to follow, follow, continue,
32Driven, after æons of pristine, fore-god-like singleness and oneness,
33At the end of some mysterious, red-hot iron,
34Driven away from himself into her tracks,
35Forced to crash against her.
36Stiff, gallant, irascible, crook-legged reptile,
37Little gentleman,
38Sorry plight,
39We ought to look the other way.
40Save that, having come with you so far,
41We will go on to the end.


1] The next poem in the Tortoises group is "Tortoise Shout." The previous poem in the Tortoises group is "Lui et Elle." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
See Roberts A19
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.