LAWRENCE, DAVID HERBERT (1885-1930)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, IN EFFECT A DRAFT, OF HIS POEM 'HIBISCUS AND SALVIA FLOWERS', 194 lines in stanzas of varying length, 4 full pages, quarto, perforated at head [Fontana Vecchia, Taormina, Sicily, 31 January 1921]
The dogs do bark, It's the Bolshevists come to town
None in rags and none it tags
Sauntering up and down...
Rose-red, Pacific hibiscus, rolling her pointed Chinese petals!
Choice like azalea and Camellia, single peony,
Pomegranate bloom and rosy mallow flowers,
And all the Eastern, exquisite plants
That royal blood has brought us down the ages
- Yet she more gentle-tissued than all these,
Tender-nurtured, frail and sumptuous
Flower of the Great South Seas
Now lolling on the coats of Sunday bolshevists
In Sicily, like dying hounds with tongue dripped out.
- Rosy, gem-royal blood of the world's lost royal Maoris.
Unfolded heart, with your gems of floury gold
Rose of the last lost races of lost princesses
THIS MANUSCRIPT PRESERVES A VERSION OF THE POEM WITH A LARGE NUMBER OF DIFFERENCES FROM THE PRINTED VERSION, including several whole lines and many reconsidered readings throughout. In the printed version, for instance, the second of the two stanzas quoted above reads:
Rose-red, princess hibiscus, rolling her pointed Chinese petals!
Azalea and camellia, single peony
And pomegranate bloom and scarlet mallow-flower
And all the eastern, exquisite royal plants
That noble blood has brought us down the ages!
Gently nurtured, frail and splendid
Hibiscus flower -
Alas, the Sunday coats of Sicilian bolshevists!
Pure blood and noble blood, in the fine and red-rose veins;
Small, interspersed with jewels of white gold
Frail-filigreed among the rest;
Roses of the oldest races of princesses, Polynesian
Tom Paulin regards this 'beautiful poem' as 'a distinctly puritan response to the political situation in Italy - it is written to the moment and represents a volatile, complex engagement with Italian socialism.' Ten days before writing the poem Lawrence had written to Eleanor Farjeon: 'If I knew how to, I'd really join myself to the revolutionary socialists now. I think the time has come for a real struggle. That's the only thing I care for: the death struggle. I don't care for politics. But I know there must and should be a deadly revolution very soon, and I would take part in it if I knew how.'
AUTOGRAPH POETICAL MANUSCRIPTS BY LAWRENCE ARE RARE: none have appeared at auction since two appeared at Christie's New York in 1979 and none before that for at least twenty years. The main repositories of Lawrence's manuscripts are Austin, Texas, the University of California, Berkeley, and Nottingham University in Nottingham.
Lawrence spent many years in Italy and Sicily - 1912-1914, 1919-1922 and 1925-1929 - they 'made a significant contribution to his whole literary production' (Comellini).
PROVENANCE: Christie's, 29 April 1981, lot 161; Bob Foster; Bloomsbury Book Auctions, 7 May 1998, lot 59; Gekoski.
REFERENCES: The Collected Poems, 2 volumes, 1933; Tom Paulin, 'Hibiscus and Salvia Flowers', Minotaur: Poetry and the Nation State, 1992; Carlo Comellini, 'Sicily in D.H. Lawrence's Imagery', Conservation Science in Cultural Heritage, 2008; Location Register of Twentieth-Century Literary Manuscripts and Letters, 2 volumes, 1988 (no manuscripts of the poem listed therein).