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Sunday, 3 July 2011

D. H. Lawrence: Independence Day (the annual pleasantry)


The annual pleasantry: Udo J. Keppler (1872-1956), from Puck, v. 61, no. 1582, 26 June 1907 (Library of Congress)

Let us look at this American artist first. How did he ever get to America, to start with? Why isn't he a European still, like his father before him?

Now listen to me, don't listen to him. He'll tell you the lie you expect. Which is partly your fault for expecting it.

He didn't come in search of freedom of worship. England had more freedom of worship in the year 1700 than America had. Won by Englishmen who wanted freedom, and so stopped at home and fought for it. And got it. Freedom of worship? Read the history of New England during the first century of its existence.

The pic nic on the Fourth of July. A day to be remembered
: Lilly M. Spencer, engraved by Samuel Hollyer, 1864 (Library of Congress)

Freedom anyhow? The land of the free! This the land of the free! Why, if I say anything that displeases them, the free mob will Iynch me, and that's my freedom. Free? Why, I have never been in any country where the individual has such an abject fear of his fellow countrymen. Because, as I say, they are free to Iynch the moment he shows he is not one of them.

No, no, if you're so fond of the truth about Queen Victoria, try a little about yourself.

Those Pilgrim Fathers and their successors never came here for freedom of worship. What did they set up when they got here? Freedom, would you call it?

Inaugurating the glorious Fourth: C. S. Reinhart, from a sketch by H. N. Cady, in Harpers Weekly, 13 July 1878 (Library of Congress)

They didn't come for freedom. Or if they did, they sadly went back on themselves.

All right then, what did they come for? For lots of reasons. Perhaps least of all in search of freedom of any sort: positive freedom, that is.

They came largely to get away -- that most simple of motives. To get away. Away from what? In the long run, away from themselves. Away from everything. That's why most people have come to America, and still do come. To get away from everything they are and have been.

Fourth of July parade at Takoma Park, Maryland, 1923
: photographer unknown (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

Independence Day: Udo J. Keppler, from Puck, v. 63, no. 1635, 1 July 1908 (Library of Congress)

D. H. Lawrence: from Chapter 1: The Spirit of Place, in Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923


Barry Taylor said...

Dear Tom -

As the day looms,I hope you'll accept my salute to the spirit of Independence that echos through every post of this blog. This is a new world I'm very happy to have stumbled upon - my very best wishes to you and all your terrific friends beyond the pale.


Anonymous said...

There's nothing like a little clarity in the morning, when you can still appreciate and absorb it. This is a very difficult subject to approach and understand if you yourself were born here. That is to say, I'm here because I'm here. I'm not sure about much more than that because I distrust a great deal of what my parents and elders taught me, especially about matters relating to psychology and personal motivation. They themselves seemed thwarted by various forces and were extremely distracted at the best of times. Somehow along the way I've acquired or developed values and beliefs, but when I examine my mind closely I find that I can be inconsistent in reciting and applying them. The one thing I come back to all the time is the Quaker "testimony of integrity". Regarding the world through that lens and trying to achieve that standard is to be disappointed and feel hurt much of the time. I love the pictures you've included here. I think the last one -- the grand finale -- says it all. Currently I'm reading Gretchen Morgenson's new book, Reckless Endangerment, a history of the Fannie Mae debacle and, to some extent, the "credit crisis" generally. It's disturbing Independence Day reading that makes me think about: "Now listen to me, don't listen to him. He'll tell you the lie you expect. Which is partly your fault for expecting it."

TC said...

Your enlightenment of the little company has been our complete pleasure, Barry.

(I had been unreasonably looking for illumination at 3:45 in the morning, as it happens, so double thanks.)


Know what you mean, in my own different-yet-the-same way.

(It's my belief, from admittedly limited experience, that the beginning-of-life and end-of-life passages have a curious resemblance in that all formerly supposedly perceived differences seem curiously to fade away... but of course I speak here "in propria Personna", like Bluebeard...).

But this does certainly strike home:

'The one thing I come back to all the time is the Quaker "testimony of integrity". Regarding the world through that lens and trying to achieve that standard is to be disappointed and feel hurt much of the time.'

Conscience is such a beautiful thing, one always finds it enviable, and the pains that inevitably come with it, like so very few things anymore, deserve respect. Suffering, or even for that matter patiently enduring discomfort or unpleasantness & c. , for what you believe, is an overlooked entitlement.

Julia said...

(this is not a real comment perhaps, that is why I write it between brackets. I love to read what D.H. Lawrence, curtis and you wrote, Tom)



With "the annual pleasantry" of the Fourth just around the corner (and all manner of mayhem about to arrive even here in our 'village'), DHL's "Now listen to me, don't listen to him. He'll tell you the lie you expect." offer, as Curtis says, "a little clarity.". . .


blinding silver edge of sun rising above
ridge, flycatcher calling whip WEEDEEEER
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

present which is near to it,
since it is thus what

was sounds or “noises,” etc.,
structured apart from

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
lines of white water breaking across it

TC said...


Lately I have been seeing Lawrence as one of those great impractical idealists, always pursuing the impossible causes. Sometimes he even reminds me a bit of this fellow.


Oh, the Great Bolinas Fourth of July Celebration!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I have to second Julia on your comments, Curtis and Tom ... and old DHL, the stern taskmaster, Krishnamurti of the West, there is no shade to hide from in the light of the Laurentian Taos mid-day sun!

Studies in Classic American Literature, one of the finest of books - I'd forgotten this opening chapter, as I so often think back on his words on Whitman and Melville and Poe. Thanks for the reminder of DHL's overall schema - he had us down pat.

And, along with Cervantes, you got me thinking about one more other guy.

Julia said...

=) Those guys you two mentioned are very dear to me!