COLUMN: Author’s insight into nature by Dave Brock

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DH Lawrence grew up with a keen appreciation of flowers - whether the cultivated varieties he tended with his mother in their garden, or the wildflowers his father and the other miners enjoyed on their walks to and from the pit.

From this, Lawrence came to develop something which goes beyond botanical expertise - the possession of an almost uncanny insight into their essential being.

For example, in one of his loveliest short essays, Flowery Tuscany, written around 1927, Lawrence becomes wonderfully expansive on this subject, displaying the most remarkable knowledge of the wide range of beautiful flowers that come and go in that part of Italy.

He then compares these to the displays he knew so well in England and tunes in to their expression of being in an almost mystical way.

To Lawrence, they seem to surge ‘in some invisible rhythm of concentrated, delightful movement’. He can’t believe they don’t make some ‘crystalline sound of delight’.

In major poems, such as Almond Blossom, Purple Anemones and Sicilian Cyclamens, Lawrence explores plants in a profound way few poets ever have.

In Red Geranium and Godly Mignonette, he speculates about the very nature of creation and the whole question of a bodiless, omnipotent God.

He writes: ‘Imagine that any mind ever thought a red geranium, As if the redness of a red geranium could be anything but a sensual experience and as if sensual experience could take place before there were any senses.’

From this, Lawrence concluded that life and beauty and fragrance of flowers must emerge from some great, unfathomable ‘tremendous creative yearning’.

The much anthologised Bavarian Gentians imagines the blueness of these flowers becoming torches, which can light our way to a mythical underworld where, as in the germination of plants, a procreative marriage takes place.

Flowers feature significantly throughout Lawrence’s fiction.

Notable moments include when Paul Morel and Miriam discuss picking them and when Paul showers Clara with them in Sons and Lovers, and, of course, when Connie and Mellors decorate each others naked bodies with them in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as part of the healing experience of joyful, tender love.

How desperately the world needs Lawrence’s botanical wisdom now - at a time when neonicotinoids and cellular phone calls are such a deadly threat to the bees, which are essential for pollination and for life.