Tuesday Poem: DH Lawrence and a Whale’s Tail

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.
All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on an on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of the sea.

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.

DH Lawrence, Whales Weep Not

To read the whole poem - click here.

In 1922 DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda found themselves in Wellington, New Zealand, and they sent Katherine Mansfield a post card of two Maori in bush to remind her of her homeland.  ‘We thought very hard of you here!’  Frieda wrote, mending an estrangement that had lasted for years, ever since DHL had sent a letter telling KM to rot in her own tuberculosis.  Miraculously, she forgave him. 

Somewhere on his visit to the southern hemisphere DH must have seen the whales that pass on their migration routes every year, north from the antarctic, and then south on a long pilgrimage to breed and feed.  New Zealand is regularly visited by the southern Right Whale, Humpbacks, Blue whales and Orca, and the 3,000 metre deep trench off the Pacific coast is home to a number of bachelor Sperm whales who feed on the giant squid that lurk in the darkness.   Squid specimens up to 33 metres long have been found by fishermen - one only the day before we went out in the whale boats at Kaikoura, on our way back to Christchurch.

This is Tutu, a 50 ton Sperm whale who obliged us with a view of his ‘wild white breath’ twice on the same morning.  And two separate displays of his tail.

I like to think that DH Lawrence and Frieda shared a similar experience.


  1. What beautiful creatures they are. No wonder DHL was moved to write!


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