Saturday 20 January 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Saved from Howth tram

DH Lawrence
DH Lawrence

Ulick O'Connor

I suppose it's too early to expect the butterflies to be around, although it's warm enough these days to heat the little fellows.

In fact, they seem to wire themselves into a seasonal timetable that tells them when to start business.

I remember seeing Lennox Robinson, the playwright and first manager of the Abbey Theatre, on a brilliant April day shuffling up and down the top deck of the Howth tram for a quarter of an hour or so, to catch a butterfly so as he could release it to freedom out the window. When he succeeded, Lennox got a round of applause.

"A butterfly has only a day to live," he explained to the other passengers, "and I don't want it to spend half its life on top of the Howth tram."

DH Lawrence, whom some think was among the top three English writers of his time, was in love with the little charmers.

Here is how he, the apostle of realism, greeted a butterfly who decided to adorn his shoe.


Butterfly, the wind blows sea-ward, strong beyond the  garden-wall!

Butterfly, why do you settle on my shoe, and sip the dirt on my shoe,

Lifting your veined wings, lifting them? big white butterfly!

Already it is October, and the wind blows strong to the sea

from the hills where snow must have fallen, the wind is polished with snow.

Here in the garden, with red geraniums, it is warm, it is warm

but the wind blows strong to sea-ward, white butterfly, content on my shoe!

Farewell, farewell, lost soul!

You have melted in the crystalline distance,

It is enough! I saw you vanish into air.

DH Lawrence 1885-1930

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