Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (6) or “The Cat”, after D.H.Lawrence

The famous novelist, David Herbert Lawrence, was a Nottingham County Council Scholarship pupil at Nottingham High School from 1898-1901.

For a number of reasons, despite his fame as one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists, Lawrence soon became persona non grata at his old school, and, even more so at his old university, which was then called University College, Nottingham.

The problem was that he wrote dubious books where the main characters indulged in naughty practices which embarrassed many of the good citizens of Nottingham and elsewhere:

Furthermore, in 1912, Frieda, the wife of  Professor Weekley, the Head of the Modern Languages Faculty at University College, Nottingham, had run off with Lawrence. She left behind her her three children, who, by the divorce laws of the time, she was forbidden to see. And it was all Lawrence’s fault, and everybody in Nottingham thought Lawrence was a cad and a bounder and they were all firmly on the side of the much wronged Professor Weekley.

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Given that Lawrence was an Old Nottinghamian, and had behaved so badly, the School had little choice but to condemn him whenever the occasion arose. And those negative feelings extended as far as everything that Lawrence had ever written. Well, how could a cad and a bounder write anything of any value? And exactly the same thing happened at University College, Nottingham.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the July 1941 edition of the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, and found the following poem:

 

CAT

(After D.H. Lawrence)

 

In the daytime,

She only sits licking her back with a rough, pink tongue

Like emery paper rubbing on a wooden frame.

Or curls up in a chair before the fire and mews.

Only milk can tempt her into the kitchen, and then she

Laps,

As gold-fish nibble ant-eggs, or cows munch grass,

With an insatiable longing for more.

Her tail, swishing gently to and fro ;

Her little black funny nose.

She purrs, purrs more gently than a ticking clock or than a baby

breathing in his sleep.

Her small, black feet and glossy shining fur,

Her dark-green eyes blinking in the bright day sunshine.

No more lively than a tired horse, or an old man sitting on a seat in the

park.

Only occasionally does she ring in a sparrow, clawed in a moment of

fiendish exertion ;

Or a mouse, mauled by those deadly cat-claws.

 

But at night, when the dark shadows hide the corners of the roofs and

people sleep,

She goes out and meets the other cats from down the road.

Then life begins, night-life of a thousand cats,

The cat life.

The black life.

They go and roll on the irises, and on the lilies, and hold a cat-

conference behind dark trees.

 

Life returns,

The cat life.

Squealing, scratching, and miaouwing and chasing one another through

the shrubs.

Squealing like naughty children, and then miaouwing again.

And then they squeal.

I wake, and wonder what the squealing  is,

Like a child strayed from its mother.

Cats in the garden, sitting on the lilies or chasing one another through

the green shrubs.

The night-life.

The cat life.

The poem was written by DE Rhodes of 6 Cl. That is to say, Dennis Everard Rhodes of 6 Classics. Dennis was born on March 14th 1923. He was the son of the schoolmaster at East Bridgford, a country village to the east of Nottingham, and he entered the High School, on a Nottinghamshire County Council Scholarship, on September 20th 1934, at the age of eleven.

He left the school on July 29th 1941 and went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge with an Open Scholarship.

Dennis Rhodes lived to be 97, and he died only months ago. His adult life was on the academic world stage and some of it was so academic that a simple old codger like myself cannot even understand what he was doing. So, sometime soon, there will be a blog post about Dr Dennis Rhodes PhD, and what he got up to in the last seventy years of his life.

 

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

17 responses to “Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (6) or “The Cat”, after D.H.Lawrence

  1. That is very interesting. I had quite strict upbringing and II would never had read Lawrence until I found his poems. And when I began teaching I would hand out a copy of his poem Mountain Lion. And we would discuss blank verse. I haven’t read his novels – maybe I should. But I read, and re-read his poetry often. I look forward to your post.

    • If you want to read just one of DH Lawrence’s novels then try “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. The Penguin edition with an introduction by Doris Lessing is the best, in my opinion. The book is not just about sex, but about the class divides in England, the despoiling of nature, loneliness, lots of different things. It’s really good!
      An excellent shorter work is “The Fox” which reveals just how much Lawrence knew about nature and the countryside.

      • Thank you John, I did make a little mistake in my comment earlier because I did read Lady Chatterley‘s lover, but I was young and read it for all the wrong reasons. And I am now going back and reading some of the books I read then. I am currently reading The Man in the Iron Mask and it is so different now from what it was back then.

  2. I know it isn’t about DHL but if he was affected enough to write a poem like that when he was in 12th form he will be an interesting chap.

  3. GP

    I’ll be here. Your posts always teach me something new and I find so interesting.

    • It isn’t the posts which are so interesting, it’s the fact that you have a mind open enough to read them and to see what is interesting in them.
      I once took a group of Year 9 boys to the Air Museum at Duxford, near Cambridge. My job was to wander round and to make sure they were working properly. I found one boy standing outside “The Museum of Land Warfare”. He said “Do I have to go in?” and I replied “Why shouldn’t you?” His answer was “I don’t know anything about Land Warfare and it’s boring.”
      I remember thinking “If this had been the Museum of Hungarian Folk Dancing, I would have gone in”.
      The boy, incidentally, went into the museum, because he was well mannered and obedient, but I don’t think I changed his opinion of the subject to any great extent!

      • GP

        I understand what you’re saying. It’s a shame the boy wouldn’t open up to seeing what was good about the museum. To me, every museum is a treasure trove of information, to me.

  4. A nice story about the trial which illustrates just how big a watershed 1960 was in terms of changing social attitudes was when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked the jury if it were the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read“.

    • I can remember one judge years back turning to the court and asking “And just who is this Gazza?”, but I think Mervyn Griffith-Jones outdid him on this particular occasion.
      You might like “D H Lawrence Complete Travel Writing” which puts together all of his writings on the places he visited in Europe and South America. It may also include North America and Australia, but I’m not sure.

  5. Wet interesting as always John. I must admit I’ve never read any of Lawrence’s works, and for that I’m ashamed. From what I’ve heard though, it was quite a read for the time. Perhaps I should scour the local bookshop for a copy, from what you say it’s far deeper than just that.

  6. It is interesting to read about why books are banned 😊 . In the seventies in high school we all loved Mills and Boons books. A few years ago , I started to read one and it was no more than soft porn! I was thinking about the books we had been reading, they were so different.

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