9 May 2022

Between Thy Moon-Lit, Milk-White Thighs

Diagrammatic, non-explicit, depiction of a man
performing cunnilingus on a woman
In the spring of 1928, D. H. Lawrence sent Harry Crosby the newly written out and revised MS for his short story 'Sun' [1], by way of thanking Crosby for the five gold coins that the latter had sent him. 
Lawrence also enclosed some poems, including an extended version of an early work entitled 'Gipsy' [2]. To the original two stanzas, Lawrence now added a couple more, which contained, he said, a bit of sun
The first of these reads:
Between thy moon-lit, milk-white thighs
      Is a moon-pool in thee.
And the sun in me is thirsty, it cries
      To drink thee, to win thee. [3]   
This is certainly an interesting quatrain; one which lends support to the controversial claim that although Lawrence thinks of the female sex organ as a ripe, bursting fruit just waiting to be eaten, the cunt was for him at its most succulent only when "overflowing with semen from the withdrawn phallus" [4].
Whether this implies that cunnilingus was, in Lawrence's erotic imagination, a disguised form of fellatio [5], is probably not something we can say for sure. 
But what we might note is that via the creampie-loving figure of Oliver Mellors, Lawrence forcefully expressed the view that there is only one place in which it is legitimate and desirable for the male to ejaculate - and that is deep inside the vagina [6]
Thus, when in the verse above the male speaker uses the term moon-pool, I think we all know that he refers to a deposit of semen and it is this which he wishes to felch from between the milk-white thighs of his beloved; i.e., the sun in him is greedy for the male seed of life, not the female sap that curdles milk and "smells strange on your fingers" [7].  
 [1] See the letter to Harry Crosby [29 April - 1 May 1928], in The Letters of D. H. Lawence Vol. VI, ed. James T. Boulton and Margaret H. Boulton, with Gerald M. Lacy, (Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 388-90. 
      This MS would provide the base text for the Black Sun edition of the tale published in October 1928.
[2] See D. H. Lawrence, 'Gipsy', in The Poems, Vol. I, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, (Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 14-15. And for an earlier version of this poem entitled 'Self-Contempt', see the letter to Louie Burrows (6 Dec 1910) in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Vol. I, ed. James T. Boulton, (Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 196.   

[3] Letters VI. 389. The second added stanza reads: "I am black with the sun, and willing / To be dead / Can I but plunge in thee, swilling / Thy waves over my head."

[4] Gregory Woods, Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry, (Yale University Press, 1987), p. 131. 
      This is taken from a chapter on Lawrence - chapter four (pp. 125-139) - in which Woods argues (amongst other things) that Lawrence had a "deep and obvious fascination with male homosexuality" and that whilst his "main erotic preoccupation is with the possibility of love between a woman and a man", when this seems impossible or doomed to failure, "he turns to the homosexual alternative [...] as a less problematical version of the same thing". 
      Ultimately, says Woods, Lawrence is promoting a bisexual ideal and his erotic grail is the "passionate, physical union of two heterosexual men". 
      Lines quoted can be found on p. 125.   
[5] Woods writes: "Cunnilingus is Lawrence's oblique image of fellatio." Articulate Flesh, p. 131. 
      A little later (p. 132), Woods insists that Lawrence's heroes all long to drink from the cup of semen which is the post-coital (spunk-filled) vagina. The American biographer and critic Jeffry Meyers, who has written extensively on Lawrence and published a volume entitled Homosexuality and Literature, 1890-1930 (The Athlone Press, 1977), is not convinced, however, and says that statements such as this, made without supporting evidence, simply reveal the author's own obsessions. 
      Meyers's review of Articulate Flesh can be found in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 88, No. 1 (Jan 1989), pp. 126-129. This can conveniently be accessed on JSTOR via the following link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/27710124  
[6] See D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover, ed Michael Squires, (Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 203. 
      Speaking to Connie, Mellors angrily condemns those women who "'love everything, every kind of feeling and cuddling and going off, every kind except the natural one.'" Such women, he says, even when they do allow vaginal penetration, invariably insist their lovers withdraw prior to orgasm and come instead on some external body part. To be fair, the women are the ones running the risk of an unwanted preganancy - not something that Oliver Mellors allows himself to consider.      
[7] D. H. Lawrence, 'Fig', in The Poems, Vol. I, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, (Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 233.
      Again, whether this means that Lawrence imagined cunnilingus as an oblique image of fellatio - or whether, rather, he had a neo-primitive belief that the ingestion of semen increased one's own potency thanks to the magical properties it possessed - is not something I know for certain (any Lawrence scholar reading this who may care to advise is welcome to do so). 
      Readers interested in knowing more about the swallowing of semen might find the post entitled 'Gokkun' (7 May 2016) of interest: click here
A note on further reading: 
Those interested in this topic might like to see the essay by Isabella Rooke-Ley entitled '"What is Cunt? she said": Obscenity, Concealment and Representations of the Vulva in D. H. Lawrence', in Polyphony, Volume 2, Issue 1 (University of Manchester, April 2020): click here.  
      Rooke-Ley argues that Lawrence's use of the word cunt in Lady C. is not what it seems, in that rather than being a direct (if vulgar) reference to female genitalia, it is in fact a concealment of the latter and linked to the text's figuring of the cunt and its pleasure as obscene and shameful.
      Turning her attention to the (infamous) poem 'Fig', Rooke-Ley attempts to demonstrate how there is also a link made in Lawrence's work between concealment, obscenity, vulval pleasure, and putrefaction.
      Finally, readers may also wish to see my post 'The Obscene Beyond: It is So Lovely Within the Crack' (1 July 2021): click here.
For a sister post to this one, on Lawrence's extended version of the poem 'Guards' contained in the Crosby letter, click here               

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