[this section of the story describes the aftermath of the character Rico’s riding accident (Rico is Lawrence’s fall guy for the ‘bad artist’ type) and the thoughts of the main character, Lou Carrington, immediately following. – Ed.]
There lay Rico, crumpled and rather sideways, staring at the heavens from a yellow, dead-looking face. Lewis, glancing round in a sort of horror, looked in dread at St. Mawr again. Flora had been hovering.–She now rushed screeching to the prostrate Rico:
“Harry! Harry! you’re not dead! Oh, Harry! Harry! Harry!”
Lou had dismounted.–She didn’t know when. She stood a little way off, as if spellbound, while Flora cried: Harry! Harry! Harry!
Suddenly Rico sat up.
“Where is the horse?” he said.
At the same time an added whiteness came on his face, and he bit his lip with pain, and he fell prostrate again in a faint. Flora rushed to put her arm round him.
Where was the horse? He had backed slowly away, in an agony of suspicion, while Lewis murmured to him in vain. His head was raised again, the eyes still starting from their sockets, and a terrible guilty, ghost-like look on his face. When Lewis drew a little nearer he twitched and shrank like a shaken steel spring, away–not to be touched. He seemed to be seeing legions of ghosts, down the dark avenues of all the centuries that have lapsed since the horse became subject to man.
And the other young man? He was still standing, at a little distance, with his face in his hands, motionless, the blood falling on his white shirt, and his wife at his side, pleading, distracted.
Mrs. Witt, too, was there, as if cast in steel, watching. She made no sound and did not move, only from a fixed, impassive face, watched each thing.
“Do tell me what you think is the matter,” Lou pleaded, distracted, to Flora, who was supporting Rico and weeping torrents of unknown tears.
Then Mrs. Witt came forward and began in a very practical manner to unclose the shirt-neck and feel the young man’s heart. Rico opened his eyes again, said “Really!” and closed his eyes once more.
“It’s fainting!” said Mrs. Witt. “We have no brandy.” Lou, too weary to be able to feel anything, said:
“I’ll go and get some.”
She went to her alarmed horse, who stood among the others with her head down, in suspense. Almost unconsciously Lou mounted, set her face ahead, and was riding away.
Then Poppy shied too, with a sudden start, and Lou pulled up. “Why?” she said to her horse. “Why did you do that?”
She looked round, and saw in the heather a glimpse of yellow and black.
“A snake!” she said wonderingly.
And she looked closer.
It was a dead adder that had been drinking at a reedy pool in a little depression just off the road, and had been killed with stones. There it lay, also crumpled, its head crushed, its gold-and-yellow back still glittering dully, and a bit of pale-blue showing, killed that morning.
Lou rode on, her face set towards the farm. An unspeakable weariness had overcome her. She .could not even suffer. Weariness of spirit left her in a sort of apathy.
And she had a vision, a vision of evil. Or not strictly a vision. She became aware of evil, evil, evil, rolling in great waves over the earth. Always she had thought there was-no such thing–only a mere negation of good. Now, like an ocean to whose surface she had risen, she saw the dark-grey waves of evil rearing in a great tide.
And it had swept mankind away without mankind’s knowing. It had caught up the nations as the rising ocean might lift the fishes, and was sweeping them on in a great tide of evil. They did not know. The people did not know. They did not even wish it. They wanted to be good and to have everything joyful and enjoyable. Everything joyful and enjoyable: for everybody. This was what they wanted, if you asked them.
But at the same time, they had fallen under the spell of evil. It was a soft, subtle thing, soft as water, and its motion was soft and imperceptible, as the running of a tide is invisible to one who is out on the ocean. And they were all out on the ocean, being borne along in the current of the mysterious evil, creatures of the evil principle, as fishes are creatures of the sea.
There was no relief. The whole world was enveloped in one great flood. All the nations, the white, the brown, the black, the yellow, all were immersed, in the strange tide of evil that was subtly, irresistibly rising. No one, perhaps, deliberately wished it. Nearly every individual wanted peace and a good time all round: everybody to have a good time.
But some strange thing had happened, and the vast mysterious force of positive evil was let loose. She felt that from the core of Asia the evil welled up, as from some strange pole, and slowly was drowning earth.
It was something horrifying, something you could not escape from. It had come to her as in a vision, when she saw the pale gold belly of the stallion upturned, the hoofs working wildly, the wicked curved hams of the horse, and then the evil straining of that arched, fish-like neck, with the dilated eyes of the head. Thrown backwards, and working its hoofs in the air. Reversed, and purely evil.
She saw the same in people. They were thrown backwards, and writhing with evil. And the rider, crushed, was still reining them down.
What did it mean? Evil, evil, and a rapid return to the sordid chaos. Which was wrong, the horse or the rider? Or both?
She thought with horror of St. Mawr, and of the look on his face. But she thought with horror, a colder horror, of Rico’s face as he snarled Fool! His fear, his impotence as a master, as a rider, his presumption. And she thought with horror of those other people, so glib, so glibly evil.
What did they want to do, those Manby girls? Undermine, undermine, undermine. They wanted to undermine Rico, just as that fair young man would have liked to undermine her. Believe in nothing, care about nothing: but keep the surface easy, and have a good time. Let us undermine one another. There is nothing to believe in, so let us undermine everything. But look out! No scenes, no spoiling the game. Stick to the rules of the game. Be sporting, and don’t do anything that would make a commotion. Keep the game going smooth and jolly, and bear your bit like a sport. Never, by any chance, injure your fellow-man openly. But always injure him secretly. Make a fool of him, and undermine his nature. Break him up by undermining him, if you can. It’s good sport.
The evil! The mysterious potency of evil. She could see it all the time, in individuals, in society, in the press. There it was in socialism and bolshevism: the same evil. But bolshevism made a mess of the outside of life, so turn it down. Try fascism. Fascism would keep the surface of life intact, and carry on the undermining business all the better. All the better sport. Never draw blood. Keep the hemorrhage internal, invisible.
And as soon as fascism makes a break–which it is bound to, because all evil works up to a break–then turn it down. With gusto, turn it down.
Mankind, like a horse, ridden by a stranger, smooth-faced, evil rider. Evil himself, smooth-faced and pseudo-handsome, riding mankind past the dead snake, to the last break.
Mankind no longer its own master. Ridden by this pseudo-handsome ghoul of outward loyalty, inward treachery, in a game of betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. The last of the gods of our era, Judas supreme!
People performing outward acts of loyalty, piety, self-sacrifice. But inwardly bent on undermining, betraying. Directing all their subtle evil will against any positive living thing. Masquerading as the ideal, in order to poison the real.
Creation destroys as it goes, throws down one tree for the rise of another. But ideal mankind would abolish death, multiply itself million upon million, rear up city upon city, save every parasite alive, until the accumulation of mere existence is swollen to a horror. But go on saving life, the ghastly salvation army of ideal mankind. At the same time secretly, viciously, potently undermine the natural creation, betray it with kiss after kiss, destroy it from the inside, till you have the swollen rottenness of our teeming existences.–But keep the game going. Nobody’s going to make another bad break, such as Germany and Russia made.
Two bad breaks the secret evil has made: in Germany and in Russia. Watch it! Let evil keep a policeman’s eye on evil! The surface of life must remain unruptured. Production must be heaped upon production. And the natural creation must be betrayed by many more kisses, yet. Judas is the last God, and, by heaven, the most potent.
But even Judas made a break: hanged himself, and his bowels gushed out. Not long after his triumph.
Man must destroy as he goes, as trees fall for trees to rise. The accumulation of life and things means rottenness. Life must destroy life, in the unfolding of creation. We save up life at the expense of the unfolding, till all is full of rottenness. Then at last we make a break.
What’s to be done? Generally speaking, nothing. The dead will have to bury their dead, while the earth stinks of corpses. The individual can but depart from the mass, and try to cleanse himself. Try to hold fast to the living thing, which destroys as it goes, but remains sweet. And in his soul fight, fight, fight to preserve that which is life in him from the ghastly kisses and poison-bites of the myriad evil ones. Retreat to the desert, and fight. But in his soul adhere to that which is life itself, creatively destroying as it goes: destroying the stiff old thing to let the new bud come through. The one passionate principle of creative being, which recognises the natural good, and has a sword for the swarms of evil. Fights, fights, fights to protect itself. But with itself, is strong and at peace.
The heroine of the story, Lou Witt, abandons her sterile marriage and a brittle, cynical post WWI England. Her sense of alienation is associated with her encounter with a high-spirited stallion, the St Mawr whose name provides the title for this tale. She eventually settles in a remote ranch set high in the mountains of New Mexico, near Taos.
Lawrence wrote most of this brief novel whilst spending five months of the summer of 1924 at what is now known as the D.H Lawrence Ranch, a property which he and wife, Frieda, acquired from Mabel Dodge Luhan earlier that year.
‘St Mawr’ first appeared in ‘St Mawr and Other Stories’ which, in addition to the novella, consists of two short stories ‘The Overtone’ and ‘The Princess’, and two unfinished stories ‘The Wilful Woman’ and ‘The Flying Fish’. All these works were written during Lawrence’s stay in America between 1922 and 1925.
[book background courtesy of wikipedia. ‘St Mawr’ is in the public domain.]