Visions Of Utopia
Those lofty castles built on slavers' fees
Are not for me,
Nor fine deep forests
Where the hunters roam.
We dream of freedoms
Holding constant peace,
Where children sing
To elders at sweet ease
In sunny gardens...
Utopian visions! Who is equal there?
Can "gentlefolk" who wish to rest or muse
Achieve such joy without the servitude
Of workers bringing oil and clothes and food?
We are that species with the hellish power
To make things change from boredom, greed, or lust...
Or is it fear that makes us lock our gates
and threaten others whom, we guess, we hate?
Do lambs look on us as their saving gods?
Or calves . wrenched from their mothers, moments old?
Each spring the dams lament for long crying nights.
(Explorers ever meddling with our world)
Succumb to live in Eden
Which surrounds us as we kill?
A sprawling hand that metes out war
Too easily erases sights
That once gave all a taste of hope-
Cathedrals , temples, where we went to dream
Of perfect moments, privately,
Or touched a hint of glory in a priest-led prayer,
So quickly crumbled...
Fields edged with poison
Hold lost pastorals.
The rising melody
Of springtime's birds
Becomes a memory.
Utopia with rules
To hold the cruel ones back?
CAN this be best for ALL
Since it would lack
The power to stop excesses
That THEY cannot see?
Their heaven's not designed
To give equality.
The circle closes.
Colluders have no rights
To live perfection
Since we create night.
My friends, you think of this so narrowly!
Utopia's in every breath and sigh.
So let me tell you my thoughts warily:
We even find perfection as we die
If every moment we attend the sound
Of dawn's full opening-and -best-
Embrace with loving arms each friend around
And all who show us how to live with zest.
THEN nobody would call for bloody war
Or kill for "pleasure" , paying no regard
To others' rights to love lost Eden's store
Of glory still, although so much is marred.
If every moment promises a rose
Utopia's found in every thing that grows.
So soft and sweetly bade the friends farewell
And went their ways, musing so wistfully
On what was said, hoping to find a way
To search out gently, and with fine regard
To others' needs, to share all equally
With generous hearts, in equanimity.
Amelie was fully aware of what was coming to her. She had run the gamut of emotions, from despair to a drug-induced euphoria, and back and forth between them through aching dullness. But she had settled, her days had a pattern, and often it was she who found herself comforting her husband Tomos rather than the other way round.
'Do not worry, mon amour,' she said to him, stroking his arm. 'I am not leaving you. This is just an adjustment, a shift into a different part of life.'
She realised, during the weeks of that summer, that it is easier to bear our own pain than that of another, and indeed seeing him in such tumult was to her as sharp daggers in her side, a kind of protracted crucifixion.
'Let us go, one more time, to the sea,' she said.
They went to a favourite place on the southern coast of the island and sat for hours side by side and hand in hand, watching the inexorable va-et-vient of the waves, before eating a salade de tomates and thin slivers of cheese and drinking a bottle of the finest Sauvignon blanc.
Next day Amelie asked again to go to the sea, for it was as if sleep had wiped her mind clear, and she cried when Tomos told her of their day, and of its joy. To calm her he spoke of past times at the sea, in that place, and yes, she remembered - how could she forget? They had been so happy, they could be happy there again, it was her favourite place, how could he deny her one more visit, knowing it might be her last? That made him cry, her saying that, so wide-eyed.
They went again, and again, and that summer each day was clear blue and glorious, and Tomos was glad of it, and of his wife's simple pleasure, for all that for her it was a chimera.
On the same day and at the same time each week, Tomos asked Amelia these questions:
When and where were you born?
What was your mother's maiden name?
What was your last job?
Each time she replied, without the slightest hesitation:
I was born in Nevers, France, on the second day of February 1962.
My mother's maiden name was Aumont.
My last job was as a seamstress in the workshop of Jean Samier, couturier in the Rue de la Melle, Paris 5e arrondissement.
She would add little details about the town in Burgundy where she had been born, and which she and Tomos had visited together so many times. She would reminisce about her mother, remembering - and perhaps creating, who was to say? - nothing but good times. She would speak of her job in Paris, of the fine work that she and the other stitchers had done, and of the pleasure it had given her.
Tomos, whose own past life had included things he would rather forget, indulged his wife, was glad to see her smile, whether what she spoke of had been real or was a vision. It was a way of coping, for both of them.
'I have had a good life,' she said to him each week, at the end of their conversation, and it made him weep.
Amelie knew that one day she would be unable to answer one of the weekly questions. That, at least, was what she had been told. But what actually happened was different, the shift that she had expected of a different order.
One day she woke and did not recognise the man in the bed beside her. But she kissed him and her returned the kiss.
'Are you my prince?' she said.
He laughed. 'I'm just Tomos,' he said.
'I don't know you,' she said, putting her hands to his face, gently. 'But you are beautiful.'
When she rose from her bed she did not recognise the view from the window.
'Is this the Garden of Eden?' she said to the man who was a stranger to her. 'Are you Adam? Am I Eve?'
Tomos told her again who he was.
They kissed once more, and moved together as the young lovers they had once been.
Tomos found himself living with a woman who he knew was his wife, but it was as if she had already moved, in earthly form, to the paradise in which some people believed. She spoke less and less, but seemed happy, or at least calm and content. And that was enough for him, for they were still together.
Yes, I did catch the virus in England and it nearly killed me. It changed the very composition of my blood and strained my heart and lungs, which remain weak. But I am sure they will improve in the high mountain air of New Mexico when I get there. The pandemic is almost over now and the vicious Russian war too if disputes over territory between Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states can be resolved. Liberty and Democracy have been under threat, shaken to their core, but after it was suggested by the authorities that my ‘foreign’ wife might be a spy in England, I’m not sure I believe in democracy as much as I used to.
I was afflicted at birth with a need to understand myself and the world. Dreaming of a better world is something I have always done. More’s Utopia didn’t sound like much fun. The people worked too hard, spent their little leisure in honest and laudable pastimes, but were docile and controlled, not spirited and free. However, I found it striking that he imagined Utopia as a real place, rather than as a set of principles. From an early age, I have had an impulse to write things down and I wrote to a friend about my thoughts on a perfect society when still a schoolboy…
“Don’t you think it would be possible to have a large house, really big, you know, and all the people one likes best live together? All in the one house? Oh, plenty of room inside and out, of course, but a sort of centre where one could always find those one wanted, a place all of us could come to as a home. I think it would be heaps nicer than to be all scattered and apart. Besides, there’d always be someone one liked near at hand. I know I should love something of the sort. Haven’t you often felt sad at the thought of the gradual breakup of families or groups of friends like ours? I have, and it could be avoided if we had the means.”
More’s vision rose from the converging streams of the artistic Renaissance, the age of discovery and the print revolution. A post-war, post-pandemic modern world in the middle of a communications and technological revolution is a time to take stock, make plans. Consider the seed; how it stays dormant until conditions are favourable. It is almost time for action, for renewal of my youthful vision. If I find what I think I will in New Mexico, we should invite all our friends to join us with the intention of creating a new society. Everyone must do things. Cook and clean and build and make what we need and grow flowers and vegetables. Others may copy us. The first law will be that there are no laws and the second that all men and women shall have the right to food, shelter, and knowledge and the right to mate freely. Our religion will be a religion of the blood and the flesh and of warm, human contact. We will use the new technologies but follow our instincts as much as our intellects. If we can always be our best selves, it would be the finest way to live. In time we may even regain contact with the lost world of the senses.
I hope the landscape of New Mexico will yield its secrets to me. Whatever I write there will be shaped by the landscape. My work has always been concerned with love and sex and death and the more I am vilified and persecuted, the more passionate I become about it. Nothing I see or feel will ever be beyond the reach of my pen.
Yours, DH Lawrence, April 4th, 1922
PS My best supporter in England, Forster, thinks I’ll still be read in a hundred years when every other modern writer is forgotten. A hundred years! By then the reading public, if it still exists, will wonder what all the fuss was about.