A poem by T.E. Lawrence

Tooling on the cover of the first public printing of 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom', showing twin scimitars and the legend: "the sword also means clean-ness + death"

Tooling on the cover of the first public printing of ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, showing twin scimitars and the legend: “the sword also means clean-ness + death”

The poem serves as a dedication in T.E. Lawrence’s book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which was first published by Lawrence in 1922. The poem was heavily edited by Robert Graves. It has always stayed with me. Just now I found myself describing someone wanting to ‘write his will across the sky and stars’, and I looked up the poem. I still find it wonderfully sad:

I loved you, so I drew these tides of
Men into my hands
And wrote my will across the
Sky and stars
To earn you freedom, the seven
Pillared worthy house,
That your eyes might be
Shining for me
When I came

Death seemed my servant on the
Road, ’til we were near
And saw you waiting:
When you smiled and in sorrowful
Envy he outran me
And took you apart:
Into his quietness

Love, the way-weary, groped to your body,
Our brief wage
Ours for the moment
Before Earth’s soft hand explored your shape
And the blind
Worms grew fat upon
Your substance

Men prayed me that I set our work,
The inviolate house,
As a memory of you
But for fit monument I shattered it,
Unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch
Themselves hovels
In the marred shadow
Of your gift.

One thought on “A poem by T.E. Lawrence

  1. Joydeep Sircar

    Though TEL was born in Wales, it took a real Welshman, Graves, with an innate gift of music to transmute the awkward original to this unforgettable gem. I do not remember the book where I saw the original and Graves’ masterly edit , but it was a revelation.

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