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Tortoise Shell

Written by: David Herbert Lawrence | Biography
 | Quotes (99) |
 The Cross, the Cross
Goes deeper in than we know,
Deeper into life;
Right into the marrow
And through the bone.
Along the back of the baby tortoise The scales are locked in an arch like a bridge, Scale-lapping, like a lobster's sections Or a bee's.
Then crossways down his sides Tiger-stripes and wasp-bands.
Five, and five again, and five again, And round the edges twenty-five little ones, The sections of the baby tortoise shell.
Four, and a keystone; Four, and a keystone; Four, and a keystone; Then twenty-four, and a tiny little keystone.
It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back Of the baby tortoise; Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet, Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise shell.
The first little mathematical gentleman Stepping, wee mite, in his loose trousers Under all the eternal dome of mathematical law.
Fives, and tens, Threes and fours and twelves, All the volte face of decimals, The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.
Turn him on his back, The kicking little beetle, And there again, on his shell-tender, earth-touching belly, The long cleavage of division, upright of the eternal cross And on either side count five, On each side, two above, on each side, two below The dark bar horizontal.
The Cross! It goes right through him, the sprottling insect, Through his cross-wise cloven psyche, Through his five-fold complex-nature.
So turn him over on his toes again; Four pin-point toes, and a problematical thumb-piece, Four rowing limbs, and one wedge-balancing head, Four and one makes five, which is the clue to all mathematics.
The Lord wrote it all down on the little slate Of the baby tortoise.
Outward and visible indication of the plan within, The complex, manifold involvednes,s of an individual creature Plotted out On this small bird, this rudiment, This little dome, this pediment Of all creation, This slow one.



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