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St. Mawr: The Phallic Beast  

Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 10 of 12

Two horses playing
Photo by Mathias Reding

In the tenth of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing in St. Mawr and Apocalypse.

Stephen Alexander

Stephen Alexander

Lawrence’s philosophy rests upon a notion of submission: not of the woman to the man – nor of the man to the woman – but of the personal to the impersonal; the egoic to the cosmic; the human to the inhuman and non-human. For often the phallic principle – or what Lawrence sometimes terms the Pan-spirit – is best witnessed in a solar storm, a flowering plant, or a sovereign beast, such as a red-golden stallion with brilliant black eyes and a large penis …

St. Mawr is the story of one woman’s pagan-erotic fascination with a horse. From the first moment that Lou Carrington sets eyes on St. Mawr, she is transfixed, transfigured, and turned-on by him and the dark invisible fire which he radiates. When she notices that he’s a stallion, she can’t help being a little afraid, even as she secretly dreams of being penetrated by him – like a Lawrentian Bodil Joensen.

When she touches his hot body, Lou feels an almost mystical connection with the inhuman masculinity he embodies. And when St. Mawr looks at her in a manner that her pale-faced and limp-dicked husband Rico never does, it’s almost like a god is looking at her from another world. If only men, she thinks, could be men in the same way that St. Mawr is a horse: brave, reckless, perhaps even a little cruel; pure animal men “as lovely as a deer or a leopard, burning like a flame fed straight from underneath”. For that’s how phallic power enters us, says Lawrence, not from above, but from behind and below.

Six years after completing St. Mawr, Lawrence returns to the figure of the horse in his final book, Apocalypse (1932), writing of its primordial importance as a symbol and reminding his readers that the Sons of God who came down and knew the Daughters of Men possessed the members of horses.

Suggested Reading:

D. H. Lawrence, ‘St. Mawr’, in St. Mawr and Other Stories, ed. Brian Finney, (CUP, 1983).

D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation, ed. Mara Kalnins, (CUP, 1980).

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