D H Lawrence meant before the Great War, 1914-18. When he is not trying to be over intellectual and convey abstract ideas in poetry, when he is being human, as here, he is a better poet. We can surely all sympathise with his mixed emotions, as Christina and I discussed a while back. The Embankment would be described as a dyke or levee elsewhere; busy roads and broad footpaths run along it, under trees. Let’s not forget those people it is hard to help this Christmas.
By the river
In the black wet night as the furtive rain slinks down,
Dropping and starting from sleep
Alone on a seat
A woman crouches.
I must go back to her. I want to give her
Some money. Her hand slips out of the breast of her gown
Asleep. My fingers creep
Carefully over the sweet
Thumb-mound, into the palm’s deep pouches.
So, the gift! God, how she starts!
And looks at me, and looks in the palm of her hand!
And again at me!
I turn and run
Down the Embankment, run for my life.
But why?—why? Because of my heart’s
Beating like sobs, I come to myself, and stand
In the street spilled over splendidly
With wet, flat lights. What I’ve done
I know not, my soul is in strife.
The touch was on the quick. I want to forget.
” (from “New Poems” by D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885-1930)