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D.H. Lawrence

Last lesson
of the afternoon

Even more challenging questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 1 March 2014
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The poet is at the end of his tether. He is a teacher who has lost his zest for teaching.

Indeed, he can no longer see the point of attempting to drag his pack of unruly children into an appreciation of anything.

He makes the decision to give up and save his strength for himself. He will simply pass the time waiting for the bell to ring.


David Herbert Lawrence was born in Nottinghamshire in September 1885, the fourth child of an uneducated coal miner.

This working class background, together with constant friction with his illiterate and drunken father, provided him much material for his later poetry, novels and short stories.

He initially went to Beauvale Board School but then won a scholarship to attend Nottingham High School.

His first employment was as a junior clerk at a surgical appliances factory until forced to resign because of T.B. It was during his period of convalescence that he gained his extreme love for reading, writing and poetry.

From 1902 to 1906, he served as a student teacher in his hometown of Eastwood, whereupon he studied and acquired a teaching certificate from University College, Nottingham.

It was during those years that he wrote his first poems, some short stories, and a novel which was published as The White Peacock.

The young Lawrence hated teaching -- a theme made clear in his poem "Last Lesson of the Afternoon" -- but luckily his writing ability caught the eye of major publishers and enabled him to follow a professional career as a writer and an artist.

He achieved a massive reputation as a novelist and a poet. His most famous books were Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterly's Lover.

During the 1st World War, Lawrence was accused of spying for the Germans and was constantly harassed by the British authorities. As soon as the war ended, therefore, he left England to live in Italy -- where he wrote his now famous poem "Snake".

He died of T.B. in March 1930 while at a sanatorium in France. He was just 45 years of age.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart,
My pack of unruly hounds! I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.
  • Comment on the pertinence of the sustained metaphor of the "unruly hounds". In doing so, point to Lawrence's selection of words to underline this metaphor. (6)

[Need help?]

  • Why do you think Lawrence was so despairing of his learners? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on Lawrence's use of the words "haul them" and "urge them". (4)

[Need help?]

No longer now can I endure the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks; a full threescore
Of several insults of blotted pages, and scrawl
Of slovenly work they have offered me.
  • What is the effect of the alliteration in "endure the brunt of the books" and "scrawl of slovenly work"? How does it enhance the expression of the mood in which the poet finds himself? (6)

[Need help?]

So, shall I take
My last dear fuel of life to heap on my soul
And kindle my will to a flame that shall consume
Their dross of indifference; and take the toll
Of their insults in punishment? -- I will not!
  • Comment on the implication of Lawrence's question. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Is it possible to kindle a flame that would "consume their dross of indifference"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • When the poet asks whether he should take "the toll of their insults in punishment", he appears to be using the word "toll" in two or three different ways. Explain each these usages. (4)

[Need help?]

I will not waste my soul and my strength for this.
  • Lawrence uses the word "soul" twice, once here and once in Stanza 3. What is the implication of his doing so? (4)

[Need help?]

I do not, and will not; they won't and they don't; and that's all!
  • Comment on the emphasis placed on the words as a means by which the poet stresses his point. (4)

[Need help?]

I shall sit and wait for the bell
  • Comment on these final words as a wonderful example of climax. (4)

[Need help?]

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