Mornings in Mexico By D.H. Lawrence
Chapter 1 – CORASMIN AND THE PARROTS
One says Mexico: one means, after all, one little town away South in the Republic: and in this little town, one rather crumbly adobe house built round two sides of a garden patio: and of this house, one spot on the deep, shady veranda facing inwards to the trees, where there are an onyx table and three rocking-chairs and one little wooden chair, a pot with carnations, and a person with a pen. We talk so grandly, in capital letters, about Morning in Mexico. All it amounts to is one little individual looking at a bit of sky and trees, then looking down at the page of his exercise book.
It is a pity we don’t always remember this. When books come out with grand titles, like The Future of America, or The European Situation, it’s a pity we don’t immediately visualize a thin or a fat person, in a chair or in bed, dictating to a bob-haired stenographer or making little marks on paper with a fountain pen.
Still, it is morning, and it is Mexico. The sun shines. But then, during the winter, it always shines. It is pleasant to sit out of doors and write, just fresh enough and just warm enough. But then it is Christmas next week, so it ought to be just right.
There is a little smell of carnations, because they are the nearest thing. And there is a resinous smell of ocote wood, and a smell of coffee, and a faint smell of leaves, and of Morning, and even of Mexico. Because when all is said and done, Mexico has a faint, physical scent of her own, as each human being has. And this is a curious, inexplicable scent, in which there are resin and perspiration and sunburned earth and urine among other things.
And cocks are still crowing. The little mill where the natives have their own corn ground is puffing rather languidly. And because some women are talking in the entrance-way, the two tame parrots in the trees have started to whistle.
The parrots, even when I don’t listen to them, have an extraordinary effect on me. They make my diaphragm convulse with little laughs, almost mechanically. They are a quite commonplace pair of green birds, with bits of bluey red, and round, disillusioned eyes, and heavy, overhanging noses. But they listen intently. And they reproduce. The pair whistle now like Rosalino, who is sweeping the patio with a twig broom; and yet it is so unlike him, to be whistling full vent, when any of us is around, that one looks at him to see. And the moment one sees him, with his black head bent rather drooping and hidden as he sweeps, one laughs.
The parrots whistle exactly like Rosalino, only a little more so. And this little-more-so is extremely sardonically funny. With their sad old long-jowled faces and their flat disillusioned eyes, they reproduce Rosalino and a little-more-so without moving a muscle. And Rosalino, sweeping the patio with his twig broom, scraping and tittering leaves into little heaps, covers himself more and more with the cloud of his own obscurity. He doesn’t rebel. He is powerless. Up goes the wild, sliding Indian whistle into the morning, very powerful, with an immense energy seeming to drive behind it. And always, always a little more than life-like.
Then they break off into a cackling chatter, and one knows they are shifting their clumsy legs, perhaps hanging on with their beaks and clutching with their cold, slow claws, to climb to a higher bough, like rather raggedy green buds climbing to the sun. And suddenly the penetrating, demonish mocking voices:
‘Perro! Oh, Perro! Perr-rro! Oh, Perr-rro! Perro!’
They are imitating somebody calling the dog. Perro means dog. But that any creature should be able to pour such a suave, prussic-acid sarcasm over the voice of a human being calling a dog, is incredible. One’s diaphragm chuckles involuntarily. And one thinks: Is it possible? Is it possible that we are so absolutely, so innocently, so ab ovo ridiculous?
And not only is it possible, it is patent. We cover our heads in confusion.
Now they are yapping like a dog: exactly like Corasmin. Corasmin is a little fat, curly white dog who was lying in the sun a minute ago, and has now come into the veranda shade, walking with slow resignation, to lie against the wall near-by my chair. ‘Yap-yap-yap! Wouf! Wouf! Yapyapyapyap!’ go the parrots, exactly like Corasmin when some stranger comes into the zaguán, Corasmin and a little-more-so.
With a grin on my face I look down at Corasmin. And with a silent, abashed resignation in his yellow eyes, Corasmin looks up at me, with a touch of reproach. His little white nose is sharp, and under his eyes there are dark marks, as under the eyes of one who has known much trouble. All day he does nothing but walk resignedly out of the sun, when the sun gets too hot, and out of the shade, when the shade gets too cool. And bite ineffectually in the region of his fleas.
Poor old Corasmin: he is only about six, but resigned, unspeakably resigned. Only not humble. He does not kiss the rod. He rises in spirit above it, letting his body lie.
‘Perro! Oh, Perr-rro! Perr-rro! Perr-rr-rro!!’ shriek the parrots, with that strange penetrating, antediluvian malevolence that seems to make even the trees prick their ears. It is a sound that penetrates one straight at the diaphragm, belonging to the ages before brains were invented. And Corasmin pushes his sharp little nose into his bushy tail, closes his eyes because I am grinning, feigns to sleep and then, in an orgasm of self-consciousness, starts up to bite in the region of his fleas.
‘Perr-rro! Perr-rro!’ And then a restrained, withheld sort of yapping. The fiendish rolling of the Spanish ‘r’, malevolence rippling out of all the vanished spiteful aeons. And following it, the small, little-curly-dog sort of yapping. They can make their voices so devilishly small and futile, like a little curly dog. And follow it up with that ringing malevolence that swoops up the ladders of the sunbeams right to the stars, rolling the Spanish ‘r’.
Corasmin slowly walks away from the veranda, his head drooped, and flings himself down in the sun. No! He gets up again, in an agony of self-control, and scratches the earth loose a little, to soften his lie. Then flings himself down again.
Invictus! The still-unconquered Corasmin! The sad little white curly pendulum oscillating ever slower between the shadow and the sun.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud, Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
But that is human bombast, and a little too ridiculous even for Corasmin. Poor old Corasmin’s clear yellow eyes! He is going to be master of his own soul, under all the vitriol those parrots pour over him. But he’s not going to throw out his chest in a real lust of self-pity. That belongs to the next cycle of evolution.
I wait for the day when the parrots will start throwing English at us, in the pit of our stomachs. They cock their heads and listen to our gabble. But so far they haven’t got it. It puzzles them. Castilian, and Corasmin, and Rosalino come more natural.
Myself, I don’t believe in evolution, like a long string hooked on to a First Cause, and being slowly twisted in unbroken continuity through the ages. I prefer to believe in what the Aztecs called Suns: that is, Worlds successively created and destroyed. The sun itself convulses, and the worlds go out like so many candles when somebody coughs in the middle of them. Then subtly, mysteriously, the sun convulses again, and a new set of worlds begins to flicker alight.
This pleases my fancy better than the long and weary twisting of the rope of Time and Evolution, hitched on to the revolving hook of a First Cause. I like to think of the whole show going bust, bang!–and nothing but bits of chaos flying about. Then out of the dark, new little twinklings reviving from nowhere, nohow.
I like to think of the world going pop! when the lizards had grown too unwieldy, and it was time they were taken down a peg or two. Then the little humming birds beginning to spark in the darkness, and a whole succession of birds shaking themselves clean of the dark matrix, flamingoes rising upon one leg like dawn commencing, parrots shrieking about at midday, almost able to talk, then peacocks unfolding at evening like the night with stars. And apart from these little pure birds, a lot of unwieldy skinny-necked monsters bigger than crocodiles, barging through the mosses; till it was time to put a stop to them. When someone mysteriously touched the button, and the sun went bang, with smithereens of birds bursting in all directions. On a few parrots’ eggs and peacocks’ eggs and eggs of flamingoes smuggling in some safe nook, to hatch on the next Day, when the animals arose.
Up reared the elephant, and shook the mud off his back. The birds watched him in sheer stupefaction. What? What in heaven’s name is this wingless, beakless old perambulator?
No good, oh birds! Curly, little white Corasmin ran yapping out of the undergrowth, the new undergrowth, till parrots, going white at the gills, flew off into the ancientest recesses. Then the terrific neighing of the wild horse was heard in the twilight for the first time, and the bellowing of lions through the night.
And the birds were sad. What is this? they said. A whole vast gamut of new noises. A universe of new voices.
Then the birds under the leaves hung their heads and were dumb. No good our making a sound, they said. We are superseded.
The great big, booming, half-naked birds were blown to smithereens. Only the real little feathery individuals hatched out again and remained. This was a consolation. The larks and warblers cheered up, and began to say their little say, out of the old ‘Sun’, to the new sun. But the peacock, and the turkey, and the raven, and the parrot above all, they could not get over it. Because, in the old days of the Sun of Birds, they had been the big guns. The parrot had been the old boss of the flock. He was so clever.
Now he was, so to speak, up a tree. Nor dare he come down, because of the toddling little curly white Corasmin, and such-like, down below. He felt absolutely bitter. That wingless, beakless, featherless, curly, misshapen bird’s nest of a Corasmin had usurped the face of the earth, waddling about, whereas his Grace, the heavy-nosed old Duke of a parrot, was forced to sit out of reach up a tree, dispossessed.
So, like the riff-raff up in the gallery at the theatre, aloft in the Paradiso of the vanished Sun, he began to whistle and jeer. ‘Yap-yap!’ said his new little lordship of a Corasmin. ‘Ye Gods!’ cried the parrot. ‘Hear him forsooth! Yap-yap! he says! Could anything be more imbecile? Yap-yap! Oh, Sun of the Birds, hark at that! Yap-yap-yap! Perro! Perro! Perr-rro! Oh, Perr-rr-rro!’
The parrot had found his cue. Stiff-nosed, heavy-nosed old duke of the birds, he wasn’t going to give in and sing a new song, like those fool brown thrushes and nightingales. Let, them twitter and warble. The parrot was a gentleman of the old school. He was going to jeer now! Like an ineffectual old aristocrat.
‘Oh, Perr-rro! Perr-rro-o-o-!’
The Aztecs say there have been four Suns and ours is the fifth. The first Sun, a tiger, or a jaguar, a night-spotted monster of rage, rose out of nowhere and swallowed it, with all its huge, mercifully forgotten insects along with it. The second Sun blew up in a great wind: that was when the big lizards must have collapsed. The third Sun burst in water, and drowned all the animals that were considered unnecessary, together with the first attempts at animal men.
Out of the floods rose our own Sun, and little naked man. ‘Hello!’ said the old elephant. ‘What’s that noise?’ And he pricked his ears, listening to a new voice on the face of the earth. The sound of man, and words for the first time. Terrible, unheard-of sound. The elephant dropped his tail and ran into the deep jungle, and there stood looking down his nose.
But little white curly Corasmin was fascinated. ‘Come on! Perro! Perro!’ called the naked two-legged one. And Corasmin, fascinated, said to himself: ‘Can’t stand out against that name. Shall have to go!’ so off he trotted, at the heels of the naked one. Then came the horse, then the elephant, spell-bound at being given a name. The other animals ran for their lives and stood quaking.
In the dust, however, the snake, the oldest dethroned king of all, bit his tail once more and said to himself: ‘Here’s another! No end to these new lords of creation! But I’ll bruise his heel! Just as I swallow the eggs of the parrot, and lick to the little Corasmin pups.’
And in the branches, the parrot said to himself: ‘Hello! What’s this new sort of half-bird? Why, he’s got Corasmin trotting at his heels! Must be a new sort of boss! Let’s listen to him, and see if I can’t take him off.’
Perr-rro! Perr-rr-rro-oo! Oh, Perro!
The parrot had hit it.
And the monkey, cleverest of creatures, cried with rage when he heard men speaking. ‘Oh, why couldn’t I do it!’ he chattered. But no good, he belonged to the old Sun. So he sat and gibbered across the invisible gulf in time, which is the ‘other dimension’ that clever people gas about: calling it ‘fourth dimension’, as if you could measure it with a foot-rule, the same as the obedient other three dimensions.
If you come to think of it, when you look at the monkey, you are looking straight into the other dimension. He’s got length and breadth and height all right, and he’s in the same universe of Space and Time as you are. But there’s another dimension. He’s different, There’s no rope of evolution linking him to you, like a navel string. No! Between you and him there’s a cataclysm and another dimension. It’s no good. You can’t link him up. Never will. It’s the other dimension.
He mocks at you and gibes at you and imitates you.
Sometimes he is even more like you than you are yourself. It’s funny, and you laugh just a bit on wrong your face. It’s the other dimension.
He stands in one Sun, you in another. He whisks his tail in one Day, you scratch your head in another. He jeers at you, and is afraid of you. You laugh at him and are frightened of him.
What’s the length and the breadth, what’s the height and the depths between you and me? says monkey.
You get out a tape-measure, and he flies into an obscene mockery of you.
It’s the other dimension, put the tape-measure away, it won’t serve.
‘Perro! Oh, Perr-rro!’ shrieks the parrot.
Corasmin looks up at me, as much as to say:
‘It’s the other dimension. There’s no help for it. Let us agree about it.’
And I look down into his yellow eyes, and say:
‘You’re quite right, Corasmin, it’s the other dimension. You and I, we admit it. But the parrot won’t, and the monkey won’t, and the crocodile won’t, neither the earwig. They all wind themselves up and wriggle inside the cage of the other dimension, hating it. And those that have voices jeer, and those that have mouths bite, and the insects that haven’t even mouths, they turn up their tails and nip with them, or sting, Just behaving according to their own dimension: which, for me, is the other dimension.’
And Corasmin wags his tail mildly, and looks at me with real wisdom in his eyes. He and I, we understand each other in the wisdom of the other dimension.
But the flat, saucer-eyed parrot won’t have it. Just won’t have it.
‘Oh, Perro! Perr-rro! Perr-rro-o-o-o! Yap-yap-yap!’
And Rosalino, the Indian mozo, looks up at me with his eyes veiled by their own blackness. We won’t have it either: he is hiding and repudiating. Between us also is the gulf of the other dimension, and he wants to bridge it with the foot-rule of the three-dimensional space. He knows it can’t be done. So do I. Each of us knows the other knows.
But he can imitate me, even more than life-like. As the parrot can him. And I have to laugh at his me, a bit on the wrong side of my face, as he has to grin on the wrong side of his face when I catch his eye as the parrot is whistling him, With a grin, with a laugh we pay tribute to the other dimension. But Corasmin is wiser. In his clear, yellow eyes is the self-possession of full admission.
The Aztecs said this world, our Sun, would blow up from inside, in earthquakes. Then what will come, in the other dimension, when we are superseded?Share It