The triumph of the machine.


They talk of triumph of the machine,
but the machine will never triumph.

Out of the thousands and thousands of centuries of man
the unrolling of ferns, white tongues of the acanthus lapping at the sun,
for one sad century
machines have triumphed, rolled us hither and thither,
shaking the lark’s nest till the eggs have broken.

Shaken the marshes, till the geese have gone
and the wild swans flown away singing the swan-song at us.

Hard, hard on the earth the machines are rolling,
but through some hearts they will never roll.

The lark nests in his heart
and the white swan swims in the marshes of his loins,
and through the wide prairies of his breast a young bull herds his cows,
lambs frisk among the daisies of his brain.

And at last
all these creatures that cannot die, driven back
into the uttermost corners of the soul,
will send up the wild cry of despair.

The thrilling lark in a wild despair will trill down arrows from the sky,
the swan will beat the waters in rage, white rage of an enraged swan,
even the lambs will stretch forth their necks like serpents,
like snakes of hate, against the man in the machine:
even the shaking white poplar will dazzle like splinters of glass against him.

And against this inward revolt of the native creatures of the soul
mechanical man, in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be powerless, for no engine can reach into the marshes and depths of a man.

So mechanical man in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be driven mad from within himself, and sightless, and on that day
the machines will turn to run into one another
traffic will tangle up in a long-drawn-out crash of collision
and engines will rush at the solid houses, the edifice of our life
will rock in the shock of the mad machine, and the house will come down.

Then, far beyond the ruin, in the far, in the ultimate, remote places
the swan will lift up again his flattened, smitten head
and look round, and rise, and on the great vaults of his wings
will sweep round and up to greet the sun with a silky glitter of a new day
and the lark will follow trilling, angerless again,
and the lambs will bite off the heads of the daisies for very friskiness.
But over the middle of the earth will be the smoky ruin of iron
the triumph of the machine.

-D.H. Lawrence

4 thoughts on “The triumph of the machine.

  1. This is very timely for me. With all the AI talk lately, I’ve become increasingly agitated by thoughts of what the future might hold. It’s challenged my faith and what I believe to be true. I realized yesterday that what’s happening in my mind is that I’m allowing AI to take on greatness that belongs only to God. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could not decide if this left a stronger feeling of victory or warning. You must know first I am terribly concerned…not worried…about AI and this poem made my brain go that route.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This brought to mind a much earlier poem: William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence.” The concerns, and the tone, are much the same, although the machines they evoke differ substantially. I’d not come across this poem, and very much appreciate you posting it. From my perspective, the time for refusal has come: despite the voices saying, “You must be part of this new world,” it’s possible to live outside it in a modern version of the catacombs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t remember reading this poem before but my word if Lawrence were alive today he would feel even more stricken. I admit to going from laughing about AI at first to realizing it’s no joking matter, what with my husband’s “I told you so” in my ears lately. The swans in flight picture? Oh what that does to my heart after reading the poem. I will try to keep in mind what your commenter Silvana wrote above. Actually, as I wrote that last sentence and reread her comment I felt a strong soaring happiness. God is still in control, even now!

    Liked by 1 person

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