T. E. Lawrence

(Lawrence of Arabia)...A Poem



A man of no specific place or time,

fits timeless freedom best and desert space;

does not belong to bureaucratic zone.

Poet, stranger, writer, raider, fighter;

beacon, rare man of sensibility;

sees nature's beauty only artists see;

while military planner's eye assays

mountain pass, oasis, dune and wadi.

Tribal factions form camel cavalry

by magnet of his personality.


From green England to Arab heat and grit --

that match a birth-marked searing of the soul --

he fights the Turk and rigid army mind,

discarding London olive drab -- a world --

for shining robes of dashing desert prince.

Lawrence sets charges, blows up trains and bridges,

ambushes Aquaba, invincible

by sea; attacks by surprise from the rear,

crossing waste-land Arabs do not try;

becomes a lasting legend while he lives.


Mankind, in horror, requiring romance,

finds something clean in distant desert sand

and fair-skinned Englishman who lives and fights

in arid clime like native Bedouin.

It sees new paintings by old Delacroix,

plunging horses designed with arching necks,

bright, curving scimitars victorious

over lions baroque in dazzled sands.

Enigmatic, a pallid sphinx, sharif

reborn, created in the Middle East.


He is splendor to sunless Englishmen;

Apollo, an Arab toreador

immobile before the thundering beast,

muleta calmly golden by his side,

sword gleaming in his hand. So exotic;

a pale rider of the Apocalypse.

The savaged earth must feel alive in death.

The boon is simple, clear and his to give...

a numinous palace of fantasy,

wish and dream erected on his eminence.


The war is won, he has no place...again.

He does not fit a rigor mortis world.

A king without a kingdom or a throne --

except within -- would rather play the pawn,

gain precious time, re-inspire a nomad's

baffled life and brilliant mind. How survive

another kind of waste-land as colonel

on the general staff, in the mess, suffer

-- an odd, caged specimen -- the searching looks

and empty khaki jocularity?


He tries to hide, resolve too-solid flesh,

a private in the ranks, drift, change his name,

find himself, perhaps, with any bit of luck;

slow-carve a niche that he may occupy

with peace of mind and decency...somewhere

in a decomposing, twilight empire.

Discovered, Hamlet of the R. A. F.

rides his red motorcycle for relief,

the way he rode a camel. I wonder,

does he envision dunes on tarmac roads?


A fatal crash ends the odyssey.

Startled roadside larks watch Lawrence die.

Are there ever really accidents? Did he

-- do we -- through random opportunity

shrewdly circumvent worse catastrophe...

three-ring circus by Barnum and Bailey,

crass Ripley's grotesque "Believe It Or Not"?

If shape of mind and soul conflict, diverge,

won't fit the body and society,

most must seek an end of pain, safely flee,

make tracks for farther principality.


Copyright by Don Gray


Don Gray Art  •  Poems