Self Pity by D.H. Lawrence: Complete Meaning and Analysis

Cover image for the analysis of the poem Self Pity by D.H Lawrence.

The case of D.H Lawrence is a special one, and the poem Self Pity is perhaps a spawn of his life experience. Self-Pity by D.H. Lawrence is a short poem. By short we mean it is just four lines long.

But these four lines very gracefully condense the core of perhaps a thousand lines of his biography could not do. 

There are not many poets or artists in the world who had to suffer the weight of their talent. Either their art form brought the artist success and riches or it did not bring them anything at all. 

Self-Pity is something we are all familiar with. Painful and sharp memories covered with the burning sensation of regret are the parents of self-pity. In no way, it is something that any human would find enjoyable. 

Lawrence talks about the very emotion, but in a way that would take away the shame from people who experience self-pity. Let’s take a look at the poem and then at the analysis. It won’t take too long to get done with the poem. 

Self Pity by D.H Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing 

sorry for itself. 

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Like a fruit that looks very small yet it leaves a bitter-sweet taste in your mouth that can last for hours, “Self-Pity” is a poem that will start with a bitter taste but by the end, it will turn the bitterness into a sweet sensation. 

Analysis of the Poem

I never saw a wild thing 

sorry for itself. 

There is no need to analyze this poem with a magnifying glass. The poet has done the task of making it large enough for anyone to understand it. The first two lines are just a proclamation that the poet has never seen anyone or anything wild sorry for itself. 

What it claims is that if you are human, if you are gentle and loving, born and bred in a society, then self-pity is something that will come natural to you. You cannot run away from it. It is something that makes you human. 

Notice that the poet establishes the meaning of self-pity. He says that if someone feels sorry for himself or herself, there is nothing wrong with that. A life that is wild is incapable of feeling sorry for itself. 

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

without ever having felt sorry for itself.

The last two lines come very soon in this poem but they stay with us for a long time. Lawrence says that a bird will spend its entire life and yet not feel a morsel of remorse, or sorry for itself. 

Animals in the wild that mostly live off of their instinct are incapable of feeling such complex emotions. It is something that only a civilized human can feel. So if this feeling is such a complex feeling, why be ashamed of it? 

The Meaning of the Poem

The poem is meant for the people who feel sorry for themselves, for whatever reason, and then regret feeling this emotion. They actively try to reprimand themselves, trying to run away from the feeling of self-pity. 

Is it wrong to feel things that could have been done right, or perhaps a time that could have been spent well? Completely not. Humans are creatures capable of feeling such complex emotion. It is what makes us loving, empathetic, embracing. 

To not feel self-pity is a thing of the wild. It is when you do not feel any complex emotion and just spend days based on your instincts. That sort of wild existence is worthless for a human. 

Perhaps the poet would not want an analysis of this poem to be this long, since his intention was to deliver something important in something as small as possible. So paying respect to his intentions, let’s sum up the entire meaning of the poem in a few sentences.

There is nothing wrong in feeling sorry for oneself. It is what makes you human, and it is an emotion that pervades every other soul and heart. Embrace it, but do not dwell in it. Swim in it, but not drown in it. 


The reason why the author wrote this poem is beyond the scope of this article and frankly, everyone. But we can look at the life of the poet and extrapolate something to get a clear picture. 

D.H. Lawrence was a poet who was shunned and criticized by many for the obscenity and sexuality profusely present in his works. Critics of his time called his work vulgar, cheap, and worthless. 

Perhaps this harsh treatment of an artist’s work was the reason why the poet was a frequent visitor of self-pity, of feeling sorry for himself? But since his love for his work was more than the harsh words of the critics, he expressed what he felt in these four lines. 

We can only guess what went in the mind of Lawrence while he wrote these four lines. But we are almost certain about what the poet wanted the readers’ mind to think while reading this poem. 

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