chapter  III
Abstraction and decay
Pages 6

The image of vegetable corruption no less than the image of growth witnesses to the dominance in the period of organicist habits of thought. Here we have something different from the charnel-house imageryunmodulated Gothic-that crops up fairly frequently in the earlier Shelley; and the something different is distinctively Romantic. But equally distinctive is the way images of corruption and vegetable decay modulate into images suggestive of tenuity and spirituality. The dead leaves suddenly become ghosts, a deprivation of substance which does not prevent their also being pestilence-stricken multitudes. With the wisdom of hindsight we see how this conjunction of the decaying and the disembodied anticipates important resonances in Women in Love, and we realize that Birkin’s vision of ‘knowledge in dissolution and corruption’ has a richer historical relevance than it appears at first sight to lay claim to.