Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Sea. The basic symbolic contrast in the poems is between the sea and the land, the sea being treated as both nurturer and destroyer. Several of the collection’s most successful poems—such as “Sea Poppies” and “Sea Violet”—are set where the sea and the land intersect, among the pebbles, shells, and sandbanks of the shore. At times this struggle of beauty to survive at the borderline of elemental forces yields a brilliant metaphor, as in “Sea Violet,” in which a blossom catching the light on the edge of a sandhill is described as frost that a “star edges with its fire.”


Gardens. The poem “Sheltered Garden” laments the lack of a bracing environment in a garden that is too orderly and predictable: “there is no scent of resin/ in this place/ no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,/ aromatic, astringent—.” The pastoral landscape and tenor of most of the poems are echoed more than contrasted by the collection’s final poem, “Cities,” in which H. D. imagines “the maker of cities” and sees the process of urban growth and decay in organic terms, as stages in the life of a beehive.


Dictaeus. Mountain cave on the Mediterranean island of Crete where the infant god Zeus was reared by nymphs. The cave, along with the places that follow below, is mentioned in the poem “Acon.”

River Erymanthus

River Erymanthus (ir-a-MAN-thahs). Location of Heracles’ capture of the Erymanthian boar—one of his famous twelve labors.


*Arcadia. Region of Greece’s central Peloponnesian Peninsula that is traditionally associated with idyllic pastoral life. The speaker in “Acon” enjoins the dryads, nereids, and Pales (Roman divinity of shepherds and herdsmen) to bring offerings of the highest quality to the stricken Hyella: fruit from Arcadia, wine from Assyria, fine cloth from Phoenicia, and irises from Illyria.

Sea Garden Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. H. D.: The Career of That Struggle. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. A succinct summary of H. D.’s life and work from a feminist viewpoint. Includes a useful bibliography.

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H. D. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. An extensive study of H. D.’s development and influences, with a feminist and psychoanalytic focus.

Friedman, Susan Stanford, and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds. Signets: Reading H. D. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. A volume of reminiscences, tributes, and essays by friends, scholars, and poets.

Guest, Barbara. Herself Defined: The Poet H. D. and Her World. New York: Quill, 1984. An eminently readable, fascinating biography with fictional embellishments by an avant-garde poet who has read and researched H. D. with care and understanding.

H. D. Collected Poems, 1912-1944. Edited by Louis L. Martz. New York: New Directions, 1983. Vital for the serious reader of H. D., this book begins with all of Sea Garden. The introduction gives a good overview.