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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 61

H(ilda) D(oolittle) 1886–1961

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An American poet connected with the Imagist school, H. D. wrote poetry infused with the rhythm of emotionally charged speech. She was greatly affected by the terror of the Second World War, a fact evidenced in the tone of desolation in her poetry, notably the group of poems known as her "War Trilogy." (See also CLC, Vols. 3, 8.)

Denise Levertov

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 838

Like so many others, I was for years familiar only with a handful of H. D.'s early poems, "Peartree," "Orchard," "Heat," "Oread." Beautiful though they were, they did not lead me to look further, at the time. Perhaps it was that being such absolutes of their kind they seemed final, the end of some road not mine; and I was looking for doors, ways in, tunnels through.

When I came, late, to her later work, not searching but by inevitable chance, what I found was precisely doors, ways in, tunnels through. One of these later poems, "The Moon in Your Hands," says:

       If you take the moon in your hands
       and turn it round
       (heavy slightly tarnished platter)
       you're there;

This was to find not a finality but a beginning. The poem ends with that sense of beginning…. In "Sagesse" the photograph of an owl—a White Faced Scops Owl from Sierra Leone, which is reproduced along with the poem—starts a train of thought and feeling which leads poet and reader far back into childhood, by way of word origins and word-sound associations, and back again to a present more resonant, more full of possibilities and subtle awareness, because of that journey. The interpenetration of past and present, of mundane reality and intangible reality, is typical of H. D. For me this poem (written in 1957) was an introduction to the world of the Trilogy—The Walls Do Not Fall (1944), Tribute to the Angels (1945), The Flowering of the Rod (1946). (pp. 244-45)

What was it I discovered, face to face at last with the great poetry of H. D.'s maturity? What was—is—the core of the experience? I think this is it: that the icily passionate precision of the earlier work, the "Greek" vision, had not been an end, a closed achievement, but a preparation: so that all the strength built up, poem by poem, as if in the bones, in the remorseless clear light of that world … was there, there to carry darkness and mystery and the questions behind questions when she came to that darkness and those questions. She showed a way to penetrate mystery; which means, not to flood darkness with light so that darkness is destroyed, but to enter into darkness, mystery, so that it is experienced. And by darkness I don't mean evil; not evil but the Other Side, the Hiddenness before which man must shed his arrogance; Sea out of which the first creeping thing and Aphrodite emerge…. (pp. 245-46)

The "style"—or since style too often means manner, I would rather say the mode, the means—is invisible: or no, not invisible but transparent, something one both sees and sees through, like hand-blown glass of the palest smoke-color or the palest water-green. And in this transparent mode H. D. spoke of essentials. It is a simplicity not of reduction but of having gone further, further out of the circle of known light, further in toward an unknown center. Whoever wishes a particular example, let him read part VI of The Walls Do Not Fall…. (pp. 246-47)

After I had begun to know the later poems I returned to the Collected Poems of 1925 and saw them anew…. The poems I had thought of as shadowless were full of shadows, planes, movement: correspondences with what was to come. But I, and perhaps others of my generation, could come to realize this only through a knowledge of the after-work. (p. 247)

There is no poet from whom one can learn more about...

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H(ilda) D(oolittle) (Vol. 3)


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