The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Oread” is a six-line poem. In Greek mythology, an oread is a wood nymph. By giving the poem this title, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) frames it as an address by the wood nymph to the sea. Although there is no “I,” the poem’s first-person point of view is further suggested by many of the descriptive words themselves. For example, the second line orders the sea to “whirl your pointed pines,” and the third line repeats the image with “splash your great pines.” Clearly, the ocean has waves, not pines, yet the waves could be referred to as trees if the oread was speaking and transposed the objects with which she is familiar onto something different. Similarly, the last line uses the image “pools of fir”; again, the reader has the sense of the oread addressing the sea through her frame of reference.

Through this action of speaking, the poem creates a picture of the wood nymph standing on the rocks, addressing the sea. What is important, though, is that the oread is not speaking in singular terms; for example, line 4 states “on our rocks” rather than “on my rocks.” This plural form is not only consistent with the first person point of view (that is, it is “our rocks” rather than “their rocks”), but also adds another visual element to the poem. Although it is only one oread speaking, the plural possessive implies either many oreads or many trees. Either way, the picture created is one of thick forests and jagged coastlines, the...

(The entire section is 402 words.)