The Poem

“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...

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Forms and Devices

H. D. is well-known for her use of ancient Greek imagery. Many critics have suggested that this imagery is a metaphor through which the poet discusses other issues of either emotional or political import. Therefore, the images of trees and water, and by extension, the entire landscape, can be seen as metaphorical. Since the poem lends itself so heavily to an imagistic reading, the entire poem can be read as metaphor.

This sense of the poem—and the poetic landscape—as metaphor is suggested by the metamorphosis that the images undergo. When one approaches the poem, he or she has an image of trees as a category and an image of ocean as a category; those two categories are clearly separate. By the second line, however, when the oread invokes the sea to “whirl your pointed pines,” the poem is beginning to blur those seemingly distinct categories. If one wants to maintain that trees and ocean are still separate, it is possible to say that the sound of waves crashing onto the rocks is similar to the sound of wind whipping the trees, or that the image of a wave rising has a shape similar to that of a tree. What is clear, though, is that the poem is, at the least, making connections between objects that are normally seen as having none.

In lines 2 and 3, even if the oread sees the waves as pine trees, the reader still sees waves and pine trees as separate. In line 5, however, the oread directs the sea to “hurl your green over us.” Green is...

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