Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The integrity of H. D.’s poetics—that is, the fact that the abstract forms that she uses are consistent with the meanings that she wishes to communicate to her readers and audience—is clearly presented in the urgent and historic concerns of Trilogy. Like T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1943), Trilogy has always before it, as a source and as an unattainable goal, Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Unlike T. S. Eliot, however, H. D. reaches beyond the Eurocentric and Anglo-Christian to a larger and more global possibility of meaning.

In this large sense, the central theme of Trilogy is the validation of cultural redemption or resurrection. H. D. looks, for example, at the “pyramid of skulls” that represents Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion, and sees it instead as “a flowering cone.” It is then “not [simply] a heap of skulls.” She insists on its being “no poetic phantasy/ but a biological reality.” The narrative line of the last part of the poem, “The Flowering of the Rod,” moves from the devastation of the crucifixion to the redemption of the nativity, as H. D. designs a new mythic setting for these events. This is, indeed, the theme of the poem as a whole: The devastation of The Walls Do Not Fall foretells and contains within it the implication of recovery and rebirth. “The place of the skulls” is the place where Christ “redeems” the thief suffering beside him on a cross. Thus it is, for H. D., the place where the victims of outrage are somehow redeemed. She writes, “So the first—it is written,/ will be the twisted or the tortured individuals.” Moreover, “the first to receive the promise was a thief;/ the first...

(The entire section is 704 words.)