Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Poetry - H.D.

Hilda Doolittle, who published as H.D., was one of the best-known Modernist poets of the early 20th century. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1886 & moved to London in 1911, where she lived for the rest of her life. She was involved in the Imagist movement, along with Ezra Pound & Richard Aldington, who she married although their marriage broke down during WWI.
She was interested in Greek mythology & this poem, Eurydice, reflects that in the story of the woman who married Orpheus. She was pursued by another man, stepped on a snake, was bitten, & died. Orpheus was so distraught that he attempted to bring her back from the Underworld with his music.
In one version of the story, Orpheus goes to the Underworld to bring Eurydice back & is allowed to do this as long as he doesn't look at her until they've reached the world again. Doubting that she's really there, Orpheus looks around just before the end of the journey & Eurydice is stranded in the Underworld forever.
My anthology only has this first section of the poem. You can read the rest here.

So you have swept me back,
I who could have walked with the live souls
above the earth,
I who could have slept among the live flowers
at last;

so for your arrogance
and your ruthlessness
I am swept back
where dead lichens drip
dead cinders upon moss of ash;

so for your arrogance
I am broken at last,
I who had lived unconscious,
who was almost forgot;

if you had let me wait
I had grown from listlessness
into peace,
if you had let me rest with the dead,
I had forgot you
and the past.


  1. Replies
    1. It is beautiful. Reminds me of that old ballad, The Unquiet Grave.

  2. Beautiful - she is so good with the contrast of symbols: flowers/cinders, etc.