H.D. Poetry

Hilda Doolittle is, in my opinion, one of the first ecofeminist writers. Her modernist writing enters into a space to challenge and decode gender issues through analyzing the body in relation to nature scenes. She explores a female identity through the pastoral in a way that challenges how it has been used in a typical male point of view. The poem Sheltered Garden in particular, demonstrates a relationship between nature and culture through the example of a confining ‘paradise’.

Sheltered Garden

  1. I have had enough.
  2. I gasp for breath.
  3. Every way ends, every road,
  4. every foot-path leads at last
  5. to the hill-crest —
  6. then you retrace your steps,
  7. or find the same slope on the other side,
  8. precipitate.
  9. I have had enough —
  10. border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
  11. herbs, sweet-cress.
  12. O for some sharp swish of a branch —
  13. there is no scent of resin
  14. in this place,
  15. no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
  16. aromatic, astringent —
  17. only border on border of scented pinks.
  18. Have you seen fruit under cover
  19. that wanted light —
  20. pears wadded in cloth,
  21. protected from the frost,
  22. melons, almost ripe,
  23. smothered in straw?
  24. Why not let the pears cling
  25. to the empty branch?
  26. All your coaxing will only make
  27. a bitter fruit —
  28. let them cling, ripen of themselves,
  29. test their own worth,
  30. nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
  31. to fall at last but fair
  32. with a russet coat.
  33. Or the melon —
  34. let it bleach yellow
  35. in the winter light,
  36. even tart to the taste —
  37. it is better to taste of frost —
  38. the exquisite frost —
  39. than of wadding and of dead grass.
  40. For this beauty,
  41. beauty without strength,
  42. chokes out life.
  43. I want wind to break,
  44. scatter these pink-stalks,
  45. snap off their spiced heads,
  46. fling them about with dead leaves —
  47. spread the paths with twigs,
  48. limbs broken off,
  49. trail great pine branches,
  50. hurled from some far wood
  51. right across the melon-patch,
  52. break pear and quince —
  53. leave half-trees, torn, twisted
  54. but showing the fight was valiant.
  55. O to blot out this garden
  56. to forget, to find a new beauty
  57. in some terrible
  58. wind-tortured place.

H.D.’s poetry presents a woman how has had enough of the beauty of the outdoors, the wild, and searches for a beauty that does not need to be so fragile. This kind of beauty without strength is stifling. The narrative of the poem shifts into a less nurturing and much more violent narrative in the end of the poem, where H.D. creates images for the reader to rethink conventional ideas of beauty and how it is defined in relation to nature. In the majority of H.D.’s poetry, she puts an emphasis on the female perspective of mythologies which have often left women without a voice. By using conventions of the pastoral, such as sweet pink flowers, she is able to critique the presumptions regarding women and express a much more realistic presentation of women.

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