Friday, July 07, 2006

Trilogy by a third

Well I've read through the first third of H.D.'s Trilogy, The Walls Do Not Fall, and have these comments from my notebook:

The parallel between ancient Egypt and ancient London is obvious.

...remember, o sword,
you are the younger brother, the latter-born

your Triumph, however exultant
must one day be over,

in the beginning
was the Word.

  • A book of couplets, except for the introductory poem.
  • Three sections: 1944 The Walls Do Not Fall, 1945 Tribute to the Angels, 1946 The Flowering of the Rod
  • In H.D.'s words: "Protection for the scribe seems to be the leit-motif" for the first section/book. See especially [8}.
  • Each section is 43 verses
  • H.D. weaves in the number "seven" (4+3=7)
  • Mixture of Eqyptian symbol with contemporary
  • Repetition in triplets:
Thoth, Hermes, the stylus,
the palette, the pen, the quill endure.

folio, manuscript, old parchment

beyond death: Mercury, Hermes, Thoth,
invented the script, letters palette

  • Repetition in twos:
So in our secretive, sly way
we are proud and chary

  • Words are divorced from the flesh, emotion, passion. All in the head - symbols, mythological representation, new icons born.
  • Back and forth invocation of the ancient past and the present.
  • Prose-like phrases, loss of the poetic, definitely not flowery.
  • Metaphors are obvious, figurative language is sparse.
  • Self-occupied, not necessarily written for the reader but H.D.'s own migrations across time and events. I imagine her writing in a flurry without revision or concern for readers.
  • Non-narrative. No tension. No height of the moment. Every verse is equal in its emotional weight, its conflict and its sense of aphoristic telling.
  • Clever use of slant rhyme and internal off rhymes.

H.D., closely associated with the Imagist school, and promoted by Pound in 1913, is here writing in a style that in certain ways is contrary to the demands of T.E. Hulme, the school's original master, who called for "absolutely accurate presentation and no verbiage."

F.S. Flint, also one of the earliest proponents of Imagism, laid out his rules, which reinforced the exactness that Hulme expressed: "To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation." (reminiscent of Hemingway's perfect word.)

The verses of Trilogy, written 30 years after the baptism of Imagism upon the poetic consciousness, stray in other ways from the original ideas. Take the concept of "image" central to that school, and clarified by Pound: "The point of Imagisme is that it does not use images as ornaments. The image is itself the speech." With H.D. words are abstractions rather than images. There is such an intense use of Latinate forms, which strike readers with a compulsion to "think" about the word as it is used, to intellectualize the content, and then after awhile, to reach a meaningful symbol or image. The affinity with natural forms as images, is absent for the most part. The poems that are expressive of natural elements are composed in the common language and lead to instant recognition - give images without the intermediary of thought. I end with this - one of my favorites from the first section of Trilogy.


Is ours lotus-tree
from the lotus-grove,

magnolia's heavy, heady, sleepy

or pomegranate
whose name decorates sonnets,

but either acid or over-ripe,
perfect only for the moment?

of all the flowering of the wood,
are we wild-almond, winter-cherry?

or are we pine or fir,
sentinel, solitary?

or cypress,

1 comment:

csperez said...

hello! found your blog while doing some research on HD. I am currently working on annotating the WAR TRILOGY and i think you might be interested...check it out on my blog: