Hilda Doolittle--American



Hilda Doolittle, H.D.
Hilda Doolittle, often known simply as H.D., was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1886. She attended Bryn Mawr and in 1911 traveled to Europe, where she was to remain the remainder of her life. She is closely associated with William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot. She went through analysis with Freud, and used techniques of psychoanalysis to inform her own writing. She was involved with the first magazine to discuss film, Close-Up, and a literary publication, Life and Letters Today. Doolittle was in London during the Blitz, and consequently suffered from PTSD for most of her adult life. Her primary poem during the war was “The Walls Do Not Fall,” an excerpt of which appears in this book.


Excerpts from the Walls Do Not Fall


Grant us strength to endure
a little longer,

now the heart's alabaster
is broken;
we would feed forever
on the amber honey-comb
of your remembered greeting,
but the old-self,
still half at-home in the world,
cries out in anger,
I am hungry, the children cry for food
and flaming stones fall on them;
our awareness leaves us defenseless;
O, for your Presence
among the fishing-nets
by the beached boats on the lake-edge;
when, in the drift of wood-smoke,
will you say again, as you said,
the baked fish is ready,
here is the bread?



Depth of the sub-conscious spews forth
too many incongruent monsters
and fixed indigestible matter
such as shell, pearl; imagery
done to death; perilous ascent,
ridiculous descent; rhyme, jingle,
overworked assonance, nonsense,
juxtaposition of words for words' sake,
without meaning, undefined; imposition,
deception, indecisive weather-vane;
disagreeable, inconsequent syllables,
too malleable, too brittle,
over-sensitive, under-definitive,
clash of opposites, fight of emotion
and sterile invention--
you find all this?
conditioned to the discrimination
of the colors of the lunar rainbow
and the outer layers of the feathers
of the butterfly's antennae,
we were caught up by the tornado
and deposited on no pleasant ground,
but we found the angle of incidence
equals the angle of reflection;
separated from the wandering stars
and the habits of the lordly fixed ones,
we noted that even the erratic burnt-out comet
has its peculiar orbit.



Let us measure defeat
in terms of bread and meat,
and continents
in relative extent of wheat
fields; let us not teach
what we have learned badly
and not profited by;
let us not concoct
healing potions for the dead,
nor invent
new colors
for blind eyes.



We have seen how the most amiable,
under physical stress,
become wolves, jackals,
mongrel curs;
we know further that hunger
may make hyenas of the best of us;
let us, therefore (though we do not forget
Love, the Creator,
her chariot and white doves),
entreat Hest,
Aset, Isis, the great enchantress,
in her attribute of Serqet,
the original great-mother,
who drove
harnessed scorpions
before her.