Albert Gelpi: On Trilogy, part 1 (The Walls Do Not Fall)

H.D.’s initial reaction to the explosion of war is to withdraw into the psyche as protective shell. In a poem early in The Walls Do Not Fall [#4] she becomes a shell-fish . . . a lowly oyster or clam or mollusc, whose cunning contrives survival in the jaws of Leviathan. . . . It was a strategy she first learned in the other war, yet learned that "there is a spell . . . in every sea-shell" which allows "that flabby, amorphous hermit" to quicken and flourish. So the shell-fish becomes an "egg in egg-shell," and the imagery of female gestation in The Walls Do Not Fall goes on to include the cocoon (anticipating Tribute to the Angels) and the myrrh-jar (anticipating The Flowering of the Rod). The enclosure is hermetic in a double sense: sealed and magical. The shell becomes an alchemical crucible within which "you beget, self-out-of-self, / selfless, / that pearl-of-great-price." So in the course of the poem the hermetic crucible splits in birth, as "my heart-shell / breaks open" to deliver the pearl, the precious oils, the bird, the butterfly–all images of the parthenogenetic self.

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Title Albert Gelpi: On Trilogy, part 1 (The Walls Do Not Fall) Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Albert Gelpi Criticism Target H(ilda) D(oolittle)
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 Feb 2022
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Re-membering the Mother: A Reading of H.D.’s Trilogy. H.D.
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