Richard Gray: On "Oread"

Perhaps the first thing that strikes a reader about a poem like this is the absence of certain familiar elements. There are no similes, no symbols, no generalised reflections or didacticism, no rhymes, no regular metre, no narrative. One might well ask what there is, then and the answer would be a great deal. There is a pellucid clarity a diction, and a rhythm that is organic, intrinsic to the mood of the poem; there is a vivid economy of language, in which each word seems to have been carefully chiselled out of other contexts, and there is a subtle technique of intensification by repetition -- no phrase is remarkable in itself, perhaps, but there is a sense of rapt incantation, an enthralled dwelling on particular cadences that gives a hermetic quality, a prophetic power, to the whole. It is the entire poem that is experienced, not a striking line, a felicitous comparison, or an ingenious rhyme; the poem has become the unit of meaning and not the word, so each single word can remain stark, simple, and unpretentious. In 'Oread', the image that constitutes the poem becomes not merely a medium for describing a sensation but the sensation itself. The sea is the pinewood, the pinewood is the sea, the wind surrounds and inhabits both; and the Greek mountain-nymph of the title comprehends and becomes identified with all three elements. There is a dynamic and unified complex, an ecstatic fusion of natural and human energies; and the image represents the point of fusion, 'the precise instant' (to quote that remark of Pound's again) 'when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and, subjective'.

'Oread' is typical of H.D.'s work in many ways. 'I would be lonely', she once admitted, while living at the heart of literary London, 'but for the intensity of my . . . inner life'. And this became the subject of her work, from the early Imagist verse to the later, more oracular poems: the secret existence that cast her, in the midst of company, into permanent but willing exile, the ecstatic sense of inhabiting a borderline between land and ocean, outer world and inner, time and eternity. The earlier work (of which, of course, 'Oread' is an example) is what she is, perhaps, most well known for. Here, greatly influenced by classical Greek poetry, H.D. speaks in a taut and suggestive manner, emitting everything that is inessential, structurally or emotionally unimportant.

From American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. Copyright © 1990 by Longman Group UK Limited.

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Criticism Overview
Title Richard Gray: On "Oread" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Richard Gray Criticism Target H(ilda) D(oolittle)
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 03 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication American Poetry of the Twentieth Century
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