HILDA DOOLITTLE


Enlarge Picture Born on September 10, 1886, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Hilda Doolittle was the daughter of an astronomer, and she was reared in the strict Moravian tradition of her mother’s family. She entered Bryn Mawr College in 1904 and while a student there formed friendships with Marianne Moore, a fellow student, and with Ezra Pound (to whom she was briefly engaged) and William Carlos Williams, who were at the nearby University of Pennsylvania. Ill health forced her to leave college in 1906. Five years later she traveled to Europe for what was to have been a vacation but became a permanent stay, mainly in England and Switzerland. Her first published poems, sent to Poetry magazine by Pound, appeared under the initials H.D., which remained thereafter her nom de plume. Other poems appeared in Pound’s anthology Des Imagistes (1914) and in the London journal The Egoist, edited by Richard AIthaca by Hilda Doolittle Over and back, the long waves crawl and track the sand with foam; night darkens, and the sea takes on that desperate tone of dark that wives put on when all their love is done. Over and back, the tangled thread falls slack, over and up and on; over and all is sewn; now while I bind the end, I wish some fiery friend would sweep impetuously these fingers from the loom. My weary thoughts play traitor to my soul, just as the toil is over; swift while the woof is whole, turn now, my spirit, swift, and tear the pattern there, the flowers so deftly wrought, the borders of sea blue, the sea-blue coast of home. The web was over-fair, that web of pictures there, enchantments that I thought he had, that I had lost; weaving his happiness within the stitching frame, weaving his fire and frame, I thought my work was done, I prayed that only one of those that I had spurned might stoop and conquer this long waiting with a kiss. But each time that I see my work so beautifully inwoven and would keep the picture and the whole, Athene steels my soul. Slanting across my brain, I see as shafts of rain his chariot and his shafts, I see the arrows fall, I see the lord who moves like Hector lord of love, I see him matched with fair bright rivals, and I see those lesser rivals flee. ldington, to whom she was married from 1913 to 1938. Doolittle was closely associated for much of her life with the British novelist Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman). H.D.’s first volume of verse, Sea Garden (1916), established her as an important voice among the radical young Imagist poets. Her subsequent volumes included Hymen (1921), Heliodora and Other Poems (1924), Red Roses for Bronze (1931), and a trilogy comprising The Walls Do Not Fall (1944), Tribute to the Angels (1945), and Flowering of the Rod (1946). Over the years her sharp, spare, classical, and rather passionless style took on rich mythological and mystic overtones. The Collected Poems of H.D. (1925 and 1940), Selected Poems of H.D. (1957), and Collected Poems 1912-1944 (1983) secured her position as a major 20th-century poet. She won additional acclaim for her translations (Choruses from the Iphigeneia in Aulis and the Hippolytus of Euripides [1919] and Euripides’ Ion [1937]), for her verse drama (Hippolytus Temporizes [1927]), and for such prose works as Palimpsest (1926), Hedylus (1928), and, posthumously, The Gift (1982). Several of her books were autobiographical–including Bid Me to Live (1960), Tribute to Freud (1974), and End to Torment (1979). Helen in Egypt a volume of verse, was her last book, appearing shortly after her death in Zürich, Switzerland, on September 27, 1961. Acon by Hilda Doolittle Bear me to Dictaeus, and to the steep slopes; to the river Erymanthus. I choose spray of dittany, cyperum, frail of flower, buds of myrrh, all-healing herbs, close pressed in calathes. For she lies panting, drawing sharp breath, broken with harsh sobs. she, Hyella, whom no god pities. Adonis by Hilda Doolittle 1. Each of us like you has died once, has passed through drift of wood-leaves, cracked and bent and tortured and unbent in the winter-frost, the burnt into gold points, lighted afresh, crisp amber, scales of gold-leaf, gold turned and re-welded in the sun; each of us like you has died once, each of us has crossed an old wood-path and found the winter-leaves so golden in the sun-fire that even the live wood-flowers were dark. 2. Not the gold on the temple-front where you stand is as gold as this, not the gold that fastens your sandals, nor thee gold reft through your chiselled locks, is as gold as this last year’s leaf, not all the gold hammered and wrought and beaten on your lover’s face. brow and bare breast is as golden as this: each of us like you has died once, each of us like you At Baia by Hilda Doolittle I should have thought in a dream you would have brought some lovely, perilous thing, orchids piled in a great sheath, as who would say (in a dream), “I send you this, who left the blue veins of your throat unkissed.” Why was it that your hands (that never took mine), your hands that I could see drift over the orchid-heads so carefully, your hands, so fragile, sure to lift so gently, the fragile flower-stuff– ah, ah, how was it You never sent (in a dream) the very form, the very scent, not heavy, not sensuous, but perilous–perilous– of orchids, piled in a great sheath, and folded underneath on a bright scroll, some word: “Flower sent to flower; for white hands, the lesser white, less lovely of flower-leaf,” or “Lover to lover, no kiss, no touch, but forever and ever this.” stands apart, like you fit to be worshipped.

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