The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

The Islands
By H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)


WHAT are the Islands to me,
what is Greece,
what is Rhodes, Samos, Chios,
what is Paros facing west,
what is Crete?

What is Samothrace,
rising like a ship,
what is Imbros redning the storm-waves
with its breast?

What is Naxos, Paros, Milos,
what the circle about Lycia,
what, the Cyclades’
white necklace?

What is Greece—
Sparta, rising like a rock,
Thebes, Athens,
what is Corinth?

What is Euboia
with its island violets,
what is Euboia, spread with grass,
set with swift shoals,
what is Crete?

What are the islands to me,
what is Greece?


What can love of land give to me
that you have not—
what do the tall Spartans know,
and gentler Attic folk?

What has Sparta and her women
more than this?

What are the islands to me
if you are lost—

What is Naxos, Tinos, Andros,
and Delos, the clasp
of the white necklace?


What can love of land give to me
that you have not,
what can love of strife break in me
that you have not?
Though Sparta enter Athens,
salt, rising to wreak terror
Thebes wrack Sparta,
each changes as water,
and fall back.


“What has love of land given to you
that I have not?”

I have questioned Tyrians
where they sat
on the black ships,
weighted with rich stuffs,
I have asked the Greeks
from the white ships,
and Greeks from ships whose hulks
lay on the wet sand, scarlet
with great beaks.

I have asked bright Tyrians
and tall Greeks—
“what has love of land given you?”

And they answered—“peace.”


But beauty is set apart,
beauty is cast by the sea,
a barren rock,
beauty is set about
with wrecks of ships,
upon our coasts, death keeps
the shallows—death waits
clutching toward us
from the deeps.

Beauty is set apart;
the winds that slash its beach,
swirl the coarse sand
upward toward the rocks.

Beauty is set apart
from the islands
and from Greece.


In my garden,
the winds have beaten
the ripe lilies;
in my garden, the salt
has wilted the first flakes
of young narcissus,
and the lesser hyacinth
and the salt has crept
under the leaves of the white hyacinth.

In my garden
even the wind-flowers lie fiat,
broken by the wind at last.


What are the islands to me
if you are lost,
what is Paros to me
if your eyes draw back,
what is Milos
if you take fright of beauty,
terrible, torturous, isolated,
a barren rack

What is Rhodes, Crete,
what is Paros facing west,
what, white Imbros?

What are the islands to me
if you hesitate,
what is Greece if you draw back
from the terror
and cold splendor of song
and its bleak sacrifice?


Was reminded of this poem by stone_princess in hms_surprise. I did my junior and senior thesis projects in college on the women of Modernism -- Margaret Anderson and The Little Review one year, women poets and the transformation of language the next -- and H.D was my very favorite.

We got about six inches of snow, the very powdery sort. I expect I shall be sledding presently with my children.

fileg pointed out this sexual identity meme which purports to explain one's habits based on the first letter of one's first name.

You are emotional and intense. When involved in a relationship, you throw your entire being into it. Nothing stops you; there are no holds barred. You are all consuming and crave someone who is equally passionate and intense. You believe in total sexual freedom. You are willing to try anything and everything. Your supply of sexual energy is inexhaustible. You also enjoy mothering your mate.

The Onion made me howl this morning with "Labor Secretary Has Her Hours Cut": "Deeming the move 'regrettable but necessary,' White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card announced Monday that Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's work hours will be scaled back to 30 per week starting Jan. 26." Also the main article, "Scientists Abandon AI Project After Seeing The Matrix", made me giggle too, especially Governor Schwarzenegger's opposition.

Golden Globes: Yeah, woo hoo, about time, but it feels like anti-climax. Then again if PJ had lost it would simply have felt frustrating, so I guess this is better. Will root for him at the Oscars but first I want M&C to get enough nominations to get disussions of a sequel going. I don't expect it to win anything so I won't be upset when it doesn't.

Boy there are a lot of us suffering from January malaise. Is there a support group?

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