Oread (poem)

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Oread is a poem by Hilda Doolittle. Doolittle published her first poems under the name H. D. Imagiste. (The 'e' in "Imagiste was meant to suggest the French poets to whom Imagism owed such a debt. Later, she dropped the artificial surname and wrote as just plain H. D.)

Oread, one of her earliest and best-known poems, which was first published in the 1915 anthology, serves to illustrate this early style well. The title Oread was added after the poem was first written, to suggest that a Nymph was ordering up the sea.

Text[edit]

Whirl up, sea—
Whirl your pointed pines,
Splash your great pines
On our rocks,
Hurl your green over us—
Cover us with your pools of fir.


"Oread" as Imagist Poem[edit]

"Oread" may serve to illustrate some prominent features of Imagist poetry. Rejecting the rhetorics of Late Romanticism and Victorianism, the Imagists aimed at a renewal of language through extreme reduction. This reduction is what Ezra Pound had in mind, when he wrote, counseling future poets: "use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something".[1]

In this poem, the reduction is brought to such an extreme that two images are superimposed on each other, depriving the reader of the possibility to determine, which is the "primary" one. The two image domains relevant here are the sea and the forest. The Oread, apparently the speaker of the poem, expresses her wish that the sea unite with the land. But while from the first line it seems clear that the sea is addressed, the second line counters this impression with the "pointed pines" of a forest. The anaphoric link between the first two lines and the use of epistrophe in the second and third lines enhance the connection between the two domains and much the same might be said about the expression "pools of fir" in the last line.

Another way of putting this is to grasp the poem as one single metaphor. A metaphor usually consists of three elements: the "tenor" (target), a "vehicle" (source) and the "tertium comparationis" (some common ground that exists between target and source domain). Here, however, it is not possible to identify target and source beyond individual words. Both forest and sea might represent each of these two elements, and the green color of either forest and sea might be one plausible "tertium comparationis" for the metaphor.

In fusing the images of forest and sea in such a way, the poem seems to accomplish the speaker's wish of unison between sea and land. In doing so, it is however in danger of abolishing the specificity of each of them. Neither is the sea a forest, nor the other way around, as metaphor would seem to suggest. While presenting a forceful image, in the sense of Pound's definition ("an “Image” is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time" [2]), the poem seems to be shrewdly aware that linguistic representation will always distort and refract its referent.