Cassandra

By H. D. 1886–1961 H. D.
O Hymen king.

Hymen, O Hymen king,
what bitter thing is this?
what shaft, tearing my heart?
what scar, what light, what fire
searing my eye-balls and my eyes with flame?
nameless, O spoken name,
king, lord, speak blameless Hymen.

Why do you blind my eyes?
why do you dart and pulse
till all the dark is home,
then find my soul
and ruthless draw it back?
scaling the scaleless,
opening the dark?
speak, nameless, power and might;
when will you leave me quite?
when will you break my wings
or leave them utterly free
to scale heaven endlessly?

A bitter, broken thing,
my heart, O Hymen lord,
yet neither drought nor sword
baffles men quite,
why must they feign to fear
my virgin glance?
feigned utterly or real
why do they shrink?
my trance frightens them,
breaks the dance,
empties the market-place;
if I but pass they fall
back, frantically;
must always people mock?
unless they shrink and reel
as in the temple
at your uttered will.

O Hymen king,
lord, greatest, power, might,
look for my face is dark,
burnt with your light,
your fire, O Hymen lord;
is there none left
can equal me
in ecstasy, desire?
is there none left
can bear with me
the kiss of your white fire?
is there not one,
Phrygian or frenzied Greek,
poet, song-swept, or bard,
one meet to take from me
this bitter power of song,
one fit to speak, Hymen,
your praises, lord?

May I not wed
as you have wed?
may it not break, beauty,
from out my hands, my head, my feet?
may Love not lie beside me
till his heat
burn me to ash?
may he not comfort me, then,
spent of all that fire and heat,
still, ashen-white and cool
as the wet laurels,
white, before your feet
step on the mountain-slope,
before your fiery hand
lift up the mantle
covering flower and land,
as a man lifts,
O Hymen, from his bride,
(cowering with woman eyes,) the veil?
O Hymen lord, be kind.

By HD (Hilda Doolittle), from Collected Poems 1912-1944, copyright ©1982 by The Estate of Hilda Doolittle.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: Collected Poems 1912-1944 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1982)

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Poet H. D. 1886–1961

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Subjects Mythology & Folklore, Relationships, Nature, The Body, Heroes & Patriotism, Love, Realistic & Complicated, The Mind, Greek & Roman Mythology

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

 H.  D.

Biography

H.D.’s life and work recapitulate the central themes of literary modernism: the emergence from Victorian norms and certainties, the entry into an age characterized by rapid technological change and the violence of two great wars, and the development of literary modes which reflected the disintegration of traditional symbolic systems and the mythmaking quest for new meanings. H.D.’s oeuvre spans five decades of the twentieth . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Mythology & Folklore, Relationships, Nature, The Body, Heroes & Patriotism, Love, Realistic & Complicated, The Mind, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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