Thomas Burnett Swann: On "Oread"

When it was first published, another poem in which the sea is personified, "Oread," was attacked by the enemies of Imagism. They objected to its irregular pattern, and thought that because its single image was devoid of ethical significance it was suitable only to begin a poem and was not a poem in itself. But as Imagism triumphed, "Oread" became one of its showpieces. Critics agreed that in its six short lines H. D. had suggested the sea's thunder and its cleansing powers. The sea here is equated with an immense oread, a nymph of the mountains, whose violence is a purification. (According to one interpretation, the poem compares mountains to sea, rather than the other way around.)

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.

Verbs which are also trochees, or the first syllables of trochees, begin all but one line. Placed as they are in a position of prominence and stress, with their sound alone they convey the surge of waves, and they also denote a surging movement of water. Images reinforce the work of the verbs: the sea not only splashes, it splashes waves like "great pines" and scatters "pools of fir."

From The Classical World of H.D. Copyright © 1962 by University of Nebraska Press.

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Criticism Overview
Title Thomas Burnett Swann: On "Oread" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Thomas Burnett Swann Criticism Target H(ilda) D(oolittle)
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 03 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Classical World of H.D.
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