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‘The Walls Do Not Fall’: H. D.’s Trilogy, Modernism, and War

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads a wide-ranging poem about the Second World War

When H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and her then-husband Richard Aldington walked into a bomb-damaged house during the First World War, Aldington found an abandoned volume of Robert Browning’s poetry and kicked it across the room. What use was poetry in the face of such destruction? But poetry tends to endure in wartime: T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets would largely be written during the next world war, while H. D.’s own poetry would have a curious and poignant afterlife: sections of her poem ‘The Walls Do Not Fall’ (from her long poem Trilogy) were inscribed by an anonymous graffitist among the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11.

As Norman Holmes Pearson notes in his introduction to the Carcanet edition of Trilogy which I own, with this long poem – or trilogy of long poems – H. D. was trying to connect the communal experience of the Second World War with her own history and with history in general. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of John Clare’s ‘I love to see the summer beaming forth’

‘I love to see the summer beaming forth’ is a poem by the Romantic poet John Clare (1793-1864), although it’s not as famous as, say, ‘I Am’. But it’s a glorious evocation of the summertime, and deserves sharing here, with some notes towards an analysis.

I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lilies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o’er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘As imperceptibly as grief’

‘As imperceptibly as grief’ describes the passing of summer, which happens so slowly and subtly that it is almost missed. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it happens ‘as imperceptibly as Grief’, suggesting that something is coming to a close but brighter times are just coming into view. An unusual take on the onset of autumn, admittedly, but one of the many reasons why Emily Dickinson’s poems repay closer analysis: they avoid the obvious take on things, and offer a strikingly individual perspective on the natural world.

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away –
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy –
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon –
The Dusk drew earlier in –
The Morning foreign shone – Read the rest of this entry