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Short poem

H. D. (Hilda Doolittle; 1886-1961)


O Hymen king.

              1Hymen, O Hymen king,
              2what bitter thing is this?
              3what shaft, tearing my heart?
              4what scar, what light, what fire
              5searing my eye-balls and my eyes with flame?
              6nameless, O spoken name,
              7king, lord, speak blameless Hymen.

              8Why do you blind my eyes?
              9why do you dart and pulse
            10till all the dark is home,
            11then find my soul
            12and ruthless draw it back?
            13scaling the scaleless,
            14opening the dark?
            15speak, nameless, power and might;
            16when will you leave me quite?
            17when will you break my wings
            18or leave them utterly free
            19to scale heaven endlessly?

            20A bitter, broken thing,
            21my heart, O Hymen lord,
            22yet neither drought nor sword
            23baffles men quite,
            24why must they feign to fear
            25my virgin glance?
            26feigned utterly or real
            27why do they shrink?
            28my trance frightens them,
            29breaks the dance,
            30empties the market-place;
            31if I but pass they fall
            32back, frantically;
            33must always people mock?
            34unless they shrink and reel
            35as in the temple
            36at your uttered will.

            37O Hymen king,
            38lord, greatest, power, might,
            39look for my face is dark,
            40burnt with your light,
            41your fire, O Hymen lord;
            42is there none left
            43can equal me
            44in ecstasy, desire?
            45is there none left
            46can bear with me
            47the kiss of your white fire?
            48is there not one,
            49Phrygian or frenzied Greek,
            50poet, song-swept, or bard,
            51one meet to take from me
            52this bitter power of song,
            53one fit to speak, Hymen,
            54your praises, lord?

            55May I not wed
            56as you have wed?
            57may it not break, beauty,
            58from out my hands, my head, my feet?
            59may Love not lie beside me
            60till his heat
            61burn me to ash?
            62may he not comfort me, then,
            63spent of all that fire and heat,
            64still, ashen-white and cool
            65as the wet laurels,
            66white, before your feet
            67step on the mountain-slope,
            68before your fiery hand
            69lift up the mantle
            70covering flower and land,
            71as a man lifts,
            72O Hymen, from his bride,
            73(cowering with woman eyes,) the veil?
            74O Hymen lord, be kind.


1] Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, was gifted with prophesy and foretold the downfall of her people and of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek armies that besieged Troy to reclaim Helen.
Hymen: Roman god of marriage.

49] Phrygian: ancient realm in Asia Minor along the Hellespont.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems of H.D. (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1925): 250-52. York University Library Special Collections 4928.
First publication date: 1923
Publication date note: Rhythmus 2.1 (June-July 1923): 48-49
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/21

Rhyme: irregularly rhyming

Other poems by H. D.