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Short poem

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

Sheltered Garden

              1I have had enough.
              2I gasp for breath.

              3Every way ends, every road,
              4every foot-path leads at last
              5to the hill-crest --
              6then you retrace your steps,
              7or find the same slope on the other side,

              9I have had enough --
            10border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
            11herbs, sweet-cress.

            12O for some sharp swish of a branch --
            13there is no scent of resin
            14in this place,
            15no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
            16aromatic, astringent --
            17only border on border of scented pinks.

            18Have you seen fruit under cover
            19that wanted light --
            20pears wadded in cloth,
            21protected from the frost,
            22melons, almost ripe,
            23smothered in straw?

            24Why not let the pears cling
            25to the empty branch?
            26All your coaxing will only make
            27a bitter fruit --
            28let them cling, ripen of themselves,
            29test their own worth,
            30nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
            31to fall at last but fair
            32with a russet coat.

            33Or the melon --
            34let it bleach yellow
            35in the winter light,
            36even tart to the taste --
            37it is better to taste of frost --
            38the exquisite frost --
            39than of wadding and of dead grass.

            40For this beauty,
            41beauty without strength,
            42chokes out life.
            43I want wind to break,
            44scatter these pink-stalks,
            45snap off their spiced heads,
            46fling them about with dead leaves --
            47spread the paths with twigs,
            48limbs broken off,
            49trail great pine branches,
            50hurled from some far wood
            51right across the melon-patch,
            52break pear and quince --
            53leave half-trees, torn, twisted
            54but showing the fight was valiant.

            55O to blot out this garden
            56to forget, to find a new beauty
            57in some terrible
            58wind-tortured place.


10-11] names for species of Dianthus, a bright garden flower, presumably with a clove-like scent and used on garden borders.
wax-lilies: H.D. may have in mind the lily's glossy leaves.
sweet-cress: water-cress?

39] wadding: stuffing.

52] quince: yellow fruit resembling an apple.

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): 25-27. York University Library Special Collections 4928.
First publication date: 1916
Publication date note: Sea Garden (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1916)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/21

Rhyme: unrhyming

Other poems by H. D.