The Garden

In her poem “The Garden” Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) writes about the wish to be as strong as the rose she sees in her garden. This poem was rediscovered during the Seventies by feminist and LGBTQ-movements. It’s a classic example of Imagism. A classic H.D. poem!

Hilda Doolittle

Who was Hilda Doolittle?

Doolittle was born on 10 September 1886 in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, US). She would grow out to be a poet who only used her initials, H.D. when writing.

In 1911 Doolittle moved from the US to Great Brittan. She lived in London, where she published her work as a member of the Imagist movement. Imagism was a poetry movement in the early years of the twentieth century. The precision of imagery and clear, sharp language were the ingredients of this movement. Other famous poets that where part of this movement was Richard Aldington and Ezra Pound. The last one would be the motor for her writing career. This lead to the publication of her work in English Review and the Transatlantic Review.


In her personal life, things did not go as she hoped they would. During the First World War, her brother died and she broke off her marriage with Richard Aldington. This made her write about these tragic events. She also struggled with her bisexuality. She went into therapy for this and was a patient of no other than Sigmund Freud. This also made her write poetry, that would later inspire the LGTB movement during the period 1970-1980.


After the Second World War, she moved to Switzerland. She suffered a severe mental breakdown and was admitted into a clinic. She stayed there for over a year. After being released, she again followed therapy in 1950. It was her psychoanalyst, Erich Heydt, who encouraged her to write. She wrote strong poems about violence and war from a feministic perspective. These poems were rewarded with the American Academy of Arts and Letters medal. Upon returning to Switzerland, she suffered a stroke. Doolittle died on 27 September 1961, a few months after the stroke.

About "The Garden"

About “The Garden”

When a rose grows, it’s a slow process. In her poem, H.D. takes the time to speak out her admiration for this process. The rose in this poem grows through a rock and in a way it’s opposite to her weakness.

When H.D.’s poetry was rediscovered in the Seventies, it was interpreted as a poem that speaks about the oppression of those who are marginalized. The word heat makes it more than that. It’s a poem that is written as inspiration for those who are weak but want to change this. This wish is not limited to the groups that ‘claimed’ this poem in the Seventies (feminist and LGBTQ-movements), although it was important for them to have something to relate to. Well, isn’t this the beauty of this poem? It can be used by everyone who has the wish for a change in their situation.

This poem is a classic example of Imagism. Also, this is a typical poem written by H.D.

The Garden

The Garden

I

You are clear
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.

I could scrape the colour
from the petals
like spilt dye from a rock.

If I could break you
I could break a tree.

If I could stir
I could break a tree—
I could break you.

II

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

— H.D.

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