Click this photo to read Jesus Crisis' blog about Hilda Doolittle (includes two more poems)
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) in the 1910s

The Gift
[from Sea Garden, 1916]

Instead of pearls—a wrought clasp—

a bracelet—will you accept this?

You know the script—

you will start, wonder:

what is left, what phrase

after last night? This:

The world is yet unspoiled for you,

you wait, expectant—

you are like the children

who haunt your own steps

for chance bits—a comb

that may have slipped,

a gold tassle, unravelled,

plucked from your scarf,

twirled by your slight fingers

into the street—

a flower dropped.

Do not think me unaware,

I who have snatched at you

as the street-child clutched

at the seed-pearls you spilt

that hot day

when your necklace snapped.

Do not dream that I speak

as one defrauded of delight,

sick, shaken by each heart-beat

or paralyzed, stretched at length,

who gasps:

these ripe pears

are bitter to the taste,

this spiced wine, poison, corrupt.

I cannot walk—

who would walk?

Life is a scavanger’s pit—I escape—

I only, rejecting it,

lying here on this couch.

Your garden sloped to the beach,

myrtle overran the paths,

honey and amber flecked each leaf,

the citron-lily head—

one among many—

weighed there, over-sweet.

The myrrh-hyacinth

spread across low slopes,

violets streaked black ridges

through the grass.

The house, too, was like this,

over painted, over lovely—

the world is like this.

Sleepless nights,

I remember the initiates,

their gesture, their calm glance.

I have heard how in rapt thought,

in vision, they speak

with another race,

more beautiful, more intense than this.

I could laugh—

more beautiful, more intense?

Perhaps that other life

is contrast always to this.

I reason:

I have lived as they

in their inmost rites—

they endure the tense nerves

through the moment of ritual.

I endure from moment to moment—

days pass all alike,

tortured, intense.

This I forgot last night:

you must not be blamed,

it is not your fault;

as a child, a flower—any flower

tore my breast—

meadow-chickory, a common grass-tip,

a leaf shadow, a flower tint

unexpected on a winter-branch.

I reason:

another life holds what this lacks,

a sea, unmoving, quiet—

not forcing our strength

to rise to it, beat on beat—

a stretch of sand,

no garden beyond, strangling

with its myrrh-lilies—

a hill, not set with black violets

but stones, stones, bare rocks,

dwarf-trees, twisted, no beauty

to distract—to crowd

madness upon madness.

Only a still place

and perhaps some outer horror

some hideousness to stamp beauty,

a mark—no changing it now—

on our hearts.

I send no string of pearls,

no bracelet—accept this.

* * *

To read other H.D. works in the Crisis Chronicles Online Library, click here.

We also recommend these volumes from Amazon: