Oread By H.D.: Analysis & Overview

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Oread is a short, but sweet poem that is also a strong example of Imagist poetry. Let's learn about this poem and this type of poetry by reading the following lesson.

Commanding the Sea

Oread was written by Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) in 1915. It's is a short poem (only twenty-six words!), but a commanding one -- literally. The poem starts out with a command made by a mythical-type figure calling for a sea storm. See for yourself below:

Whirl up, sea--

whirl your pointed pines,

splash your great pines

on our rocks,

hurl your green over us,

cover us with your pools of fir.

While you might wonder why this figure wants a sea storm -- to punish people? To cleanse the land? -- that isn't the point of the poem, and the reader never knows the context about why there is a call for a storm. Instead, Oread is meant to evoke an experience or a moment in time more than anything else; poems like this were known as imagist poems.

Analysis

Mythical Characters

Like many of H.D.'s poems, the title of Oread is a major puzzle piece (or clue) to understanding the intention, meaning, and context of the poem. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an oread is any of the nymphs of mountains and hills in Greek mythology. So in her poem, H.D. is invoking nature, mysticism, and mythology.

The entire poem is a command from a magical nymph to the sea, telling the sea to send crashing waves over the land. Similar figures to the oread in this poem might be the sorcerer Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest and the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare's Macbeth. These characters all use magic to command nature to do their bidding.

Imagism

H.D. is considered one of the founders and top poets in the Imagist movement, a subset of the Modernist movement, and Oread is one of the most famous examples of Imagist poetry. Simply put, Imagism is a type of poetry that uses very simple language to describe images in a clear and sharp manner.

The Imagist poets wanted to create an image or experience so clearly, by selecting precise words, that readers would feel like they were personally experiencing it; the Imagists wanted readers to feel like they were inside the poem and that they could experience the sensations the poets were attempting to create with all of their senses.

Length

Oread is one sentence and only twenty-six words long. Why so short? Think back to something that your teachers may have said about your writing: 'K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Silly.' The simplicity and precision of the poem helps it pack an immediate punch to the sensations without adding any extra information or pensive thoughts to get in the way of the reader's experience.

Sensory Experiences

The content of the poem is a call from the nymph for the sea to storm and crash its waves onto the land. There are two strategies H.D. uses in this poem to evoke certain imagery of the experience of a turbulent sea storm for the reader: the use of verbs and the use of adjectives that describe color.

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