Response to Eurydice by H.D.

My first takeaway from Hilda Doolittle’s poem Eurydice is that the wording can be seen as very contrasted. If one takes a step away from the poem’s story and structure, there is a very interesting shift in tone driven by certain words.

 

Flowers, presence, earth, spirits, golden, peace, splendour, colour. These words are prevalent and abundant in Eurydice, and carry lighthearted and upbeat connotations. If, before reading the poem itself, someone abstractly saw those words at a glance, they would most likely infer this poem to contain mostly happy tone.

 

But look more closely. Fire, lost, black, death, hell, ruthlessness, terror, formless, colourless. Such terms evoke feelings of dread and depression. It is almost as if, upon reading those words, this poem wouldn’t contain a single happy thought.

 

The effect of Eurydice’s drastic contrast in words and tone is clear. Doolittle’s readers are taken through a rollercoaster of feeling and emotion, so much so that one must stop. Slow down. Take it easy. And enjoy the ride. The contrast creates a jarring effect; it is difficult to take in even just the plot of the poem with the tone shifting multiple times within ten lines. Dedicated concentration must be given to this poem while reading it.

 

I believe that, to a small extent, H.D.’s reasoning behind her wildly varied word choice is to force her readers to not rush through the poem. For them to savor end enjoy it, for during a quick read, the meaning of Eurydice is lost.

 

Personally, I can give a first-hand account in support of this theory. While reading Eurydice at home, I wasn’t especially interested in it, and gave it just a quick read so I’d have a general idea of what the lecturer would be talking about for that week’s discussion. However, during class, we slowed things down and read the poem line-by-line. After each stanza, the meaning was analyzed and I was able to enjoy this poem far more than during a rushed-read.

 

However interesting Doolittle’s word contrast is in Eurydice, I believe that authors should limit this tool if used simply for the purpose of getting the reader to savor their work. Certainly, that is neither the main, nor the only reason for H.D.’s use of this technique in her story, but as previously stated, it creates a jarring effect among readers. I enjoyed the use of this technique but would have a hard time appreciating other poems if worded in a similar fashion.

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