All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.

All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.

Greece sees unmoved,
God’s daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

– H. D.


In some ways, the tragedy of Helen was that she was no more than an object, a possession, a casus belli through the course of her life; born of an act of violence, kidnapped at a young age, then fought over. It seems such a waste – all the men that died, all those years of war, all over a woman. Then again, did anyone ask her? There are multiple conflicting versions of the story and of Helen’s complicity, read here and here. You can read various takes on the poem here.

H.D., as Hilda Doolittle preferred to sign her work, was an Imagist, a feminist and an iconoclast. You can read more about her life here and here.

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