Because it is the subject of my creative response, I thought I would use this optional blog post to explore the poem Oread as a way to try and organize my understanding of the poem. This blog post begins to touch on my impression of the poem. I found this text to be extremely challenging to write about, and it makes me wonder about the different ways that we respond to poetry and come to understand it. In this case I feel like my creative response to the poem does a much better job (though still an incomplete job) of communicating my conception of the text. All the same, here follows an attempt that I have made at analyzing this text in an academic way.
In her six-line poem Oread, H.D. is able to weave together the image of pines growing in a quiet forest and that of the dynamic, wave-broken ocean surface by making careful choices in wording.
H.D.’s initial juxtaposition of the two images is made when she chooses to have her speaker repeat the word “whirl” in both the first and the second lines of the poem. In the first line it is a command to the sea and in the second line it is describing the action that will reveal the ocean to have something of the pine tree waiting just beneath its surface (“do this” becomes “do [this] with x”). Though the use of the word changes from a direct command to the ocean to an indirect command concerning the pines, its reuse makes not only a smooth transition between the first and second line but also irrevocably bonds the sea and the pine forest images.
H.D.’s next significant word choice follows at the start of the third line with the word “splash.” This word recalls the sound of another word, spray, which is often used to describe the needles of pine trees (e.g.: spray of pine). Yet the word “splash” as it is commonly used is often much more closely bound to the image of water and it often carries the connotation of greater wetness than is carried by the word spray, giving it a strong tie to the ocean which H.D. is describing. The similar sounds of the word “splash” and spray (as well as their closely related meanings) further binds the dynamic ocean image to the more still image of pines bursting from the ground in a forest.
Having brought some of the dynamism of the word splash to the image of the pine trees, H.D. tries to continue the oceanic movement that has begun to enter the image of the once-passive forest. The word “hurl” in the fifth line serves this purpose well. “Hurl” sound like the “whirl” used in the first two lines, so the sound of this word does not shock the reader, and the shift into words describing greater amounts of movement has already been started by the step from sprays to “splash”es of pine. So despite the fact that the word “hurl” actually describes a very violent motion that waves can make, it is able to slide into our understanding of a stately pine forest without difficulty at this point in the poem.
Having brought her readers to this point, H.D. suddenly shifts her attention and brings some of the calm found in the slow-growing forest to the shore-slapping waves. Using the relation that she has built between water and the forest, H.D.’s speaker references “pools of fir” (6) as a descriptor of the ocean surface. “Pools” is an expansive word that can serve to draw reader attention away from the specific sprays of water that are generated by waves impacting on the rock, away from the specific splashes of now-dynamic pine needles that only exist in the branches of the trees. It allows the reader to take in the broader expanse of the ocean (most of which is too deep for waves to appear on the surface) or the forest floor where needles rise and gather (pool, even) like puddles of rain around the bases of the fir trees from which they fell. So H.D. completes the circle, attaching some of the forest’s hush to the ocean in the same way that she attached some of the ocean’s wildness to the majestic pines: through careful attention to words.