Department of English

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

2202242  Introduction to the Study of English Poetry



Assignment 2 Discussion


Acharn Supakarn has provided the following comments for each question, given in the boxes below. 


Read the following poem and answer the questions that follow.





H. D.



All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands. 5
All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments 10
and past ills.
Greece sees unmoved,
God's daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees, 15
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.


1.  (2 points)  Who is Helen?  Describe the Greeks' attitude towards her.


Comments: Helen is the most beautiful woman in Greek mythology.  She is the daughter of Zeus, king of the gods, and Leda.  She is the wife of Menelaus.  However, when Menelaus was absent from the palace, she ran away with Paris, prince of Troy.  Menelaus asked for help from all the Greek heroes who were once her suitors and had vowed to help protect Helen and whoever Helen chose as her husband.  This was the cause of the Trojan War.  A thousand ships sailed to Troy, and the war lasted for ten years, ending with the ruin of Troy.  Due to the length of the war, many Greeks were killed and separated from their families.  Regardless of whether Helen was willing to elope with Paris, she was undeniably the cause of the bloodshed of the Greeks.  Thus, it is not surprising that the Greeks were full of hatred for her, as we can see from the words "reviles," "hating," and "unmoved."


Your answer does not have to be lengthy, but it should mention:

  • Helen's beauty

  • Her connection to the Trojan War, and thereby to the Greeks

  • Evidence in the text of the poem indicating the Greeks' hatred of her



2.  (2 points)  What figure of speech is used in line 3?  Explain its meaning.


Comments: The figure of speech used in line three is simile.  It is a comparison between the lustre of olives and the lustre of Helen...(more to follow)



3.  (2 points)  Can you find an instance of paradox in the last three lines of the poem?  If so, explain.


Comments: The paradox of the last three lines lies in the fact that the Greeks could love Helen only if she died...(more to follow)



4.  (2 points)  Identify and explain the metonymy in the last line of the poem.


Comments: "White ash" refers to the ask of Helen after she is put on a funeral pyre.  It is the remains of her body.  Thus, it is synecdoche, a part standing for the whole body of Helen.  The metonymy found in the last line of the poem is "cypresses."...(more to follow) 



5.  (2 points)  The colour white dominates throughout the poem.  How does the colour contribute to the atmosphere of the poem?


Comments: The color white is employed throughout the poem.  In the first stanza, we find "white face" and "white hands."...(more to follow) 






H. D.





Some books on H. D. at Chula

Martz, Louis L., ed..  H.D. and Collected Poems 1912-1944.  New York: New Directions, 1983.


Quinn, Vincent Gerard.  Hilda Doolittle [H. D.].  New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967.


Other critical writings on H. D.

Collecott, Diana.  "Remembering Oneself: The Reputation and Later Poetry of H. D."  Critical Quarterly 27.1 (1985): 7.

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Last updated January 16, 2007