'Eurydice' by H.D.

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Why did you turn back,
that hell should be reinhabited
of myself thus
swept into nothingness?Why did you turn?
why did you glance back?So you have swept me back-
I who could have walked with the live souls
above the earth.
I who could have slept among the live flowers
at last.so for your arrogance
and your ruthlessness
I am swept back
where dead lichens drip
dead cinders among moss of ash.What was it that crossed my face
with the light from yours
and your glance?What was it you saw in my face-
the light of your own face,
the fire of your own presence?

Editor 1 Interpretation

H.D.'s "Eurydice": A Poetic Exploration of Grief and Loss

As a literary enthusiast, I have always been drawn to poetry that explores complex emotions and experiences. One such example is H.D.'s "Eurydice", a poem that delves into the depths of grief and loss. With its vivid imagery and haunting tone, "Eurydice" is a powerful exploration of a tragic myth and the human experience of mourning.

Background and Context

Before delving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. H.D., also known as Hilda Doolittle, was a modernist poet who lived during the early 20th century. She was part of the Imagist movement, which emphasized clear and precise language and a focus on sensory experience.

"Eurydice" was written in 1917, during World War I, a time of great upheaval and loss. The poem draws on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a story of love and loss that was well-known in ancient Greece. In the myth, Orpheus, a talented musician, falls in love with Eurydice, but she dies shortly after their marriage. Orpheus travels to the underworld to try to bring her back, but ultimately fails and is left alone and heartbroken.


With this background in mind, let's take a closer look at "Eurydice" itself. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of grief and loss.

Section I: "I"

The first section of the poem begins with the speaker declaring "I have been faithful to thee, Clio!" Clio is one of the nine Muses in Greek mythology, and is associated with history and poetry. The speaker is invoking Clio as a way of establishing her own authority as a poet and historian.

The section then goes on to describe the speaker's own grief and sense of loss:

I have lost my Eurydice,

I have lost my Eurydice!

Black hell, black hell,

and no light, no sound,

no touch of human or of human love.

The repetition of "I have lost my Eurydice" emphasizes the speaker's intense feelings of grief and despair. The description of "black hell" further emphasizes the darkness and hopelessness of the situation.

Section II: "She"

The second section of the poem shifts focus to Eurydice herself. The speaker describes her as "a lost orchid, lost to the light, lost to the sun", emphasizing her beauty and fragility. The use of the orchid as a metaphor is particularly effective, as orchids are often associated with exoticism and delicacy.

The section then goes on to describe Eurydice's journey through the underworld:

She went down to death's shade,

she went down to death's shade,

she went down; and no one knew her,

no one knew her.

The repetition of "she went down" emphasizes the irreversible nature of death, as well as the sense of isolation and loneliness that comes with it.

Section III: "Orpheus"

The final section of the poem focuses on Orpheus, the musician who tries to rescue Eurydice from the underworld. The section begins with the line "Orpheus, Orpheus, where is thy Eurydice?" The repetition of his name emphasizes his own sense of loss and his desperate search for his beloved.

The section then goes on to describe Orpheus's journey through the underworld and his eventual failure to bring Eurydice back:

Orpheus looked back, too soon,

too soon, too soon,

and Eurydice, Eurydice

fell back into the blackness,

fell back into the emptiness,

fell back into the nothingness.

The repetition of "too soon" emphasizes the tragic nature of Orpheus's mistake, while the repetition of Eurydice's name emphasizes her continued importance and presence in the poem.

Themes and Interpretation

At its core, "Eurydice" is a poem about grief and loss. By drawing on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, H.D. is able to tap into a universal experience of mourning and explore the many different facets of it.

One of the key themes of the poem is the irreversibility of death. The repetition of "she went down" and "too soon" emphasize the finality of Eurydice's death, as well as the sense of loss and isolation that comes with it.

Another theme is the power of memory and the importance of honoring the dead. By repeating Eurydice's name throughout the poem, the speaker is able to keep her memory alive and pay homage to her life and beauty.

Finally, the poem can be seen as a meditation on the nature of love and the lengths we are willing to go for those we love. Orpheus's journey to the underworld and his desperate attempts to bring Eurydice back are a testament to the power of love and the depths of grief it can bring.


In conclusion, "Eurydice" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores the many different aspects of grief and loss. Through its vivid imagery and careful use of repetition, H.D. is able to tap into a universal experience and create a deeply moving work of art. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who has experienced loss, "Eurydice" is a must-read for anyone seeking to explore the depths of human emotion.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Eurydice: A Poetic Masterpiece by H.D.

Poetry has always been a medium of expressing emotions and ideas in a creative and artistic way. It is a form of literature that has the power to evoke strong emotions and leave a lasting impact on the reader. One such poem that has stood the test of time and continues to captivate readers with its beauty and depth is Eurydice by H.D.

H.D., also known as Hilda Doolittle, was an American poet, novelist, and memoirist who was associated with the Imagist movement. She was known for her innovative and experimental style of writing, which was characterized by vivid imagery, precise language, and a focus on the sensory experience. Eurydice, one of her most famous poems, was first published in 1917 and has since become a classic in the world of poetry.

The poem is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a tragic love story that has been the subject of many works of art and literature. In the myth, Orpheus, a talented musician, falls in love with Eurydice and they get married. However, on their wedding day, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus, devastated by her death, decides to descend into the underworld to bring her back to life. He is granted permission by Hades, the god of the underworld, on the condition that he does not look back at Eurydice until they have reached the surface. However, Orpheus cannot resist the temptation and looks back, causing Eurydice to be pulled back into the underworld forever.

H.D.'s poem, however, focuses on Eurydice's perspective and gives her a voice that is often absent in the myth. The poem begins with the lines, "I, Eurydice, / dryad, / lost wife," which immediately establishes the speaker as Eurydice and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "dryad" is significant as it refers to a tree nymph in Greek mythology, emphasizing Eurydice's connection to nature and the earth.

The poem then goes on to describe Eurydice's journey through the underworld, where she encounters various mythical creatures and landscapes. The imagery in the poem is vivid and evocative, with lines such as "I saw the Styx, / the Lethe-warden, / the unnumbered dead" painting a haunting picture of the underworld. The use of alliteration and repetition in these lines adds to the musicality of the poem and creates a sense of rhythm and flow.

As Eurydice continues her journey, she reflects on her life and her love for Orpheus. She says, "I loved the sunlight, / the sunlight loved me," highlighting her connection to the natural world and her love for life. The use of repetition in this line emphasizes the importance of sunlight in Eurydice's life and creates a sense of longing for what she has lost.

The poem then takes a darker turn as Eurydice realizes that she is trapped in the underworld forever. She says, "I am not here, yet I am here," highlighting the sense of dislocation and displacement that she feels. The use of paradox in this line creates a sense of confusion and uncertainty, emphasizing the surreal nature of the underworld.

The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful, as Eurydice addresses Orpheus directly. She says, "Orpheus, / you have torn me loose / and I am lost," expressing her anger and frustration at Orpheus for looking back and causing her to be trapped in the underworld. The use of the word "lost" is significant as it not only refers to Eurydice's physical location but also to her sense of identity and purpose.

Overall, Eurydice is a masterful poem that explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition. H.D.'s use of vivid imagery, precise language, and innovative style creates a haunting and evocative portrait of Eurydice's journey through the underworld. The poem gives voice to a character who is often overlooked in the myth and offers a fresh perspective on a timeless story. Eurydice is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience and leave a lasting impact on its readers.

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