When one thinks of the conventions associated with a rose they think of love. This is the symbol a rose endeavours. However this meaning is not static and for many a rose symbolises many different things. In literary convention terms a rose is associated with delicate love, appreciation, romance, beauty and roses portray the positive feelings inside one. There are many different rose colours each portraying a certain meaning and in each case a positive meaning. While bearing these conventions associated with a rose in mind I am going to analyse H.D.’s ‘Sea Rose’.
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H.D was a literary woman of the twentieth century who became profoundly interested in the imagist movement. H.D is a modernist poet and one can see from reading her poetry that there is strong feminist principles expressed throughout. Her poems came too early for an audience who were not ready to respond to these feminist principles (Pound, 1997-2010). One can characterise H.Ds poetry by the “strength of her images, economy of language and use of classical methodology” (Pound, 1997-2010, http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/234). The poetic form of imagism is clearly seen in H.D’s poems. Imagism was a huge part of modernist writing, it is “a literary movement launched by British and American poets early in the 20th Century that advocated the use of free verse, common speech patterns, and clear concrete images as a reaction to Victorian sentimentalism” (LoveToKnow Corp, 1996). H.D.s poem the ‘Sea Rose’ can be seen as an imagist poem due to its expression of visuals images throughout the poem. These visual images can be seen through the clarity of expression throughout the poem. Imagism poetry aimed to “replace muddy abstractions with exactness of observed detail, apt metaphors, and economy of language” (Pound, 1997-2010, http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5658). This new movement of imagist poetry has had a huge impact on many poets throughout the 20th Century.
H.Ds ‘Sea Rose’ poem is about much more than a rose. It reveals to the reader that one should look through the image to see the eternal condition and this is what imagist poets write about. The literary conventions that one associates the rose such as soft and the typical red rose of romanticism is not the same here, it’s not a soft rose but instead “harsh”(…1), it’s not sweet like one would expect a rose to be but instead its “acrid” (…15). Throughout the poem we are not told of the colour of this rose or indeed of any colour. One could say through this poem H.D is saying there is no exact meaning of a rose and that these symbols that one associate with a rose are not exact, however instead the rose itself defies its own symbolic representation.
One can see the poetic form of imagism throughout the poem through H.D’s observed detail of the rose. This rose is a clear exposition of a single flower from the garden. As stated by Nelson
“the short, carefully measured free verse lines, together with the slightly archaic (though still direct) diction and the insistence on the sparseness of the flower tend to give the poem a simplicity and solidity, a feeling of the visual or sculptural realness of the sea rose-“Sea Rose” could almost be a poem of image and little more”.
Gender is also prevalent throughout ‘Sea Rose’. One could say that the first few lines of the poem symbolises the non-conforming woman of the twentieth century- the rose is “harsh” (…1) and living on the boundaries of different worlds. There is a gender issue present, if one was to perceive this rose as the twentieth woman who was primarily a housewife and mother and only part of the private sphere but who is fighting to enter the public. When bearing this in mind, one can see the rose as been a metaphor for the movement of women into the public sphere and then one can see that the rose is portraying the rough time that women of this era have to go through to seek this independence, similar to the rose who is having a rough time caught between the sand and water. Just like the rose is “caught in a drift” (…8) between the sand and water so too are these women caught “in the drift” (…8) of a masculine society. The environment which this rose is placed is not stable as the tide it is constantly moving. The rose is been moved around by the sand which is been moved about by the sea. This can be seen as H.D portraying society, everyone is been “flung” (…10) about by these more dominant forces which one can interpret as male forces. To me these dominant forces can be perceived as the patriarchal male society of the time. This is an imagist poem where nature is predominant, the climate in which surrounds the rose is not welcoming “crisp sand that drives in the wind” (…12-13) just as society of the time is not welcoming of women entering the public sphere. The rose is in isolation “single on a stem” (7), alone in the wilderness. The rose can be seen as an allegory of a woman who too is similar to this rose who is alone in the wilderness and caught between two worlds.
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Through this analyse I hope I have conveyed that there is a deeper hidden meaning to be seen in H.D’s poem ‘Sea Rose’ and given thought you a thought of what H.D may be trying to portray through this poem. While there are many different perceptions to be gotten from ‘Sea Rose’ it is clear that H.D is talking about much more than a just a rose and instead the deeper meaning can be seen when one studies the object in isolation.
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