H. D. [Hilda Doolittle]

From The Walls Do Not Fall 1

An incident here and there,

and rails gone (for guns)

from your (and my) old town square:

mist and mist-grey, no colour,

still the Luxor bee, chick and hare

pursue unalterable purpose

in green, rose-red, lapis;

they continue to prophesy

from the stone papyrus:

there, as here, ruin opens

the tomb, the temple; enter,

there as here, there are no doors:

the shrine lies open to the sky,

the rain falls here, there

sand drifts; eternity endures:

ruin everywhere, yet as the fallen roof

leaves the sealed room

open to the air,

so, through our desolation,

thoughts stir, inspiration stalks us

through gloom:

unaware, Spirit announces the Presence;

shivering overtakes us,

as of old, Samuel:

trembling at a known street-corner,

we know not nor are known;

the Pythian pronounces—we pass on

to another cellar, to another sliced wall

where poor utensils show

like rare objects in a museum;

Pompeii has nothing to teach us,

we know crack of volcanic fissure,

slow flow of terrible lava,

pressure on heart, lungs, the brain

about to burst its brittle case

(what the skull can endure!):

over us, Apocryphal fire,

under us, the earth sway, dip of a floor,

slope of a pavement

where men roll, drunk

with a new bewilderment,

sorcery, bedevilment:

the bone-frame was made for

no such shock knit within terror,

yet the skeleton stood up to it:

the flesh? it was melted away,

the heart burnt out, dead ember,

tendons, muscles shattered, outer husk dismembered,

yet the frame held:

we passed the flame: we wonder

what saved us? what from?


There is a spell, for instance,

in every sea-shell:

continuous, the seathrust

is powerless against coral,

bone stone marble

hewn from within by that craftsman,

the shell-fish:

oyster, clam, mollusc

is master-mason planning

the stone marvel:

yet that flabby, amorphous hermit

within, like the planet

senses the finite,

it limits its orbit

of being, its house,

temple, fane, shrine:

it unlocks the portals

at stated intervals:

prompted by hunger,

it opens to the tide-flow:

but infinity? no,

of nothing-too-much:

I sense my own limit,

my shell-jaws snap shut

at invasion of the limitless,

ocean-weight; infinite water

can not crack me, egg in egg-shell;

closed in, complete, immortal

full-circle, I know the pull

of the tide, the lull

as well as the moon;

the octopus-darkness

is powerless against

her cold immortality;

so I in my own way know

that the whale

can not digest me:

be firm in your own small, static, limited

orbit and the shark-jaws

of outer circumstances

will spit you forth:

be indigestible, hard, ungiving

so that, living within,

you beget, self-out-of-self,


that pearl-of-great-price.