At Baia

By: Hilda Doolittle

Hilda Doolittle

On September 10, 1886, Hilda Doolittle was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her education came from the school, Bryn Mawr. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1911 she took a life time changing trip to Europe that only last for the summer. She gained interest in poetry and eventually became the leader of the imagist movement English and American poets in the early twentieth century who wrote free verse and were devoted to “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.” She began writing poems at a very young age. They weren't appreciated while she was living, she was known for her diction, unfortunately she died in 1961, but her poetry try has remained.

At Baia

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."
Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff--

ah, ah, how was it


You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous--perilous--
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

"Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,"

or

"Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this."

Explication

The poem At Baia, by H.P. is about how the character doesn’t feel loved by their spouse. The poem conflicts the difference between a dream and reality. The character says “in a dream you would have brought some lovely, perilous thing” (3,4). This poem is in second person. Although the speaker says “you” she never gives a name. “At Baia” expresses emotions, the speaker wants to be loved, she’s in Italy (Baia) but this love story isn’t all that she expected to be. She wants to be loved and cared for. The speaker says “Why was it that your hands (that never took mine), your hands that I could see drift over the orchid-heads so carefully, your hands, so fragile, sure to lift, so gently, the fragile flower-stuff- ah, ah, how was it” (9-16). The speaker seems really heartbroken. The poem is in past tense so maybe her lover died.

This poem has a total of twenty nine lines. Within those twenty nine lines there are only two sentences. Within those two sentences are sixteen end-stopped lines, eleven enjambments, and eleven caesuras. The diction of the poem was straight forward. You could tell exactly how the speaker was feeling, without having to dig to deep into the poem. I think there is a bit of symbolism in the poem; the only colors used were blue and white. Blue represents sorrow in this case, and white could represent purity. The speaker says “‘I send you this, who left the blue veins of your throat unkissed’” (6-8). Your veins connect back to your heart; being that the speaker mentioned that her veins are blue maybe her heart is also blue from sorrow. The only flowers mentioned in the poem were orchards. Orchards can be either blue or white, towards the end the speaker says “‘Flower sent to flower; for white hands, the lesser white…’” (24-25).
In the beginning everything was blue, but towards the end they became white, so maybe her fairytale love became more realistic, making it more pure; or white.

If This poem had a song

A Very Sad Instrumental Music For Broken Hearts