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Historical Context in Orchard
Imagism: Doolittle was involved with the 20th-century group of Imagists, who believed that poetry should be comprised of clear, vivid imagery. Her earlier poems are known for her attempts to escape Victorian femininity, to deny traditional ideals of femininity and introduce new ones. Her poems explored the fluidity of female identity which was often represented by nature.
Religion: Puritan ideology states that humans must resist earthly temptations. Since Doolittle was of Puritan descent, there are strong Puritan values exhibited in the poem. Her struggle and guilt that she employs when enjoying the natural beauty around her exhibits religious undertones, with words like “prostrate” and “offering.”
Historical Context Examples in Orchard:
"thundered..." See in text (Orchard)
H.D. was known for her involvement with a group of early 20th-century poets called the Imagists. The Imagists sought to create clear, vivid imagery through their poetry. In this line, H.D uses bold language to describe the buzz of the bees to be as loud as thunder. This description further continues the sense of violence or intensity introduced by “flayed” and allows the reader to vividly “hear” the liveliness of the orchard environment.
"flayed..." See in text (Orchard)
The verb “to flay” means to whip or beat someone to the point where their skin is removed. This action has also been used historically as a form of religious punishment, sometimes self-inflicted. By stating that the beauty of the orchard has this violent power, the poet reveals to us how overwhelmingly beautiful the orchard is.
"as it fell—..." See in text (Orchard)
Puritan ideology states that humans must resist earthly passions in order to be moral or “good.” In this context, the orchard symbolizes earthly temptation, in which the poet must resist the temptation of beauty in order to do what is ethically right. H.D. herself was of Puritan descent, which may account for the strong Puritan values present in this poem.