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Themes in Orchard
Denial of Temptation is More Dangerous Than Temptation Itself: The speaker continually denies her desire to indulge in the sinful temptation of the orchard. However, she describes her desire in lush and evocative terms that allude to emotional indulgence, posing the question of whether denial is just as bad as the temptation, if not worse.
Feeling Guilt for Enjoying Natural Beauty: The poem follows the speaker’s struggle with her guilt for enjoying the natural beauty around her. With words like “prostrate” and “flayed,” religious undertones serve to highlight the sinful nature of the enjoyment. The speaker struggles with this internal guilt and the want she has to indulge her desires.
Themes Examples in Orchard:
"song..." See in text (Orchard)
Since H.D.’s poetry is an example of Imagism, the language she uses throughout this poem causes the reader to see and feel the indulgent things that she encounters in this garden. While the poem expressly claims Puritan morality, the use of this poetic technique suggests that the words of the poem are actually a type of indulgence. In other words, the speaker indulges in the fruit she claims to deny by describing them in robust, vivid terms, which in turn forces the reader to be complicit in this sin.
"I bring you as offering. ..." See in text (Orchard)
The presentation of the orchard as sinful temptation illustrates the conflicted feelings of the speaker. The speaker struggles to be virtuous, offering up the untouched fruit to the god of the orchard. However, the language used throughout provides such lush, evocative descriptions that readers are left wondering if denying this temptation ironically caused the speaker to emotionally indulge. Therefore, it is the denial, not the temptation, that becomes dangerous.
"alone..." See in text (Orchard)
The speaker contrasts the bees lively activity to her own idleness, demonstrating that she alone feels the struggle of earthly temptation. By emphasizing the difference between her and the bees, the speaker shows how the appreciation for aesthetic beauty is a solely human experience, and one we must resist in order to be productive.
"broken..." See in text (Orchard)
The speaker’s use of “stripped” and “broken” further connect to the imagery of “falling.” While this can operate on a metaphorical level, it can also demonstrate the impending seasonal change of late-summer to fall. Soon, all of this rich fruit will begin to rot and decay, and all that is now beautiful will become sickly. This further emphasizes the danger of giving in to earthly pleasures, as they will not remain beautiful forever.
"alone unbeautiful, son of the god,..." See in text (Orchard)
The speaker uses religious language to set up the opposition between what is beautiful and pleasurable and what is “right” or godly. This opposition is further emphasized when referring to the god as “unbeautiful.” Readers are encouraged to associate the god’s lack of beauty as a sign of the god’s righteousness.
"honey-seeking, golden-banded,..." See in text (Orchard)
The poet uses vibrant, poetic imagery to describe a swarm of bees in the orchard, without naming them as bees directly. This poetic description further emphasizes the lush, verdant nature of the orchard and how difficult it is for the speaker to resist its beauty.
"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.