I saw the first pear
as it fell—
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
of fruit-trees.

The honey-seeking
paused not,
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.

O rough-hewn
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering—
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:

these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
grapes, red-purple,
their berries
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.


  1. Notice that the speaker contradicts her prayer to “spare us from loveliness” with the colon that follows this plea. She goes on to describe in vibrant detail the “loveliness” that she wants this god to deny her. In her description of colors, taste, and types, the speaker indulges in the very thing she claims to avoid.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Notice that this prayer, repeated later in the poem, is first said in parenthesis. Since parenthesis are commonly used for de-emphasis, this removes it from the immediate surroundings. This suggests that this is a thought in the speaker’s head, not yet voiced aloud.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The phrase “Spare us from loveliness” takes the form and tone of a prayer. This language invokes the tone and style of the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer ubiquitous in Christian religion that asks God repeatedly to “deliver us from evil.” The speaker’s use of this language touches on the religious Puritan undertones found at the beginning of the poem.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. A sheath is a protective covering, and the verb to strip means to remove something from someone. So, if the hazelnuts (or the speaker) are stripped of whatever protects them, then they are defenseless. Much in the way that the hazelnuts have lost their protective covering, the speaker has fallen prostrate and given into the overwhelming power of the orchard.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker introduces the “god of the orchard” as “rough-hewn.” Since “hewn” refers to something that has been shaped from wood or stone and “rough” can indicate a kind of raw quality, then the god is depicted in a way that emphasizes its connection to the orchard. The speaker then portrays the god as a natural part of the orchard.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. By leaving the fruit “untouched,” the speaker transcends the temptation of earthly aesthetic beauty to instead offer the orchard to a higher power. In this way, the speaker epitomizes the values of religious sacrifice and self-restraint.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. This imagery is incredibly lush and vibrant, and the reference to wine further evokes an intoxicating mood. Here, the speaker invites the reader to imagine how tempting the orchard is for the speaker, and how difficult it is to resist indulging in its beauty.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. This “stripping” draws a connection to the violence of “flayed” in the earlier stanza. Stripping may also be read as a metaphor for sexual nudity, comparing the sheaths of the hazelnuts to human clothing. When read this way, the poem may be seen as a lesson in resisting the earthly temptations of sex and desire.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The repeated use of “fallen” once again speaks to the Garden of Eden story. Falling hazelnuts parallel to the image of the speaker as she falls to the ground. Also, while the beginning of the poem described the falling pear, here the hazelnuts have already fallen. This suggests the passing of time and a changing of the seasons.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. The third repetition of the refrain “spare us” further emphasizes the speaker’s desperation. We see that the speaker is struggling to resist the temptation of the “loveliness” of the orchard. She assumes a begging or pleading tone as she continues to use this refrain.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. The continued repetition of this phrase has a strong effect on the tone of this poem. Since this phrase is similar to the refrain “deliver us from evil,” the speaker’s repeating this “prayer” creates a desperate, almost pleading tone that intensifies with each repetition.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. In general, to be prostrate means to lie on the ground, usually in a dramatic manner of distress. The use of the word here demonstrates the speaker’s struggle to resist the temptations of the orchard and builds a tone of despair.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Here, the activity of falling directly mirrors the pear’s falling in the second line, and it draws reference to Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden. In this biblical tale, God casts Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden when they give in to temptation and eat a forbidden apple, dooming humanity to live in a world of sin and evil. The repeated references to “falling” in this poem encourage the connection to Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Christian tradition.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. In this line, the adjective “fleet” means evanescent, shifting, passing away; not durable or lasting. Here, the word describes how the bees do not sit idle admiring the beauty of the orchard but are busy with activity. It also calls attention to the shared mortality of the bees and the speaker.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. Simply saying “bees” would have allowed readers to conjure their own thoughts and associations. Instead, H.D.’s speaker employs descriptive and vibrant word choices to portray items in the orchard in a particular way. Readers then have no choice but to be swept up in the same awe and emotional power that the speaker experiences.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor