The Garden


You are clear,
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.
I could scrape the colour
from the petal,
like spilt dye from a rock.
If I could break you
I could break a tree.
If I could stir
I could break a tree,
I could break you.


O wind,
rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it sideways.
Fruit can not drop
through this thick air:
fruit can not fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.
Cut the heat,
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.


  1. The poem ends with the speaker asking the wind to change her situation, to turn over the oppressive heat and free her and the fruits in the garden. While this could be a beautiful expression of the experience of summer heat, this changing wind could also be read as a metaphor for social or political change. The speaker asks for an external source to remove the oppression that prevents them from moving.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The verb “to plough” is an agricultural term. Farmers plow fields in order to loosen soil and make it easier to plant crops and have them thrive. In this way, the speaker asks the wind to “plough” through the heat and turn it into something useful.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The verb “to blunt” means to purposefully weaken or neutralize. This verb connotes a type of violation or harm caused by this action. In using language that repeatedly emphasizes the violence of this heat—such as blunts, presses, rend, and cut—the speaker vilifies the heat: it is not just an effect of the weather but something malicious and damaging.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. If one interprets the rose as a representation of women, then the oppressive heat can be seen as a metaphorical representation of the patriarchal society that prevents women from achieving their potential. As the speaker claims in the previous stanza, she could “break a tree” if it were not for the heat. Metaphorically, the speaker claims that she has the strength and ability to achieve impossible feats, but she cannot break this “heat” without external help.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The verb to “rend” means to tear, split, divide, or rupture. It carries violent connotations that suggest forcible destruction. This verb is interesting in this context because “heat” is a non-physical element that one would not be able to “rend.” In using this verb, the speaker suggests that the air is thick enough with heat that it could be cut open as if it were solid. We learn that it is this oppressive heat that is forcing the speaker to lie motionless as she pleads with the wind to provide relief.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Notice that in the second part of this poem the speaker is addressing the wind instead of the rose. However, unlike her address to the rose which started with a “you,” this address begins with “O,” an exclamation used to express lament or surprise. The change in address in this second stanza creates a desperate longing or pleading tone for the rest of the poem.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The speaker ends this first stanza with circular logic. She first argues that if she could break “you,” the rose, then she could break a tree. Then she argues that if she could break the tree then she would be able to break the rose. Her arguments become contingent on hypothetical conditions rather than her actual abilities. This circular logic further emphasizes the speaker’s inability to act and paralyzed mental state.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. In this context, the verb to “stir” means movement that contrasts or disrupts a period of stillness. Again, the speaker uses the hypothetical “If I could construction” to show that she cannot perform the action that she wants. The speaker shows that she is constrained though we have not yet learned what prevents her from moving.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The “you” that the speaker addresses in this line is the rose. By making this line hypothetical (“If I could”), the speaker implies that she cannot break the rose. Readers are not given a reason for this immobility, but the repetition of the statement indicates that something is actively preventing the speaker from acting. This line emphasizes the speaker’s feeling of powerlessness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. In presenting a simile that does not reflect the natural order of the world, the speaker forces the audience to stretch their imagination. She yokes together two unlike images to create a feeling rather than a precise description of her physical reality. In this way, the audience is able to enter the mind of the speaker and experience her feelings rather than objectively watch what is going on in the scene.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. H.D.’s poetry is an example of Imagism, a literary movement in the early 20th century that used sharp language to create clear images. Imagists would focus on all of the elements and details of a single object in order to capture the object’s essence. Here, the speaker describes this rose using metaphors and sharp language to reveal an unseen essence: the rose is hard, strong, and resilient even though it is perceived as delicate.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Much like the comparison the speaker draws between the rose and hail, the simile “like spilt dye from a rock” subverts the audience’s expectations. If one cuts open a rock, dye would not “spill” out of it. The simile here adds to the vibrancy of the image: the flower is so robust and full of color that it could even make a rock “spill dye.”

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The verb “to scrape”—or to remove the outer layer of, scratch, or pull some hard or sharp implement across a surface of—suggests a type of violence. The speaker is imagining being able to remove the color from this rose by force, as if the color could pour out of the rose like dye. This both emphasizes the flower’s vibrant color and once again introduces a surreal element into the poem.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Roses are usually thought of as fragile and delicate. However, here the speaker compares the rose to hail—hard, icy pellets that fall from the sky like snow or rain. In this way, she undermines the reader’s expectations about the objects in this poem and forces the reader to see familiar objects in a different light.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. The modal verb “can” indicates an ability to perform an action. When it is in a past form, could, this states that the ability to perform the action is remote, or impossible. Notice here that the speaker repeats “can not,” which connects to the earlier repetition of “could.” While in the previous stanza the speaker states that were it not for the heat, she could perform those actions, here the heat is so intense that the fruit actually cannot perform even the simple act of falling. In either case, the tone conveyed is one of listlessness, in which the heat has paralyzed everyone and everything in the garden.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. This poem can be read as a social protest poem against female and minority oppression and a patriarchal society. In this reading, the supposedly delicate rose is actually strong enough to break stone emphasizing the power of those who are socially underestimated. In this metaphor, the speaker points out that despite their perception as delicate, “roses,” or women, are strong enough to break stone.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Notice that the speaker begins the poem by addressing the rose with “you” and “o rose.” The speaker personifies the rose as a subject that can be communicated with in order to give the object more agency and power.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. The phrase “cut in rock” refers to the rose and means that the rose has grown through the rock over time. To “cut” suggests that the rose has agency or power. This image of something delicate like a rose “cutting” through something sturdy like a rock challenges the natural order and the reader’s expectations. These images contribute to a surreal feeling within the poem that one cannot trust or take for granted what they are looking at.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff