To provide some context for “The Walls Do Not Fall”

A bombed-out John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in London.

An air marshal after a bombing.

I think this picture really gets to what H.D. was describing in “The Walls Do Not Fall.” In the literal sense, this photo shows that even though these building have been hollowed out the walls are still standing. H.D. wrote that “the tide is turning;/ it uncovers pebble and shells,/ beautiful yet static, empty.” I think that there is something beautiful to these pictures, but at the same time they are static; it seems like there’s no way that they can be associated with life ever again. I also think that these photos get to one of the deeper themes of “The Walls Do Not Fall,” the role of the survivor. At the beginning, H.D. says “Yet the frame held:/ we passed the flame: we wonder/ what saved us? what for?” I think that it’s interesting that H.D. questions what the impact of survival is in a world that’s completely destroyed. So much of what we learn about the Blitz in school is about the RAF and how the British kept their spirits up, but I think that this poem reveals the reality of the situation: would you want to survive something like that? Especially if you didn’t know how long it would last?

[Photo credits: ARTstor]

2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Gracie

    It makes me think what walls she refers to that do not fall. In segment 43 she describes suffering from the bomb while the walls resist. Literally, her apartment just won’t give in and she does not know why. Metaphorically, when everything is being destroyed and she lives in despair, something in her causes her to live. Maybe this functions as her piece of the conversation on the British spirit during the air raids. The walls could indicate British “spirit” and the fact that they might not have been in high spirits, but something kept their will to live alive.

    April 5th, 2011

  2. This conversation also makes me think of Boccaccio’s Poem in Decameron (linked to below) where he talks implicitly about surviving the black plague and how it felt to be a survivor of that. I think Chaucer more explicitly talks about it, but I can’t remember where or if that’s right. Maybe Terry Kennedy would know. (Who am I kidding? Absolutely she’d know.) Just goes to show that surviving a mass of deaths all around has been an issue dealt with before and written about in similar ways–maybe H.D. was familiar? Hard to say. I know she was down with Classical Greek and Roman lore and she also delved in the Biblical stuff, but I don’t know how Medieval she got on her studies. Scanlon?

    April 28th, 2011