Read THE ISLANDS of Hymen , free online book, by Hilda Doolittle, on


What are the islands to me, what is Greece, what is Rhodes, Samos, Chios, what is Paros facing west, what is Crete?

What is Samothrace, rising like a ship, what is Imbros rending the storm-waves with its breast?

What is Naxos, Paros, Milos, what the circle about Lycia, what, the Cyclades’ white necklace?

What is Greece Sparta, rising like a rock, Thebes, Athens, what is Corinth?

What is Euboia with its island violets, what is Euboia, spread with grass, set with swift shoals, what is Crete?

What are the islands to me,
what is Greece?


What can love of land give to me that you have not what do the tall Spartans know, and gentler Attic folk?

What has Sparta and her women
more than this?

What are the islands to me if you are lost what is Naxos, Tinos, Andros, and Delos, the clasp of the white necklace?


What can love of land give to me that you have not, what can love of strife break in me that you have not?

Though Sparta enter Athens, Thebes wrack Sparta, each changes as water, salt, rising to wreak terror and fall back.


“What has love of land given to you
that I have not?”

I have questioned Tyrians where they sat on the black ships, weighted with rich stuffs, I have asked the Greeks from the white ships, and Greeks from ships whose hulks lay on the wet sand, scarlet with great beaks. I have asked bright Tyrians and tall Greeks “what has love of land given you?” And they answered “peace.”


But beauty is set apart, beauty is cast by the sea, a barren rock, beauty is set about with wrecks of ships, upon our coast, death keeps the shallows death waits clutching toward us from the deeps.

Beauty is set apart; the winds that slash its beach, swirl the coarse sand upward toward the rocks.

Beauty is set apart
from the islands
and from Greece.


In my garden the winds have beaten the ripe lilies; in my garden, the salt has wilted the first flakes of young narcissus, and the lesser hyacinth, and the salt has crept under the leaves of the white hyacinth.

In my garden
even the wind-flowers lie flat,
broken by the wind at last.


What are the islands to me if you are lost, what is Paros to me if your eyes draw back, what is Milos if you take fright of beauty, terrible, torturous, isolated, a barren rock?

What is Rhodes, Crete,
what is Paros facing west,
what, white Imbros?

What are the islands to me if you hesitate, what is Greece if you draw back from the terror and cold splendour of song and its bleak sacrifice?