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Friendships: Robert Duncan and H.D.

My name is Jamie Lee Hamann and I started sharing poetry articles back in 2013. Every year I share a poem a day in April.

Robert Duncan

Robert Duncan

To Visit H.D.

Robert just finished rereading the rough draft of H.D. when he realized he needed to step away and spend time with her in person. He knew that she spent time in Greece for at least a month every year.

A few poems he mailed to her always returned with long personal letters of incredible grace and style. Her love of Greek literature and her unfinished degree from Bryn Mawr present in every paragraph.

Calculated previously, Robert pondered, a visit with the poet whose poems created his foundation. Duties at the school had been heavier then usual but today he finished early. With a certain precision, as much as he could muster, he finished a few quick letters and finished a syllabus.

He stopped, stood up from his desk, and stretched his lower back. Outside he thought he saw a bird of prey open wings from a perch in a distant tree.


Athens with H.D.

"If we hurry we can make an offering to Athena before sunset." Hilda held her grey hair in a bun which bounced side to side as she hurried towards Robert near his terminal. "Robert it is so nice to finally meet you."

"I think we have plenty of time to walk to the Parthenon." Robert broke the silence of the quick drive in Hilda's Sedan from the Athens Airport, out of the city and into the surrounding countryside. "So much time to talk. That is where you wrote 'Apollo at Delphi?"

"We are here." Hilda parked as they both began the evening trek to the Acropolis. "Bryher took me here before we began our life journey."

"To gather Hellenistic wisdom I am sure." Robert noticed a sadness creep upon Hilda as she mentioned her lover of many years. "Let us sit on one of those rocks over by the stage area."

The sun fell slightly towards the horizon and created complicated shadows on the ancient citadel. Both poets contemplated what they had to offer Athena during their short visit.

A Quick Sketch

"I have tried to make a quick sketch of the labyrinth, I have launched myself into unknown territory. I mean you need a poem to get yourself in and out of it."

Robert Duncan

H.D. reading from "Helen in Egypt"

An Offering to Athena

Robert remembered a poem as offering. He closed his eyes and recited each line as a prayer. Hilda reached over and placed her hand upon his shoulder as he spoke each rhyme.

"For many months, Hilda, I recited 'Ion" daily. I fell in love with poetry all over again with your poem." Robert lifted his head and looked over at Hilda. "I know you started the translation of 'Euripides' here in Athens, in 1923."

"Yes. 'Ion' the Greek word for sacred flower of Athens." Hilda stood up and stretched her upper back. Her conservative tan dress fell back into line. "Shall we walk to the Parthenon? I have a gift for Athena myself."

They walked silently side by side through the ancient stones up to the Parthenon. Light from the sun created shadows on the ground cast by various pillars. Robert pointed out that these shadows may have fallen in the same spot during the Hellenistic Era and Hilda nodded.

Soon they reached the foot of the Parthenon and Hilda took a small necklace from her purse. She lifted the necklace towards the setting sun and glanced out over the colorful refraction before she placed it on a stone a few steps from the entrance of the temple.

After a few minutes of silent genuflection Robert placed his hand upon H.D.'s shoulder as she had during his poem.

'We should get back before twilight becomes darkness." Robert offered his arm and Hilda accepted. "Us and our old Gods."

Hilda nodded and let Robert lead her down the path to her car.

Robert Duncan Biography

A Gentle Goodbye

"Where does ancient Hellenism fit within your Western Esotericism Robert?" Hilda slipped into the car like a cat. "You were raised by Theosophists and read the teaching of Madame Blavotsky throughout your childhood?"

"It all has mystical connection's Hilda. This meeting is a poem of our community where every word is a worker."

"Every word here is the voice of democracy." Hilda replied putting on her seatbelt.

"We shall see." Said Robert as he started the car. "Modern mind no longer has any guarantees."

They took the Panathenaic way down from the Acropolis to follow the ancient ceremonial route to Aqua Square.

H.D. Epitaph

"So you may say,

Greek flower; Greek


reclaims flower

one who died

following intricate song's

lost measure."

Hilda Doolittle

© 2022 Jamie Lee Hamann