H.D.'s Analysis with Freud
by Norman N. Holland
April 26, 2002
Freud analyzed the poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) in the early-Nazi years 1933-1934. During the analysis, H.D. wrote letters daily and sometimes twice daily to her companion, Bryher, and to other friends describing what was going on. These letters plus her poems and book about her analysis give us the longest, most detailed account of an analysis by Freud. They give a picture of the intellectual and political setting. They show both how she learned (as demonstrated in her later poetry) and how he learned from her, in this analysis of someone he considered not a patient but a student. Her writings give an astonishing picture of Freud's remarkable intuitions and his totally unorthodox behavior in the analytic setting. Most importantly, they show how he listened, not to the "important details," the "content" of the language, but to the linguistic surface, the language as such.
Author's Note: This, the Appendix to my revised edition of Poems in Persons, is reprinted here with the gracious consent of the publisher, Cybereditions.com. I also wish to acknowledge my deep gratitude to Professor Susan Stanford Friedman for access to her forthcoming edition of the letters in which H.D. described her analysis and for her advice and counsel.
The story of H.D. and Freud begins in 1915, the year H.D.'s first child was stillborn. Hilda Doolittle was herself born in 1886, the daughter of a distinguished astronomer, "who seldom [wrote William Carlos Williams] even at table focused upon anything nearer, literally, than the moon" (67). Her mother seems to have been equally abstracted. H.D. was the one girl among five brothers. One of them, Gilbert, the one just older than she, was not only her mother's admitted favorite but someone with whom H.D. herself identified./1/
In 1915 she was twenty-nine, her poetry just coming to be recognized. Two years earlier, she had married her fellow-Imagist, Richard Aldington. "From shock and repercussions of war news broken to me in a rather brutal fashion," she lost her first child (40). (Unlabeled page numbers like that refer to the 1974 edition of Tribute.) In 1916, Aldington left to fight in France. Sometime during this period, he began various affairs, and they separated in 1919 (though, interestingly, she does not discuss or even mention this in Tribute to Freud)./2/
In 1918 her favorite brother was killed in action in France, and her father died a year later from the stroke he suffered at the news. Also in 1918, H.D. met the poet Bryher (pen-name of the wealthy Winifred Ellerman), and they became fast friends, possibly lovers at some time, but certainly lifelong companions in a platonic, lesbian relationship. At the end of 1919, she was sick with double pneumonia and awaiting the birth of her second child. (Cecil Gray, not Aldington, was the father, and this made trouble later.) H.D. was determined that this child would live, and Perdita (so her mother named her) did live. After the pregnancy, she was weak from flu and pneumonia and psychologically overcome by all these events./3/
Bryher rescued her, taking her first to the Scilly Isles, then to Greece to recover. On the boat to Corfu, H.D. had a rather surreal shipboard romance with one Peter Rodeck that figured importantly in the analysis and her later writings. Even more important was an hallucination or mystical vision of extraordinary intensity that she experienced on Corfu with Byher, the "writing on the wall." As she describes it in the memoir, it was exhausting but not frightening to her, though she felt it as occult and so described it to Freud in the analysis many years later. He, however, singled this vision out as "the most dangerous or the only actually dangerous `symptom'."/4/
Aldington had quite left H.D. by this time, and H.D. and Bryher and sometimes H.D's mother provided a family for Perdita as they lived and traveled around England, the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. Bryher married Robert McAlmon in 1921, but H.D.'s sexual relationship with Bryher continued even after the marriage. McAlmon told "of long train trips about the continent with the two women quarreling in the compartment driving him nearly insane." In his autobiography, William Carlos Williams wrote that H.D. had some part in the marriage's final "disastrous outcome" and the McAlmons' separation and divorce (190, 219), and (Norman Holmes Pearson, H.D.'s long-time friend and literary executor, told me) McAlmon "broke with Bill Wms on this."/5/
In 1926, H.D. met Kenneth Macpherson and fell passionately in love with him. She, Bryher, and Macpherson set up a ménage à trois. To safeguard this arrangement, because H.D. was undivorced from Aldington, Bryher married Macpherson in 1927, and the couple adopted Perdita. Bryher was in love with H.D., and H.D. was in love with Macpherson, and, platonically by this time, with Bryher as well. This trio echoed a much earlier triangle in H.D.'s life, herself, her first lesbian lover, Frances Gregg, and her fiancé, Ezra Pound. With the child Perdita, the three adults lived and worked together--"a composite beast with three faces," H.D. had playfully written to Havelock Ellis in 1928. Macpherson, however, increasingly became involved with drink, café life in Paris, and younger men. He gradually withdrew from the ménage after 1932. This complicated history H.D. brought to the fascinated Freud./6/
When I was first writing about H.D. in 1968, Norman Holmes Pearson described H.D. to me as "passionately heterosexual". Freud, in H.D.'s then published account, the version of Tribute to Freud published in 1956, did not single out anything relating to homosexuality as part of her psychic life, although he had read Palimpsest before meeting H.D. In 1968, these protective accounts were all I knew about her sexuality./7/
Since then, scholars have uncovered and published many new materials, which are much more explicit. They tell us a great deal more about the analysis, about H.D.'s life, and about her feelings toward Freud. It is these writings that make possible a much more detailed study of her analysis with Freud./8/
These newer writings, especially H.D.'s account of the analysis in letters to Bryher, clearly establish, among other things, a large number of both homo- and heterosexual relations in her life. They also show that Freud directed a good deal of attention to homosexuality and bisexuality in the analysis. Yet H.D. did not mention these issues in her memoir, nor did Freud, in his letters to H.D. after the analysis. Both Freud and H.D. were quite guarded in public about her sexuality, given the homophobic climate of the time (as evidenced, for example, by the rage directed at Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness when that lesbian novel appeared in 1928). In any case, given Freud's theories in 1933, the loss of self-object boundaries in the mystical vision on Corfu would have seemed and did seem to him of more moment./9/
These newly published materials reveal that H.D. sought therapy with Freud because she had blocked as a writer. In Tribute she wrote of the wish to free herself of "repetitive thoughts and experiences," to "take stock of my very modest possessions of mind and body," "to sort out, relive and reassemble the singular series of events and dreams that belonged in historical time, to the 1914-1919 period" (13, 91). In 1931, at Bryher's urging, she had had twenty-four sessions with an analyst in London, Mary Chadwick, but they proved unsatisfactory. She then had, during the winter of 1931-32, five sessions with Hanns Sachs in Berlin, but he was fleeing Germany for America. Sachs asked her if she would consider working with "the Professor" if he would take her. She would, he did, and she began work with Freud on March 1, 1933./10/
Bryher financed the analysis (and a number of other psychoanalytic activities). Freud conducted it in English (as he had often done for English and American patients after World War I). H.D. writes of her own German as "sketchy," while Freud "was speaking English without a perceptible trace of accent." She worked with Freud "between three and four months" (4), actually, from March 1 to June 12, fourteen weeks and three days. They met, with one exception, from five to six in the afternoon. H.D. broke off the analysis on June 12 and left Vienna, not planning to return, because she was frightened by a bomb on the tracks of a tram she was riding (Bryher 263-64)./11/
H.D. did return, however, at the end of October 1934. Austria's relations with Germany were deteriorating rapidly-- Dollfuss, the Chancellor, had been assassinated by Nazi revolutionaries that July. What brought H.D. back was the news that one of the Professor's other patients, a philosopher-mystic-pilot nicknamed "the Flying Dutchman," had crashed and died in Tanganyika. She had a short but severe breakdown as a result. In this second series of sessions, they met "four days a week from five to six; one day, from twelve to one" (4). This analysis lasted five weeks, from October 31, 1934 to December 2, 1934, when "The war closed on us" (91)./12/
The relationship between H.D. and Freud differed markedly from the therapeutic or training analysis of today. A modern analyst would want more than five months before calling the work analysis. For Freud, five months would be enough (for training, anyway) if "deep" material was reached, and it is clear that it was. Ernest Jones, in his brief review of her book, says quite directly, "She was analyzed by Freud for some months in the year 1933-34." There may be simply a question of terminology here, for Freud himself could write, "I analyzed Mahler for an afternoon in the year 1912."/13/
Further, as many scholars have shown, Freud's own analytic style hardly conformed to today's practice or to the rules he set down for his followers. He would, for example, lead H.D. into the adjoining room to show her one of his archaeological figures that made a point. He also talked a good deal of theory with her. And they repeatedly exchanged gifts, lent each other books, and so on. Freud was exceedingly solicitous of her well-being during her stay in Vienna-- "tender" is a word she uses over and over again in the letters./14/
Most surprisingly, Freud, as other analysands have reported, kept one or both of his chow dogs in the room while the analysis was going on. Indeed, at one point, the dogs got into a fight, as H.D. reported to Bryher:
Terrible time yesterday and it frightened me, Yo-fi flew at Lun. Freud flung himself on the floor between, I thought he would be torn to pieces, and Anna [Freud] tore in screaming in German "papalein belovestest, thou shoudst not have done that." I rushed in half-way and got Lun by the fur and the maid intervened, and there was Freud sitting on the floor with all his money rolling in all directions under the still-blooming orchids. Very funny. And tragic ... shows just how terribly young he is ... a born fighter, so frail ... Anna was so upset. But she finally left me alone with him and Yo-fi was remouved. The pups are very, very pretty, like little bears (5/18/33)./15/
(In this quotation and those below, indications that are page numbers refer to Tribute and indications that are dates refer to the letters now being edited. Dated letters are to Bryher unless I name another correspondent. In quoting H.D., closely spaced ellipsis points are hers, and she used them much as we might use dashes; the looser ones are mine. Unusual spellings are more likely to be her choice than my typo.)/16/
In general, the dogs bulked large in the analysis. During the 1933 sessions, Yo-fi became pregnant and gave birth to two pups. During one session, H.D. wrote to Bryher, "A new horror, the pups crawled in and had a LOUD dinner off their mother. What next????????????" (6/1/33). Freud wanted to give one of these pups to Perdita. H.D. and Bryher, knowing that their nomadic living situation made a dog impossible, fretted at length about how to fend Freud off without distressing him./17/
Part of the informality came about because Freud evidently related to H.D. not only as her training analyst but also as a teacher. "The Professor had said in the beginning that he classed me in the same category as the Flying Dutchman--we were students." "Seekers or 'students' . . . he calls us." "One day he said to me, 'You discovered for yourself what I discovered for the race'" (18, 14). H.D. often felt proud that she was treated as an intellectual equal: "`Of course, you understand' is the offhand way in which he offers me, from time to time, some rare discovery, some priceless finding, or `Perhaps you may feel differently' as if my feelings, my discoveries, were on a par with his own" (86)./18/
All this sounds as though Freud undertook the analysis of H.D. and the others like her in order to give a group of intellectually special people a "feel" for psychoanalytic ideas and method. Presumably he hoped to spread psychoanalysis as an intellectual discipline. Indeed H.D. had written to Havelock Ellis as negotiations with Freud had opened, "Dr. F. . . . in fact, says openly, he can not take on people who have nothing to offer in return, any more . . . or words to that effect" (1/17/3). And, after the first analysis, she wrote to Conrad Aiken, "Freud considered me and the Dutchman [J. J. Van der Leeuw], he said, as rather special--not crazy, not professional, but people who would `help.'" (8/26/34)./19/
The analysis became a central event in H.D.'s life. She referred to it again and again in letters and in her creative writings./20/
In 1944, H.D. wrote a memoir of her analysis, Tribute to Freud. She based it on a diary she had kept during the analysis, but she left the diary in Switzerland during World War II and hence did not use it during the actual writing. She wrote her memoir as a series of memories in free association. Details about Freud and his technique as a therapist mingle with the visions and themes of H.D.'s own life. Trying to understand her analysis through Tribute to Freud involves a good many interpretations and inferences, yet the book reveals a great deal if we understand it as associations./21/
One major feature of Tribute was her description and her interpretation (and Freud's) of an elaborate mystical vision on Corfu while traveling--recuperating, really--with Bryher. The vision embodied an almost unbelievable richness of symbol, association, and theme, consolidating a whole mass of charged materials for H.D. No wonder she felt completely exhausted after the vision. No wonder Freud singled out this vision "as the most dangerous or the only actually dangerous `symptom.'" (41). The deeper and earlier the psychological rift, the more serious the illness./22/
Indeed, she first published the memoir as "Writing on the Wall" in Life and Letters Today (1945-6), referring to the Corfu vision. Then, in publishing it as a book in 1956, she went along with Norman Holmes Pearson's suggestion of a change and used the Tribute title. Then Tribute was re-published in 1974 (after her death). Interestingly, as Adalaide Morris has pointed out, there is an ambiguity in "tribute." It is a gift, praise given freely, but it is also a tax that must be paid./23/
While she was being analyzed, however, she persisted (against Freud's admonitions) in writing letters to her lover Bryher, and others, describing the analysis in great detail. Freud regarded such asides as a "leak" in the analysis or, as one would say today, a "split transference" through which valuable material would be siphoned off. As Nora Crow puts it, Bryher functioned as a kind of co-analyst or even counter-analyst./24/
In these letters, she said explicitly many things only implicit in Tribute or not mentioned at all. She used psychoanalytic terminology, and she wrote about her sexuality, both excluded from Tribute. She wrote freely about fantasies, dreams, masturbation, sexual affairs, including lesbianism and bisexuality, penis envy, the primal scene, and oedipal and pre-oedipal stages of development. She spelled out the link between bisexuality and her writer's block, between her love for women (or certain men) and for her mother, and between her war terrors and her primal scene fears. Further, the letters, assiduously dated, provide a chronology missing from Tribute. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds these letters in its H.D. collection. Susan Stanford Friedman is editing them, and I am exceedingly grateful to her for allowing me to read her nearly-completed--and, as an example of editing, outstanding--manuscript. It is, at the time I write, entitled, "H.D. and Freud: Diary of an Analysis in Letters, 1932- 1937" and is to be published by New Directions Press. Where Tribute lets us see the analysis all at once, from a distance, as it were, these letters give us a day-by-day sequential view. The letters constitute a history of her sessions with Freud, while Tribute consists of memories, free associations, really, to the analysis./25/
She wrote still more about the analysis. In 1948, H.D. "assembled" a text in journal form from notes she kept during the first three weeks of analysis with Freud in 1933 and later destroyed. This text became Advent, added as a third section to the most recent edition of Tribute (1974), the continuation of the memoir "or," wrote H.D., "its prelude."/26/
During 1941-3, frightened by the bombings of London, she wrote The Gift, a memoir of her early childhood, using those memories to contain her current terror at the war. The memoir carries out a kind of self-analysis of her childhood experiences, prompted by war terrors. It continues her analysis of and explains some of the childhood themes she had opened up with Freud but not written about elsewhere. The Gift was not published at all until 1982 and not completely until 1998./27/
The most startling of her comments on the analysis comes in a poem she angrily refused to publish during her lifetime, "The Master." It was probably written in 1935, shortly after the analysis, but not discovered and published until twenty years after her death in 1961. Here she wrote about her deep disagreements with Freud with considerable heat, in quite a different tone from the warm positive transference in Tribute and the letters./28/
Other poetic comments, even more disguised, occur in the dialogue between Kaspar and Mary Magdalene in The Flowering of the Rod, written in 1944, and in the Theseus sequence in Helen in Egypt (1961, pp. 147-92), Kaspar and Theseus standing in for Freud. Further, she refers from time to time in all her writings to a "master" or "sage" who may or may not be Freud./29/
After leaving Vienna in 1934, H.D. continued her analysis with Walter Schmideberg in London. They met five times a week from October of 1935 to May of 1937 in an analysis ambivalently influenced by Melanie Klein. Her thesis of overwhelming aggression in the early mother-child relationship was already provoking controversy in pre-war London. Again, letters to Bryher have enabled scholars, in particular Susan Edmunds, to study this analysis. Finally, there was a still later analysis during her residence in Switzerland with Erich Heydt (1953-1961), but about these sessions, little has been written./30/
In tracing the course of her self- discovery, I shall rely at first on two primary sources, Tribute to Freud and the letters she wrote during and about the analysis, later on "The Master" and The Gift./31/
H.D. wrote Tribute to Freud almost like a psychoanalysis itself, as a series of free associations, letting her thoughts lead her where they would. The associations are not entirely free, however. She omits so as to protect her privacy, saying almost nothing about her contemporary life and very little about her adult life at all. She is completely silent on matters of adult sexuality, substituting a whole series of mythological associations. Only once does she make a straightforward interpretation. Most of the time she relies without explanation on connotations and verbal echoes in her own and, particularly, in Freud's phrasings. We, her readers, are left to make the connections ourselves. By contrast, the letters make what they talk about very clear, using the technical language of psychoanalysis, quoting both herself and Freud verbatim and spelling out H.D.'s feelings./32/
One way to give these varied materials sequence is to follow out the changing roles in which H.D. cast Freud. One would expect H.D. (or any other analysand) in the transference situation of psychoanalysis to transfer or project onto the analyst her positive and negative feelings toward the key figures of her childhood--her mother, her father, and, in H.D.'s case, the brother who was so especially important to her. Further, it was part of H.D.'s character to read people as avatars of mythological figures or of primary persons in her life. As H.D. wrote many years later, in Helen in Egypt, "There was always another and another and another" (174), each substituting for the next. In seeking, then, the common source in childhood of H.D.'s lifestyle and her literary style, we can use Freud himself, as she assigns him a succession of roles in the transference, for an Ariadne thread./33/
We can enter the labyrinth of her analysis with H.D. herself, for "Undoubtedly," she noted, "the Professor took an important clue from the first reaction of a new analysand or patient." When first she entered his consulting room, Freud stood waiting for the tall, shy woman of forty-seven to speak. H.D., however, silently took an inventory of the contents of the room, Freud's collection of Greek and Egyptian antiquities. Finally, "waiting and finding that I would not or could not speak, he uttered. What he said--and I thought a little sadly--was, `You are the only person who has ever come into this room and looked at the things in the room before looking at me'" (97-8). The Professor might have taken a clue to H.D.'s tendency to approach someone she desired through an intermediary, particularly a mythological object or symbol./34/
As an index to the very different style of the letters, compare this report on the same episode that H. D. wrote to Havelock Ellis:
Even more dramatic was the way she described the event in a letter to Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson the very day of that first session:
He let me wander about and then remarked rather whimsically and ironically that he saw that I was not really interested in him, nor in humanity, that the FIRST entrance of the analysand was most important, and my first instinct was to look at the Greek and Egyptian collection and not at HIM. So far, so good. He is terribly penetrating of course, but very, very non-frightening and tender. I was very upset for the first few hours (3/13/33).
I staggered down Berg Gasse, having timed it to take about ten slow minutes, or eight fast, this morning. The entrance was lovely with wide steps and a statue in a court-yard before a trellis and gave me time to powder, only a gent with an attaché case emerged and looked at me knowingly, and I thought, "ah--the Professor's last" and found the door still open from his exit, to let enter cat, who was moaned over by a tiny stage-maid who took off the gun-metal rubbers and said I should not wear my coat. I stuck to the coat, was ushered into waiting room, and before I could adjust before joyless-street mirror, a little white ghost emerged at my elbow and I nearly fainted, it said "enter fair madame" and I did and a small but furry chow got up in the other room, and came and stood at my feet. God. I think if the chow hadn't liked me, I would have left, I was so scared by Oedipus. I shook all over, he said I must take off my coat, I said I was cold, he led me around room and I admired bits of Pompeii in red, a bit of Egyptian cloth and some authentic coffin paintings. A sphynx faces the bed. I did not want to go to bed, the white "napkin for the head" was the only professional touch, there were dim lights, like an opium dive. I started to talk about Sachs and Chaddie [Mary Chadwick] and my experience with ps-a. He said he would prefer me to recline. He has a real fur rug, and I started to tell him how turtle [Hanns Sachs] had none, he seemed vaguely shocked, then remarked, "I see you are going to be very difficult. Now although it is against the rules, I will tell you something: YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED, AND YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED IN ME." I then let out a howl, and screamed, "but do you not realize you are everything, you are priest, you are magician." He said, "no. It is you who are poet and magician." I then cried so I could hardly utter and he said that I had looked at the pictures, preferring the mere dead shreds of antiquity to his living presence. I then yelled, "but you see your dog liked me, when your dog came, I knew it was all right, as it would not have liked me if you had not." He said, "ah, an English proverb but reversed, like me and you like my dog." I corrected him, "love me, love my dog" and he growled and purred with delight. He then gave me a long speech on how sad it was for a poet to listen to his bad English. I then howled some more and said he was not a person but a voice, and that in looking at antiquity, I was looking at him. He said I had got to the same place as he, we met, he in the childhood of humanity--antiquity--l in my own childhood. I cried some more and the hour was already more than half gone. it was terrible. I go now at five regularly. I could not tackle him about money but will try to-morrow. He is not there at all, is simply a ghost and I simply shake all over and cry. He kept asking me if I wanted the lights changed. He sat, not at, but on the pillow and hammered with his fist to point his remarks and mine. I am terrified of Oedipus Rex. What am I to do? He finally made me stand beside him and said though I was taller, he was nearly as tall. I had said maybe I was disappointed that he was not a giant, as being taller made me grown up; in my dreams now I was always a child. We compromised... but he seemed to have won. Then I got as far as the door and the professor said "ah" and there, snug under the rug, were my bags (I had taken two small ones instead of a big one). So I did win after all, he saw then that I was not disappointed in him... but it was all too awful, I shall never get over Oedipus and I go tomorrow and on and on. He is terrible, dope and dope and dope [dope=psychoanalytic data or interpretation]. We talked of race and the war, he said I was English from America and that was not difficult, "what am I?' I said, "well, a Jew--" he seemed to want me to make the statement. I then went on to say that that too was a religious bond as Jew was the only member of antiquity that still lived in the world. He said, "in fragments." 0 Lord... you said he would not talk and he talked half the time and he would not let me lie and dream and made me talk; not with T [Turtle=Sachs], and Chaddie, I was never at a loss for a word, but this old Oedipus Rex has got me... I told him so, sobbing, and said I had not cried in the other hours. 0 Lord, write me!" (3/1/33)./35/
From this letter, we can read H.D.'s sheer excitement about the analysis, her emotionality, and how she came to Freud already primed for awe and submission and, perhaps, a little resentment at her submission. Even so, she approached "the Professor," "Oedipus," "papa," not only through the collection and mythology, but also the dog./36/
Having, so to speak, reached Freud- the-father through these intermediaries, she then approached, through him, her mother. In an unusual move for an analysand, she seems to have plunged immediately to the very deep, maternal level of her infantile unconscious. "The Professor said I had not made the conventional transference from mother to father, as is usual with a girl at adolescence. He said he thought my father was a cold man." (136, 175). Freud apparently explained to her that both girls and boys first fixate on their mothers. Girls then usually "transfer" their desire to their fathers. But she had not done so. Hence her rapid transference to Freud as mother./37/
Thus, two weeks into the analysis, she wrote Bryher, "I made this peculiar, unexpected dip or drop into earliest layers, with mother-transference, which Freud says is most important" (3/16/33). And even earlier, nine sessions into her analysis, she reported to Bryher:
This is funny. My TRANSFERENCE seems to have taken place and what is it? This--Chiron [Havelock Ellis], big and remote and dumb is father-symbol and papa [Freud] is a sort of old Beaver [her mother, Helen Doolittle]. Isn't that odd? Well, there is the language of course [H.D.'s mother spoke German], and his being small and delicate (woman) and having lots of friends and relatives (family, analysands) and so on. But papa was too sweet, when I told him of my constatation, he beat the pillow and said, "but you are very clever." (Cat [H.D.] tail waving, cat purring its whiskers off.) He said he suspected it, then he said, in the best small-dog [Bryher] manner, "but--to be perfectly frank with YOU--I do not like it-- I feel so very, very very MASCULINE." He says he always feels hurt when his analysands have a maternal transference. I asked if it happened often, he said sadly, "O, very often" (3/10/33)./38/
Another intermediary in H.D.'s analysis was "the Flying Dutchman," J. J. van der Leeuw, so nicknamed because he flew his own plane. He was a theosophist and educator whom Freud analyzed during the spring of 1933. "His soul fitted his body," wrote H.D. (7), and she surely had not forgotten that when she wrote, later in the book, of her own soul, "Its body did not fit it very well" (106). After the first analysis was over, when H.D. heard that his plane had crashed, she had a nervous breakdown. Recovered, she came back to Vienna to express, she said, her sorrow and sympathy for Freud. "'You have come,'" he bluntly interpreted, "`to take his place'" (6).Indeed, she had said, "We bear the same relation to the couch" (14), and she called van der Leeuw her "brother-in-arms" (85) and "Mercury" (7)./39/
Her brother was in arms when he was killed in France in 1918, and H.D. herself linked soldier and airman when she had her mystical vision at Corfu or when she numbered her brother among the "poised, disciplined and valiant young winged Mercuries" who fell from the air during the war (101). Freud's remark "that the analysand who preceded me [van der Leeuwl was 'actually considerably taller'" than H.D. led her directly to a statement and a memory, "My brother is considerably taller" (20)./40/
Although she does not even tell us his name, this older brother (Gilbert) was obviously a key figure in H.D.'s childhood, for he "is admittedly his mother's favorite" (29). H.D. loved and admired him, too, but she also envied him: "I was not, it was very easy to see, quaint and quick and clever like my brother. My brother? Am I my brother's keeper?" (101). Perhaps she did feel like Cain, for that very brother seemed to be the intermediary through whom she could reach her distant mother: "The trouble is, she knows so many people and they come and interrupt. And besides that, she likes my brother better. If I stay with my brother, become part almost of my brother, perhaps I can get nearer to her" (33). They are, she says, mythological twins: "One is sometimes the shadow of the other; often one is lost and the one seeks the other" (29)./41/
What she sought in her brother was her mother, but another memory of Gilbert suggests another motif: he had taken one of the "sacred objects" from his father's desk, a magnifying glass, and he showed his sister how he could focus the sunlight to burn a piece of paper (25). Possibly, to become one with her brother meant to acquire the special powers that men seemed to have, the power to bring fire from heaven like Prometheus, to understand the mysterious symbols her astronomer-father used or her brother's larger vocabulary./42/
Thus, her brother became the first of the many mythological lover-heroes in H.D.'s quests: Perseus, Hermes, the Flying Dutchman, various poetic and mystical lovers, and the Professors (her father, Freud). Norman Holmes Pearson phrased them to me, "the one searched for (who himself searches)." If she became her brother, she would be "quaint and clever" instead of "not very advanced." Perhaps most important, she would have arrived first; she would be older, not a foreigner or "`a little stranger'" (26). All these things might be possible with a boy's body instead of a girl's. As she puts it in an enigmatic comment, left to stand by itself after a story about her brother and discoveries under a log, "There were things under things, as well as things inside things" (21)./43/
H.D. suggests still another goal she sought in her brother, another memory, the wish that she could be a mother: perhaps her brother would be her doll's father, perhaps her own father could be. She would be the virgin mother, "building a dream and the dream is symbolized by the . . . doll in her arms" (38). To Freud, in the transference, she brought all these fantasies and investments of her brother, just as she brought the dreams concretized as the doll./44/
Freud is St. Michael, who will slay the dragon of her fears, but Michael was also regent of the planet Mercury-- "in Renaissance paintings, we are not surprised to see Saint Michael wearing the winged sandals and sometimes even the winged helmet of the classic messenger of the Gods" (52). Thus, she has whole chains of associations: "Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, and last, Michael, Captain or Centurion of the hosts of heaven" (109). When she compares Freud to the Centurion of heaven, she cannot have forgotten that, a half-dozen pages earlier, she had said that, in his refusal to accept her notions of immortality, his slamming the door on visions of the future, he was standing "like the Roman Centurion before the gate of Pompeii, who did not move from his station before the gateway since he had received no orders to do so, and who stood for later generations to wonder at, embalmed in hardened lava, preserved in the very fire and ashes that had destroyed him" (102). She goes on to quote Freud, when told his books had been burnt: "`At least, they have not burnt me at the stake.'" Earlier, she had been grateful that the Professor had not lived until World War II. Cremated, "he was a handful of ashes" "before the blast and bombing and fires had devastated this city" (4). The wish is kindly meant, but underneath, listened to with the "third ear," it shows the same ambivalence as toward that other Mercury, her brother./45/
Freud, like Prometheus, like her brother, had stolen fire from heaven, from the sun, for he was not only the victim but the cause of explosions: "Many of his words did, in a sense, explode . . . opening up mines of hidden treasures" (75). More gently, after an especially striking insight, he would say, "'Ah-- now--we must celebrate this' "; he would rise, select, light, and then, "from the niche [where he sat rose] the smoke of burnt incense, the smouldering of his mellow, fragrant cigar" (23). She identified Freud with Asklepios, the "blameless physician" (50) son of Apollo. "He was the son of the sun, Phoebos Apollo, and music and medicine were alike sacred to this source of light." "Here was the master- musician, he, too, a son of Apollo, who would harmonize the whole human spirit" (105-6). He is poet and priest. She identifies herself as a fellow servant of Apollo, the Priestess or Pythoness of Delphi; thus, she suggests that Freud is her peer and brother. But by punning on "son" and "sun," she makes Apollo himself, the father, the "son."/46/
In short, Freud came to stand for the whole tangle of wishes and relationships associated with the oedipal wishes of a little girl: that she could be her mother and her father's lover; that she could be a mother with her brother as father; that she could, by marrying her father, be her brother's mother; that she could, by marrying her brother, become her father's mother. She seems to recognize these ambiguities when she calls Freud "the Old Man of the Sea," Proteus, the shapeshifter (97), or compares him to two-faced Janus (100), who leads her to Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, and finally, the Flying Dutchman. But Janus is also Captain January, a beloved old lighthouse keeper who takes in a shipwrecked child (100). Freud becomes in the transference not only her brother but also her father. This dual relationship with Freud matches H.D.'s extended identification of herself with Mignon, the boy-girl from Wilhelm Meister, who is both sister but also would-be sexual object to the hero (101ff.), as in the "Piraeus" poem./47/
In the strangely labile world of a psychoanalysis, Freud can become H.D.'s father, but so can H.D. She herself makes the connection: her father, being an astronomer, often slept on a couch in his study during the day, and she was not to disturb him. "But now it is I who am lying on the couch in the room lined with books" (19). Her father had in his study a white owl under a bell jar; she has the Professor, sitting "there, quietly, like an old owl in a tree" (22). And, one should remember, the owl is an emblem for Athené with whom H.D. identified herself. At the top of the astronomical tables he made up, her father would write something which was neither a letter nor a number: "He will sketch in a hieroglyph; it may stand for one of the Houses or Signs of the Zodiac, or it may be a planet simply: Jupiter or Mars or Venus" (25). Dreams, visions, and all the shapes, lines, and graphs she speaks of are "the hieroglyph of the unconscious." As for herself, "Niké, Victory seemed to be the clue, seemed to be my own special sign or part of my hieroglyph" (56). If one is a hieroglyph, a writing, one is looked at--by Freud, but less consciously spoken, by the aloof father, perhaps even by the distant mother./48/
Later H.D. will identify herself with Freud by seeing him as victorious, but at the moment we are concerned with Freud's becoming, in the transference, H.D.'s father. For one thing, he seemed able to persist. Her father had died at the shock of learning of her brother's death, while "The Professor had had shock upon shock. But he had not died" (31). Another line of association led to what men have and what doctors do. "My father possessed sacred symbols . . . he, like the Professor, had old, old sacred objects on his study table" (25). In his study, her father had a photograph of Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson, and her father rather liked to identify himself with doctors. Further, "A doctor has a bag with strange things in it, steel and knives and scissors" (34). Doctors, she observes, know secrets. Her father "entrusts" her with his paper-knife to cut the pages of some of his journals. " In this context, she sees psychoanalysis as a special form of Socratic method and Socratic method in turn as fencing. quot;The half-naked man on the table was dead so it did not hurt him when the doctors sliced his arm with a knife or a pair of scissors. Thus, Freud, in the transference, acquired the power to cut and thrust and penetrate. She speaks of the Tree of Knowledge: "His [Freud's] were the great giant roots of that tree, but mine, with hair-like almost invisible feelers . . . the invisible intuitive rootlet . . . the smallest possible sub- soil rootlet" (99), could also solve mysteries./49/
In his experience, Freud wrote about this time, one of the irreducible difficulties in the analysis of women was the frustration and anger imposed by their strong unconscious wish to recapture a supposedly lost masculine power physically symbolized as the male organ. We should bear in mind his belief that H.D. believed that the analyst--the doctor---will restore what has been, in fantasy, cut off, in considering H.D.'s phrase that Freud's interpretions were "gifts" to her. One memorable day he led her from the couch into his study to show her one of his Greek figurines. "`This is my favourite,' he said, "and he held out a little bronze Pallas Athené. "'She is perfect,' he said, 'only she has lost her spear'" (68-69; italics H.D.'s). She remembered that Athené's winged form was Niké, so that this was a Niké without wings, Niké A-pteros, as, for example, H.D. had seen her in Athens (made so that Victory would never fly away to another city). She meditates on "She is perfect." "The little bronze statue was a perfect symbol, made in man's image (in woman's, as it happened), to be venerated as a projection of abstract thought, Pallas Athené . . . sprung full-armed from the head of her father, our-father" (70)./50/
Maybe it wasn't a spear she had been holding--"It might have been a rod or staff" (89), and she went on to remember the Professor's giving her a little branch from a box of oranges his son had sent. As I read Freud's interpretive act, he was giving her symbolically what he thought every woman patient wanted. She herself could associate to that golden bough another gift or compliment Freud gave her: "There are very few who understand this [that my discoveries are a basis for a very grave philosophy], there are very few who are capable of understanding this" (18). Freud was, in effect, giving H.D. back the understanding, the brain strength, that leads to victory, the perhaps masculine power represented in sacred objects, the ability to live in her wingless self, all of which, at some level of her being, H.D. felt, her real father had taken away. Or, perhaps, her mother had never given her./51/
This moment in H.D.'s analysis, this showing of the spearless Athena, has become a cause célèbre. Even now, two-thirds of a century after he formulated it, Freud's claim that women want a penis angers feminists and women in general. In this respect, it is, like so many psychoanalytic ideas, like, for example, men's fear of castration, distressing, incredible, even repellent./52/
Penis envy, however, is not my essential theme. I want to try to understand the relation between, on the one hand, H.D.'s need to write and her need to write in a particular style and, on the other, her unconscious thinking, particularly the thoughts and feelings carried into her adult life from her childhood. So far, we have seen those thoughts by tracing her various transferences toward Freud. We can take another, more schematic path through her associations: tracing her ideas and images through the various developmental stages of childhood. As it happens, the actual course of H.D.'s psychoanalysis seems to have followed these stages from the earliest to the latest. Further, the succession of her writings about the analysis reflects her increasing understanding of herself and her assimilation of the analysis, provided we consider the dates she wrote them rather than the dates of publication: the letters during the analysis (1933- 34); the poem "The Master" (1935); the self-analytical The Gift (1941-43); Tribute to Freud (1944); "Advent" (1948). The last two, though written last, give us the overall view. The others address particular issues. As a result, we can trace three roughly parallel tracks: a chronological account of the successive stages of H.D.'s analysis; the successive stages of her childhood development as they underlay her adult personality; and the succession of writings telling her story and her increasing understanding of that story./53/
Psychoanalysis has taught us the truth of old proverbs: how, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree, or, less metaphorically, how the child is father to the man. A century of experience has shown us that the bodily experiences of infancy and childhood persist in the style of the adult. To be sure, there is much debate among psychoanalysts whether the forms of those bodily experiences directly result from innate, biological drives or early relationships or both. Experimental psychologists, however, have abundantly confirmed the clustering in adults of certain behaviors that look like the childhood stages of development posited by psychoanalysis. Indeed, this is the one aspect of psychoanalysis most strongly verified by experimental evidence, as detailed in Fisher and Greenberg's 1996 survey of experimental literature on Freudian theory./54/
In effect, the early experiences of childhood form geological layers on which later experiences accumulate all the way to adulthood. Extreme gaps or faults or prominences at the lower levels appear in (usually) softened form, just as huge rifts and shears and bulges deep in the earth lead to gently sloping hills and valleys on the surface. This layering Freud hypothesized and later psychoanalysts have confirmed in practice. Clinical evidence, however, is shaky. A solider confirmation comes from non-clinicians./55/
In recent decades, brain physiologists have shown how the brain grows and ungrows during infancy. As described in Chapter One (paragraphs 30-33), the infant's brain begins with only a small part of the neural intercnnections it will later have. During the first half-dozen years of life, the child's brain becomes supercharged with more connections and more energy than it will have as an adult. Then, around age eleven, vast numbers of neurons get pruned away. And all through life, we are capable of growing new circuits in response to new experiences./56/
It is activity that inflects this growth and ungrowth. Synapses, neural interconnections, that the child uses grow and strengthen. Unused synapses die off. Our brains must grow then in ways that fit the parental, social, and natural environment in which we spend our childhood. The history of our childhood becomes incorporated in our adult personalities. To be sure, specific traits (like being a smoker or a conservative) stem from childhood peers and society, but our deepest, most pervasive traits must come from our earliest childhood in a family that shaped early brain growth. All-pervading adult traits, such as H.D.'s constant need for a supernatural reality or her persistent wish to fuse with others, must come from infantile experiences. Since experiments confirm the adult traits associated with the classic psychoanalytic account of infancy, we can feel some confidence in applying that account to H.D.'s psychoanalysis. Certainly that is what Freud did./57/
I imagine this psychoanalytic description of psychological development as questions and answers. The environment (mother, father, siblings, society, the physical world) poses questions--demands--to children, and children are to embody answers in their behaviors. Any given society poses to every child more or less the same questions. Each child, however, answers these demands out of its unique, growing identity, the core of its nature that is growing as the child embodies answers to these questions. Further, although the questions may be much the same, each child will experience them differently, as each child begins to have a different identity. I have modeled at length this way of thinking about some classical psychoanalytic ideas in The I (1985)./58/
During the first, "oral" stage of infancy, a baby is primarily an eater. The question the world asks the infant every day and several times a day is, How will things from outside you get inside? How will you take into your body? How will you get? The answers to these questions form the dyad--the bodily dance--of infant and caregiver in the earliest stage around themes of giving and receiving and dependency. All these questions also involve asking the caregiver (mother and servant, in H.D.'s family), How will you give from your body to your child's? How will you make yourself available to your baby's sight, touch, hearing, and imagination? How will you fail your child?/59/
An even more profound question, then, dominant throughout the first three or four years of our lives, is, How will you (two) cease to be a unit? How will you (baby or nurturer) become a separate I? How will you be a self?/60/
As infants, we coped with issues like, How will you get?, or, How will you separate?, by acting the answers out bodily. Our environment responded to those answers with satisfactions or frustrations. A child dreads hunger, dreads cold, dreads being left alone, dreads abandonment, but in earliest infancy, a baby dreads most of all (says psychoanalytic theory) being overwhelmed by a suffering that goes on and on to utter annihilation./61/
Inevitably, caregivers will fail to some degree. Inevitably, some mismatch will occur between the baby's wordless needs and mother's gratifying them. As a result, the baby will mix frustration and anger in with the love and dependency it also feels. How much the mother or other caretakers energize that anger and fear tones the pleasures and unpleasures the baby feels and becomes part of character. Evidently, H.D.'s mother created in her an unusual sensitivity to gaps and separations./62/
At first, a baby deals with the intolerable mixture of love and hate caused by these absences by splitting the image of mother into a good mother inside and a bad mother "out there." Gradually, we became able to feel both love and hate toward the one person without shattering our symbolic representation of her. We could hate without feeling that we were destroying, and we could love without feeling that we had to engulf her./63/
In the earliest phase of babyhood, we were primarily passive. Mother was the active one, feeding and bathing us, taking care of our requirements, and leaving us so as to take care of her own and others' needs. As a baby, our task was to learn to tolerate those absences. We cried, we fretted, we gurgled, or we slept. Gradually, we learned to handle the delay by symbolizing our absent mother, an important step in our separation from her and our growing ability to conceptualize the world around us. Emotionally, our being able to imagine our absent mother (and our mother absent) provided the foundation for our ability to trust in her return, for a more general hopefulness all through life./64/
As infancy proceeded, we were acting out--feeling out--answers to questions like these: How will you tolerate delay? How will you turn your massive responses of love and hate into a steadier trust? How will you replace your physical and psychological fusion with a symbolic union and boundary? How will you separate from this dyad of mother and baby to become a distinct you? The child acts out answers to these "How's," and these acted-out answers become, I think, the beginnings of a personal style, an identity theme. Formed from day one, it becomes visible to an observer by the age of three and sometimes earlier. It is the answers derived from these first questions that we brought to our next stage of development./65/
In the first stage, we were primarily taking in from outside. That was our "modality." In the second we gave from inside out. We emitted cries, noises, actions, smells, body products. Of course we had been "expressing" in these ways from the beginning, but now they became a new focus for that dyadic relation between mother and child./66/
Our experiences became less global, more precise. In the earlier period, we feared utter annihilation. Now that dread became more precise: the loss of love, the failure of that sustaining otherness that made life and feeling possible./67/
In the earlier stage, we had been receivers. Now we both received and gave. Newly precise muscles allowed us to control more and more of our bodily activities, especially evacuation. In the earlier stage, we began to frame a symbolic boundary that defined what was self and what was not. Body products posed perplexing issues. This excrement, is it a living part of me or something dead, disgusting, to be thrown away? The sound I make--it leaves my mouth and is no longer part of me, yet am I to be held responsible for it? Transitional objects like soft blankets and teddy bears became part of the I, and yet the I knew they were also or primarily part of the "out there," the not-me./68/
The earlier development of symbols acquired a new precision: symbolizing rules. Symbolizing others, taking them in or putting them out imaginatively, acquired the meaning of accepting their rules or having one's own rules--with all the complex shadings of government that those alternatives provide. The child obstinately shouts, "No!" and "Not now!" Some of these rules concerned symbols, now precised as babytalk, with rules for grammar and syntax soon to be added. Some concerned what goes into and out of the body. In the earlier stage our sense of time was a sense of delay, simply waiting and wanting. Next it became something more precise, a sense of timing: When is this or that appropriate? The earlier determination, "I will be me," also acquired a special tone, "I will decide for myself." The first stage's creation of trust in others became a trust in self, the basis for self-reliance and self- respect. Erikson introduces for this stage the term "autonomy," self ruling, as opposed to being ruled by others or by happenstance./69/
In this second stage, we translated into more specific terms questions like: How shall I let the inside outside? How shall I control that boundary between inside and outside? Who decides? Who rules? Do I do as I wish? Do I live by their rules? Or by my own? Or can I make theirs mine and mine theirs? Body products lead to other questions: What is me and what is not-me? What is animate and inanimate, living and dead? Is this disgusting or precious? Will it be hard or soft? When will you deal with it?/70/
These concerns about things going in and out of one's body pervade the next, "intrusive" stage. What was simply "out there" became a barrier to be penetrated in a burst of aggressive energy. Our first concern with symbols, transformed into rules and concepts, became a body language and the use of that language and speech to dominate, intrude, and explore our world. Parents recognize the intrusive (or "phallic") stage as a child's bursting into noise, physical attack, constant talking, and endless curiosity--the Why? games. All were ways of pushing ourselves into the world through bodily activity./71/
Partly we explored our own bodies, curiosity fueled now by new sexual knowledge, for example, about the different ways boys and girls urinate. That difference became part of our sense of personal power or the lack of personal power, for throughout this period our ambitions and projections far outran our actual abilities. We felt not only constant aspiration but also constant frustration. In this stage, "good enough" mothering meant tolerating and even enjoying our bursting activity, not creating a massive sense of frustration or the belief that "I won't ever be able to enter my parents' kind of world" or "I will never be big enough."/72/
As children we constantly faced the limits of our bodies. We felt, "I can't stand these limits on me, yet I can't escape them either." What reminded us of those limits was the daunting difference between what we could do and what we imagined ourselves or our parents doing, or, perhaps, saw them doing, possibly in a sexual way. All the more intense, then, became our ambition: I want to be big. Any bodily deficiency could mean the end of your or my future as a member of that community of adults. It is in this context that a four-year-old boy or girl interprets the anatomical difference between the sexes. Do they see that difference as a difference or as a lack? Is something missing? Could I lose it?/73/
Physiology plays an obvious role here. A boy has a visible organ that gets bigger and smaller, playing out the drama that both boy and girl imagine of becoming big. A girl does not, and she may therefore see her difference as a lack. May. What she feels she has instead depends a great deal on her culture and her family. If they use femaleness as a reason for depriving women of avenues to various adult activities, then indeed a little girl is likely to feel that the difference between her and a boy is a plus for him and a zero or a minus for her. One can easily imagine cultures, however, in which women are given equal status with men in the workplace. One can visualize--indeed observe, as Margaret Mead did--societies in which pregnancy and birthing are women's great power, not a hospital procedure run by male doctors. One can observe societies which value mothering equally or beyond other kinds of work. In such contexts a little girl may come to feel that what she has instead of a boy's penis may be less visible, less touchable, but a power and a privilege, both mystery and mastery, not a lack but simply a difference./74/
This intrusive stage asked us as children, How will you enter the world? And we answered, Through my body, I will be big. But how will you be big? Here there was a great deal of room for individual answering: big at thinking, big at football, big and strong, big and cruel, or big at owning things. At the same time, biology and culture insisted that we find our ways to one of two specific ways of being big: "I will be a man." "I will be a woman." "I will have--be, really--a gender." "I will become a parent." In this context we reinterpreted in gender terms earlier fears about our bodies as either preventing our taking a place in that matrix of parent-child, male- female, or foreclosing one place and forcing another./75/
"I will become a parent." That answer does not imply that the child will literally become a five-year old parent, although that was often part of your or my imagining. We imagined ourselves in the half-understood situation of one or both of our parents, and we included a child's even more confused idea of sex and where babies come from, for it is babies that define parents as parents./76/
In the oedipal period we had to work out an answer to the question, How will you situate yourself in a world divided into male and female, parents and children? We had to learn that we could not be both parents, only one. The answer all existing societies want is, "I will have--be, really--one of the genders our society accepts." "I will be like one of the adults in my world." The identification with one of those adults meant acceptance of some of his or her values, building them deeply and firmly into our own character for the duration of the long wait for adulthood. /77/
That, very briefly, is the way I think about childhood themes. It is my phrasing of ideas Freud would have brought to an analysis in 1933, ideas derived from his own work and that of his 1930s co-workers. These are the issues he and his gifted patient or "student," explored in her psychoanalysis, the results of which she brought to bear on her poetry and her life./78/
One way that H.D. signalled how important the first stage of mother, infant, taking in, and dependency would be in her analysis was by her rapid mother-transfence. Another way was her use of images of fluids and herself carried by the fluids to describe the psychoanalytic process. She had entered analysis because she felt she was, like other intellectuals, "drifting," that she was "a narrow birch-bark canoe" being swept into the "cataract" of war (12- 13). Her friends provided only "a deluge of brilliant talk," but no "safe harbour" (57). Thus, she sees herself as "a ship-wrecked child" turning to old Captain January (99, 102). "The flow of associated images" (11), the "fountain-head of highest truth" (92), "the current [that] ran too deep" (18)--H.D.'s images of fluids suggest, quite beautifully, the way something which is experienced passively, as an overpowering and terrifying deluge or flood, can, in the microcosm of the analytic relationship, be accepted and mastered. "He would stand guardian, he would turn the whole stream of consciousness back into useful, into irrigation channels" (103)./79/
Yet, at the same time, this relationship harbors dangers. "If I let go (I, this one drop, this one ego under the microscope-telescope of Sigmund Freud) I fear to be dissolved utterly" (116). So, in the vision on Corfu, H.D. felt as though she were drowning. "I must drown completely and come out on the other side, or rise to the surface after the third time down, not dead to this life but with a new set of values my treasure dredged from the depth. I must be born again or break utterly" (54). Later, she described her terror during the Blitz in these same images of liquids: "I had gone down under the wave and I was still alive, I was breathing. I was not drowning though in a sense, I had drowned; I had gone down, been submerged by the wave of memories and terrors, repressed since the age of ten and long before" (Gift 219). Evidently, the earliest stage of childhood established the language in which H.D. would realize her most overwhelming experiences, and her analysis with Freud was one of them./80/
She used other images of fluids to show the feeling of "oceanic" unity that is related to that first unity with the mother. She described Freud as naming and discovering "a great stream or ocean underground" that, "overflowing," produces inspiration, madness, creative idea, or mental disease. This ocean transcends all barriers of time and space (71). Thus, for any patient, "His particular stream, his personal life, could run clear of obstruction into the great river of humanity, hence to the sea of superhuman perfection" (84)./81/
The infant wishes for a source of love and nurture who is always there--for example, an analyst who never dies or goes away: "I looked at the things in his room before I looked at him; for I knew the things in his room were symbols of Eternity and contained him then, as Eternity contains him now" (102). When Freud one day spoke as though his immortality lay only in his grandchildren, "I felt a sudden gap, a severance, a chasm or schism in consciousness" (62). She was echoing what she had said earlier about her mother: "If one could stay near her always, there would be no break in consciousness" (33). Her concern with the Flying Dutchman and Freud's other patients matches her complaint about the many people who "come and interrupt" her relationship with her mother (33)./82/
From psychoanalytic theory, one would expect the father to inherit the deepest conflicts and feelings associated with the mother, here, the need to avoid gaps or breaks in the relationship. Indeed, H.D. is quite explicit about this: "If one could stay near her always . . . but half a loaf is better than no bread and there are things, not altogether negligible, to be said for him" (34). But, as for her astronomer-father, she wrote Bryher of "a blind fear of space and the distances of the planets and the fixed stars" (4/28/33). /83/
Gaps, spaces between, somehow these terrified her. In interpreting a dream about a mysterious, beautiful Egyptian princess coming down a flight of steps to find Moses in the bulrushes, she tells us how she dealt with them. The Princess was, of course, Marie Bonaparte, Freud's royal patient and patron, but also H.D.'s mother. H.D. herself, Freud thought, was Miriam watching in the bulrushes or, perhaps, the baby. "Am I," asked H.D., "after all, in my fantasy, the baby? Do I wish myself, in the deepest unconscious or subconscious layers of my being, to be the founder of a new religion?" (37)./84/
Yes, she did. She had to believe in a religious transcendence, because that would close the gaps. Religious wishes were one of her two points of difference with Freud: "About the greater transcendental issues, we never argued. But there was an argument implicit in our very bones" (13). It was in this context that she cast him as the burnt Centurion in the ruins of Pompeii, a hostile wish no matter how rationalized (102). As for Freud, he was polite about H.D.'s religious claims (123), but he remained, as always, the materialist and atheist./85/
Further, the wish for an eternal order might come not just from a defensive need to get rid of gaps but from the child's positive wish to become the mother and the positive wish to be mothered. "Before I leave [the session], I fold the silver-grey rug. I have been caterpillar, worm, snug in the chrysalis" (177). And she was surely aware that she was imaging rebirth as well as womb-like security./86/
In short, H.D. made Freud in the transference her mother or her father as a mother-substitute. She thus shows how her mystical and religious wishes hark back to the early mother-child relationship. In later life, Erikson has shown again and again, political ideologies, personal love, or religious faith can all serve the maternal function, gratifying "the simple and fervent wish for a hallucinatory sense of unity with a maternal matrix." The timeless world of myth became, for H.D., a way of nurturing and being nurtured and of avoiding gaps, breaks, and interruptions between herself and a nurturing other./87/
"Myth and religion served H.D. this way, but so did psychoanalysis, Freud the man and psychoanalysis the theory. They too, met her need to have faith in something. Thus, Freud interpreted H.D.'s mystical vision on Corfu "as a desire for union with [your] mother," and in the transference he became that mother. "`Why did you think you had to tell me? But you wanted to tell your mother'" (44). The final vision in the mystical experience on Corfu was the least defended against or disguised, the first vision the most so. To the last picture, H.D. associates memories of her father and mother, and to be the chosen woman of the man in the sun-disc would indeed involve an "explosion." H.D. herself, however, suggests another interpretation and association: "The shrine of Helios (Hellas, Helen) had been really the main objective of my journey" (49). "I was physically in Greece, in Hellas (Helen). I had come home to the glory that was Greece," and she identifies the phrase as from "Edgar Allan Poe's much-quoted Helen, and my mother's name was Helen" (44)./88/
Indeed, H.D.'s whole faith in Freud and psychoanalysis should be interpreted as a wish for a mystical union: "The Professor had said in the very beginning that I had come to Vienna hoping to find my mother" (17), even as she had found her in the vision on Corfu. Thus she insisted on making Freud the "`founder of a new religion.'" "Obviously it was he, who was that light out of Egypt" (119). "Freud," she wrote Macpherson, "is simply Jesus-Christ after the resurrection, he has that wistful ghost look of someone who has been right past the door of the tomb, and such tenderness with such humour, he just IS all that. I am sure he IS the absolute inheritor of all that eastern mystery and majic, just IS, in spite of his monumental work and all that he is the real, the final healer" (3/15/33)./89/
Freud responded to H.D.'s fervid religiosity characteristically, with politeness and skepticism and referring her beliefs to their origins. "We touched lightly on some of the more abstruse transcendental problems, it is true, but we related them to the familiar family-complex" (12-13). "A Queen or Princess," she notes in connection with a religious dream, "is obvious mother- symbol" (39). Equally obviously, though, her need for a religious level of being does not simply come down to her wish to merge with a "Princess" or "prophetess." Participation in another level of being would make her a mother in a far more powerful sense, for she could then restore her own lost loved ones. She would become the goddess or, more realistically, the founder of a new religion based in psychoanalysis. "The dead were living in so far as they lived in memory or were recalled in dream"(14)./90/
She wrote rather crudely to Bryher about these early levels of her personality:
F. says mine is the absolutely FIRST layer, I got stuck at the earliest pre-OE [pre-oedipal] stage, and "back to the womb" seems to be my only solution. Hence islands, sea, Greek primitives and so on. Its all too, too wonder-making. Even T. [Turtle=Sachs] said I was deeply attached to my father which I suppose I was and am, but I always felt there was a catch somewhere. My triangle is mother-brother-self. That is, early phallic-mother, baby brother or smaller brother and self. I have worked in and around that, I have HAD the baby with my mother, and been the phallic-baby, hence Moses in the bull-rushes, I have HAD the baby with the brother, hence Cuthbert [Richard Aldington], Cecil Grey [Gray], Kenneth [Macpherson], etc.' I have HAD the "illumination" or the back to womb WITH, the brother, hence you and me in Corfu (island=mother), with [Peter] Rodeck always as a phallic-mother.... well, well, well, I could go on and on and on, demonstrating, but once you get the first idea, all the other, later diverse- looking manifestations fit in somehow. Savvy ?????? Its all too queer and at first, I felt life had been wasted in all this repetition etc., but somehow F. seems to find it amusing, sometimes, and apparently I am of a good "life" vibration as I went on and on, repeating, wanting to give life or save life, never in that sense, to destroy life (except self-rat to get back to the island-womb phase, all most natural) (3/23/33).
And she went on in other letters to identify Bryher as standing for her brother in later life. In this letter, H.D. identifies the male side of her bisexuality with early, hungry wishes for a timeless at- oneness with the mother. She wanted to be a mother and to be mothered by these male lovers (resulting in a stillbirth, a child, and an abortion, respectively). "Evidently," she wrote Bryher, "ALL the gents linked on, in one way or another with beaver [her mother] and with Ida that old nurse we had. Funny. Shows what a mess one can make of choosing "masculine" types" (3/14/33)./91/
H.D. seemed also to accept Freud's interpretation of the Corfu vision "as a suppressed desire for forbidden 'signs and wonders,' breaking bounds, a suppressed desire to be a Prophetess, to be important anyway, megalomania they call it" (51). And perhaps this megalomanic fantasy is why the people in her vision appeared as a swarm of "small midges."/92/
The pattern of fusion in the Corfu vision occurred throughout. In the vision, for example, discrete dots appeared but merged to form a Jacob's ladder linking earth to the realm of the gods, like a child's wish to be big and merge into the world of the parents. In yet another pattern of fusion, the vision was not only H.D.'s; it also became Bryher's. The exhausted H.D. left it to Bryher to finish the vision. Transferring further blurred the boundaries between self and nurturing other. H.D. was cheery enough about the fusion, but this was the thing Freud thought most dangerous. To me it suggests a fault at the earliest, deepest level of development./93/
Longing for closeness, the child H.D. evidently dealt with potential gaps, not by suffering them passively, but by actively closing them herself. In using H.D.'s analysis to trace her development through the stages of childhood, we come to the second stage. Concerned with body products, what is me and not-me, what is precious as opposed to what is to be discarded, what is forced out of one or freely given, this second stage builds on the solutions arrived at in the first stage. Thus, she could understand her poems in these terms:
Yes, the poems are satisfactory but unlike most poets of my acquaintance (and I have known many) I am no longer interested in a poem once it is written, projected, or materialized. There is a feeling that it is only a part of myself there (149).
She has put just a part of herself out into the world, where it is separate, and thus she turns away from the (excreted?) poem and back to her intact self./94/
To compromise between her need to be totally included and fused and totally excluded and separate, H.D. adapted by taking the active role and establishing the boundaries and edges of things herself. For example, she gave a highly detailed cartography of Freud's consulting room and study, wall by wall and door by door. Her Corfu vision came in units or steps like the cards in fortune-telling, or as Catherine Aldington points out, like the early movies. She saw her dreams and visions as "steps in the . . . mechanism of supernormal, abnormal (or subnormal) states of mind" (42). The word "steps" itself reminds her of the steps the Princess was descending in the Corfu vision or its Jacob's ladder./95/
This urgent concern for boundaries and discrete units may relate to H.D.'s short, choppy stanza forms, her difficulties with the boundaries of sentences, or the indeterminacy of the verb forms in many of her lyrics. I think it also has something to do with her insistence on treating symbols as having fixed meanings and the dream as "a universal language," despite Freud's cautions to the contrary (71). Perhaps, using symbolism (as her father and brother did) may have meant to H.D. to take their tools, to be masculine. Perhaps that is why, for her, symbols had to have a fixed, rigid meaning./96/
I suspect that this was a part of her final disagreement with Freud: H.D.'s wish--need, really--to convert the insubstantial into something both substantial and immortal, to make the soft hard, "spiritual realism." Substantiation had become too basic a defensive strategy in H.D.'s character to be changed in a few months; this "was an argument implicit in our very bones" (13). This one defense or adaptation met both sides of the deeper issues of earliest infancy: the wish to fuse with something (father, brother, mother); the related wish to close the gap and restore what was missing (interrupted mother, distant father, dead brother) and make it hard, definitively there. She was dealing with the gaps by the defense of making them into a bounded and defined sign that was itself eternal and uninterrupted./97/
H.D. makes a more familiar analogy to unconscious materials: Freud unlocks "vaults and caves" in his "unearthing buried treasures." His findings can include "priceless treasures, gems and jewels" or junk: "What he offered as treasure, this revelation that he seemed to value, was poor stuff, trash indeed, ideas that a ragpicker would pass over in disdain" (74-75). The child's object from below was first, her own body products, precious in some contexts, disgusting "trash" in others./98/
In general, H.D. looks askance at products which are soft like rags (as in that passage). When, for example, Freud refers to an insight as "striking oil" (75), H.D. hardens his discovery into finding "the carved symbol of an idea or a deathless dream" (93) or stresses "the outer rock or shale, the accumulation of hundreds or thousands of years" (82). Oil itself she makes a "concrete definite image." "'I struck oil' suggests business enterprise. We visualize stark uprights and skeleton-like steel cages, like unfinished Eiffel Towers" (83). She concretized or phallicized the oil rejecting the "soft" in the manner of T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound and modernists in general. Having hardened the soft, H.D. attributes to others the fantasy that psychoanalysis is a system for squeezing something precious out of you, "some mechanical construction set up in an arid desert, to trap the unwary, and if there is `oil' to be inferred, the `oil' goes to someone else; there are astute doctors who `squeeze you dry' with their exorbitant fees for prolonged and expensive treatments" (83)./99/
Down in that cloacal region where the Professor has "tunnelled" are "the chasms or gulfs where the ancient dragon lives." On the one hand, Freud is the St. Michael or Hercules who will slay "the Dragon and its swarm of children, the Hydra- headed monster" (109). On the other hand, H.D. herself had "come to a strange city, to beard him, himself, the dragon, in his very den? Vienna? Venice? My mother had come here on her honeymoon. . . . " (16). H.D. admits the analysis ended before she dealt with her own war fears, "my own personal little Dragon of war-terror.". Nevertheless, she ordered him "back to his subterranean cavern."
There he growled and bit on his chains and was only loosed finally, when the full apocryphal terror of fire and brimstone, of whirlwind and flood and tempest, of the Biblical Day of Judgement and the Last Trump, became no longer abstractions, terrors too dreadful to be thought of, but things that were happening every day, every night, and at one time, at every hour of the day and night, to myself and my friends (73)./100/
This destructive fantasy and her associations stem from the timing of her composition of Tribute and The Gift, during her wartime terrors. I get a glimpse of an overpowering rage and fear someplace in H.D.'s development that the terrors of wartime meshed with. I sense a rage and fear associated with chasms and gulfs, with fire and flood as destroyers, then at a later stage with the subterranean caves of her body, with terrors in the night, with the abstract and inner becoming concrete, and, I would guess, most deeply with the resentment the little girl must have felt toward the mother who rejected her and preferred her brother. Here, she images Freud as the fiery dragon down below--although throughout, in the letters, she images him as a cat or a dog or "papa." To me, the comparison suggests strong negative feelings underneath the Freudolatry./101/
The work of art had to be made hard, to show that "Thoughts are things." This way H.D. sought spiritual realism. The longing for hardness occurs throughout her poetry, even for a hardness of sounds and smells as in the early poem, "Sheltered Garden":
O for some sharp swish of a branch--
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
only border on border of scented pinks.
Softness, by contrast, implied fusion, as in her extended image of Freud unraveling the threads of her unconscious mind or her statement: "The shuttle of the years ran a thread that wove my pattern into the Professor's." She "painfully unravelled a dingy, carelessly woven strip of tapestry," something sordid in her life. When Freud spoke, however, it was
as if he had dipped the grey web of conventionally woven thought and with it, conventionally spoken thought, into a vat of his own brewing--or held a trip of that thought, ripped from the monotonous faded and outworn texture of the language itself, into the bubbling cauldron of his own mind in order to draw it forth dyed blue or scarlet, a new colour to the old grey mesh, a scrap of thought, even a cast-off rag, that would become hereafter a pennant, a standard, a sign again, to indicate a direction or, fluttering aloft on a pole, to lead an army (69)./102/
H.D. wanted to be like Freud and turn something soft like a rag into something brightly colored, thrust phallicly in the air, emblem of military hardness and force. Hardness had another meaning for H.D. beyond separateness./103/
By contrast, "We all know that almost invisible thread-line on the cherished glass butter-dish that predicts it will `come apart in me 'ands' sooner or later--sooner, more likely." Breaking is often her image for collapsing or dying as in the 1917 poem "Adonis." Death is being "cracked and bent." Birth is being burnt into hard, incorruptible, and precious gold:
Each of us like you
has died once,
each of us like you
has passed through drift of wood-leaves,
cracked and bent
and tortured and unbent
in the winter frost,
then burnt into gold points,
crisp amber, scales of gold-leaf,
gold turned and re-welded
in the sun-heat.
* * *
each of us like you
stands apart, like you
fit to be worshipped./104/
In a way, being separate means one is strong and true. The opposite of closeness, though, in H.D.'s psyche can also mean being isolated, left out, a foreigner who exists, as it were, in the third person. "It was a girl between two boys; but, ironically, it was wispy and mousey, while the boys were glowing and gold" (like Adonis in this 1917 poem)./105/
Being "apart," she is painful on the subject of the two's in her family--"There were 2 of everybody (except myself)" (32). In her memories in Tribute to Freud (mother with brother on the curbstone; father with brother and the magnifying-glass), in her dreams (the Princess and the baby), or in her visions (the serpent and the thistle; Helios and the Niké-angel), H.D. finds herself in triangular situations, watching the other two. Similarly, she lives an exile in England or Switzerland as though acting out over and over again her own separateness. By coming for her analytic hour on a day when rifles were stacked on the street corners and no other patients dared show up, she acted out once again her sense of her difference: "I am here because no one else has come. As if again, symbolically, I must be different." Or separated./106/
We come to another of H.D.'s poetic themes: being splendidly isolated or being dangerously entangled, as in the ending of the early poem "Hermes of the Ways" (1916):
the great sea foamed,
gnashed its teeth about me;
but you have waited,
where sea-grass tangles with
To join Hermes--whom other poems identify with writing and insight--is to escape from a chaos that threatens to engulf you. You find him at the boundary between the sea-mouth and the security of land, where things are tactile and hairlike, no longer foam. I think one begins to see the function of writing in H.D.'s psyche: a way of being both close to and safe from a being with many powers, safe from being engulfed or overwhelmed by the gaps./107/
One could read the grass genitally, as a symbol for genital hairs, mingling the genitals of both sexes. One could also read the tripod in the Corfu vision genitally. It is the "base" for the spirit-lamp, but it is also what the Pythoness of Delphi sat on. It may also represent a feminine concern with inner or enclosed spaces. H.D. calls it a homely, familiar object. Certainly her description of it stresses the emptiness of its circles. Yet it is this stand that Freud associated with megalomania--again, we seem to be coming to the theme of overcompensating for what she feels is another gap or interruption or emptiness. What the prophetess sits on is at once "homely" but "all the more an object to be venerated" (46). Interestingly, "utmost veneration" is the last English phrase addressed to Freud in the first published version of Tribute/108/
The figure of André in her charming children's book, The Hedgehog, suggests by a similar symbolism the kind of firm knowledge or bristly possessions one might get from a brother. The story works out H.D.'s recurring pattern: replacing something needed and missing by a magical word (the meaning of which this little heroine does not know). What is an hérisson? "Little girls shouldn't ask," but André has one. Why should she ask the moon for things André can get? The hérisson is something someone gives you, "big as a mountain," associated with the fur of her mother's coat, with having babies, and with frightening snakes away. Although the book was written in 1925, the figure of Dr. Berne Blum, who reassures the heroine about these matters, markedly foreshadows Freud. We can guess why H.D. had such a strong positive transference in 1933, her "veneration." Freud fitted into a matrix (originally maternal) of pre-existing fantasies and expectations toward fatherly doctors, professors, and perhaps men in general./109/
Yet, as we have seen, in Tribute, she compared Freud both to a dragon and to the dragon-killer. Much later, in Tribute to the Angels, she wrote:
spears, with Saint Michael,
the darkness of ignorance,
casts the Old Dragon
into the abyss.
Here she speaks of the dragon allegorically as ignorance, Hermes as the one who destroys ignorance. In Tribute, she identified Freud both with the dragon and with Michael-Hermes-Thoth who in turn stood for the writer--H.D. herself. Both Tribute and the poem unite H.D. with dragon and dragon-killer, and the differing values given to Freud identify him with all those others she ambivalently loved./110/
A dragon breathes destructive fire. A dragon also has wings, and we have already seen how wings were associated in H.D.'s mind with the powers of the tall Flying Dutchman, Mercury, Niké, her brother, or, generally, with all potency, both good and bad, "the black wing of man's growing power of destruction and threat of racial separateness" (82). Flying may have been meant to her, "reaching for the stars"--for her father./111/
The Flying Dutchman "flew too high and flew too quickly" (6, 85), an idiom she applied to her own quest for an absolute. It is not just whimsy to say that one of Freud's great achievements in the analysis was to get his patient to accept herself as wingless. Wings, she learned, symbolized flight, not power, really, but just the opposite: "Perhaps my trip to Greece, that spring, might have been interpreted as a flight from reality. Perhaps my experiences there [among them, the vision] might be translated as another flight--from a flight" (44). "We must forgo a flight from reality" (84). Flying had killed van der Leeuw, and Freud singled out H.D.'s "writing-on-the-wall" as the most dangerous symptom, "a suppressed desire for . . . breaking bounds . . . megalomania" (37), in which people appeared as midges--as they would from an airplane./112/
In flying, H.D. was largely identifying with men, Van der Leeuw, her brother, and others. This identification, too, we can understand as part of a development in infancy, the third stage, now, associated with the question, How shall I be big? How shall I make my way into the adult world around me? Fixation at this stage leads to a certain character type. You see it among astronauts, professional soldiers, professional athletes of all kinds and genders, dancers and actors, surgeons, and, in this context, airplane pilots. I think of this kind of person as acting out a theme, I will make my way into the world with my body./113/
Freud and H.D. called it a "phallic" character, closely related to hysteric types. Psychiatrists now call it "histrionic. "Papa seems to imply," she wrote Bryher, "that I wanted all along in uc-n to be an actress, and that is one reason I am never satisfied with writing. Its made me feel like hell. But it is apparently the artistic out-let for people like us, my dance and song turn in Corfu, was final and complete indication of what I wanted" (3/25/33). The next day she continued the theme: "Yesterday we were supposed to have turned a corner, going back FROM the Greek trip and picking up strands of acting, in way of charades, school shows, dressings up and so on and so on. He evidently considers this an important thing and a clue to a lot of my inhibitions about my writing" (3/26/33)./114/
H.D. accepted this interpretation some three and a half weeks into the analysis. Her wish to be bodily in her art as an actress or dancer did indeed have a lot to do with her writing and particularly with her writer's block. It was connected with another wish, to identify with a man. Much later, in the Advent memoir, she wrote: "I was rather annoyed with the Professor in one of his volumes. He said (as I remember) that women did not creatively amount to anything or amount to much, unless they had a male counterpart or a male companion from whom they drew their inspiration." But, she added, "Perhaps he is right," and supported the interpretation with a dream and the influence of Aldington and D. H. Lawrence on her own writing. "Isis is incomplete without Osiris, Judy is meaningless without Punch" (149-50)./115/
In short, one way H.D. chose to close the gaps--among others, to be sure--was to identify with men. Such an identification was also a theme much in Freud's thinking at this stage. Today, of course, it is a troublesome issue for those who would see H.D. as developing an exclusively feminine aesthetic, but actually the "phallic" type includes both men and women./116/
During her first sessions with Freud, she wrote a letter to Bryher trying out this hypothesis more hesitantly: "I keep dreaming of literary men, Shaw, Cunninghame Grahame, now Noel Coward and Lawrence himself, over and over. It is important as book means penis evidently and as a `writer,' only, am I equal in uc-n [unconscious], in the right way with men. Most odd" (5/15/33). "My dream of `salting' my typewriter with the tell-tale transference symbol is further proof of his [Freud's] infallibility" (149). Similarly, after her second analysis with Freud, she referred to her translation of Euripides' Ion (which marked the end of her writers' block) as "a sort of fancy dress edition of my phallic phantasy" (Crow 102)./117/
I can now read in this new context, "If I stay with my brother, become part almost of my brother, perhaps I can get nearer to her" (33). Fusion with a man meant both fusion with and escape from the mother, a cure by way of substitution for the gaps and interruptions H.D. associated with her./118/
The concern with gaps and breaks in consciousness reminds me not only of her thoughts about a bodily gap but the deeper wish, "If one could stay near her always, there would be no break in consciousness" (33). Thus her quest for timelessness and immortality, her wish to close the spaces, and her ambivalent wish to fuse with a man or men all stem from a deeper wish to avoid the interruptions she perceived as marring her earliest relation with her mother. As she wrote Bryher, "ALL the gents" linked on to her mother or an old nurse, showing what a mess she had made in choosing "masculine" types (3/14/33)./119/
Fusion with a man could also stave off deficiencies: thus H.D. found it easy to project into and identify with Freud. One could read H.D.'s longing to create, then fuse with hard objects as purely defensive or pathological: the attempt to re-create a lost masculinity or a "hard" ungiving mother. But it is perfectly clear that this symptom or character trait had adaptive virtues as well. To it, we owe H.D.'s interest in and ability to bring out her unconscious life in enduring artistic forms, which she knew would transcend the cataclysms of war./120/
There is yet another complication. Fusion with a man also makes the man into a mother (the role Freud complained about to H.D.). H.D. associated the Berggasse, the street the Freuds lived on, with Athens, which she had already associated to her mother and her childhood home. In still a third variant, fusion with a male meant that H.D. could assume the mother-role herself, as when she wished to give, like Alcestis, her own life to stave off Freud's death, or, in her last words about Freud: "0, let's go away together, pleads the soul," then retreating to "the simple affirmation . . . of uttermost veneration"--that important last word (111)./121/
With H.D.'s belief at this time that "book means penis," we have come round again to the little bronze Pallas Athené and "`She is perfect,' he said, `only she has lost her spear'". One key word in Freud's interpretation is "perfect." Nora Crow points out how this word had a special resonance for H.D. She shows how many key statements in her life revolved around her being "perfect," how profound her need was to be "perfect," how so many of her beliefs, her poems, and her relationships were efforts to achieve "perfection" (Jaffe 100- 101)./122/
From a clinical point of view, it is an error to isolate "penis envy" as if it were something all by itself. Attitudes toward the physical dissimilarities between the sexes come relatively late in a child's development. In the earliest stages, the infant does not ordinarily pay much attention to genital differences. It sees its parents through non-genderal issues like feeding or dependency or dominance. Development then continues these early issues into later ones. The later oedipal rivalry derives from and embodies these earlier experiences of dependency, nurture, body products, control, frustration, fear, waiting, and the rest, in the manner of geological layering. Penis envy and its male correlative, castration anxiety, continue and build on these earlier themes, as does the oedipal rivalry as a whole. All take their particular forms from the individual's prior history./123/
What we know of H.D.'s history begins with some evidently desperate need to close the gap between herself and her mother and her mother's avatars, the father and brother. Her views on Freud's idea of penis envy continue her earlier strategies of dealing with that gap. Thus, curiously, she seems first to have seized enthusiastically on Freud's idea that women were imperfect:
Papa has a complete new theory but he says he does not dare write it, because he does not want to make enemies of women. Apparently, we have all stirred him up frightfully. His idea is that all women are deeply rooted in penis-envy, not only the bi-sexual or homo-sexual woman. The advanced or intellectual woman is more frank about it. That is all. But that the whole cult and development of normal-womanhood is based on the same fact; the envy of the woman for the penis. Now this strikes me as being a clue to everything. The reason women are FAITHFUL, when men are not, the reason a Dorothy R. or a Cole will stick like grim-death to some freak like Alan or Gerald, the reason mama [Bryher's mother] or my mother went insane at the oddest things, the reason for this, the reason for that. I was awake all last night and up this morning just after 7...as this seemed to convince me more than anything. What got me, was his saying that the homo woman is simply frank and truthful, but that the whole of domestic womanhood, is exactly the same, but has built up its cult on deception. Well, he did not say that [crossed out] deception: He just flung out the idea. I screamed at him "but the supreme compliment to WOMAN would be to trust women with this great secret." [marginal emphasis with brackets and two exclamation marks]. I said Br. [Bryher], the princess [Marie Bonaparte] and myself would appreciate it and keep it going. Or something like that. Anyhow, do you see what I mean??? We have evidently done some fish tail stirring [stirring up unconscious material], and if Papa bursts out like the Phoenix with his greatest contribution NOW, I feel you and I will be in some way responsible. This is a thing, for instance that Chaddie [Mary Chadwick, her London analyst] fought against, and tried to make out that the monthly is interesting and that men envy women. Well men do. But the whole thing must be `built on a rock' anyhow, and I feel S.F. is that rock and that perhaps you and I (as I did say half in joke) ARE to be instrumental in some way in feeding the light.
She digresses to the much-debated question of the gift of a puppy but concludes that, if Bryher writes Freud about the little dog, "you might, if you feel like it say H.D. wrote you privately of some new work, but did not mention what ... and that he must put out all his ideas at any cost. Something of that sort. I feel that, and I feel, in that, you and I are literally feeding the light" (5/3/33)./124/
A fascinating commentary, this. H.D. has cast herself, as she so often did, as the priestess or prophetess of a new idea--but what a strange idea to choose! The image of "feeding the light" suggests how the priestess-role served her need to be an enlightening mother, while light itself is one of her images for the eternal. Also, it is a measure of her positive transference to Freud that she so enthusiastically accepted an idea many women have angrily rejected. As we have seen, she could speak of Freud's "infallibility."/125/
Moreover, the chronology is puzzling here. It was on the second day of the analysis that H.D. reported to Bryher that "He . . . dug out a Pallas, about six inches high that he said was his favorite. O lovely, lovely little old papa. I am so calm, so peaceful" (3/2/33). In Tribute, she reported the incident this way with no date given: "`This is my favourite,' he said, "and he held out a little bronze Pallas Athené. "`She is perfect,' he said, 'only she has lost her spear'" (69; italics H.D.'s). /126/
So far as chronology is concerned, was that showing of the Athené on the second day (!) the same showing that led to the comment, "only she has lost her spear," referred to in Tribute? That's hard to say, for it was nearly nine weeks later, on May 3, that H.D. made this, her most extensive and most enthusiastic comment on the theme of penis envy in the letters to Bryher./127/
She seemed to have accepted the idea, but, at least unconsciously, she must have been ambivalent about it. Tribute was written in 1944 like a series of free associations. Immediately after her account in Tribute of Freud's showing her the little statue with the missing spear, she imaged his discoveries in the symbolism we have seen of turning an old grey rag into a flag on a pole. Freud himself has phallic power. Then she added this:
`She is perfect,' he said and he meant that the image was of the accepted classic period, Periclean or just pre-Periclean; he meant that there was no scratch or flaw, no dent in the surface . . . . He was speaking in a double sense, it is true, but he was speaking of value, the actual intrinsic value of the piece; like a Jew, he was assessing its worth; the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ran in his veins. He knew his material pound, his pound of flesh, if you will, but this pound of flesh was a pound of spirit between us, something tangible, to be weighed and measured, to be weighed in the balance and pray God - not to be found wanting! (70).
A page later, she sums up her idea: the "precise Jewish instinct for the particular in the general, for the personal in the impersonal or universal, for the material in the abstract." I think she is being faintly anti-semitic here, in order to express her resentment of Freud's penis envy interpretation. Yet Freud could kid her in their later letters about his materialism. Should his collection of antiquities be called "the Gods" or "the goods" (11)? She comes back to this pun again and again in friendly recollection (63, 88, 93, 108). It was evidently something they had played or worked with in the analysis. In particular, she mentions it just before Freud showed her the Athené without the spear (68)./128/
In connection with H.D.'s possible resentment, Nora Crow points to another phrasing in Tribute to Freud. H. D. is describing Freud's style in conducting an analysis:
Then she starts a new section of the memoir:
Or he will, always making an `occasion' of it, get up and say, `Ah--now--we must celebrate this,' and proceed to the elaborate ritual--selecting, lighting--until finally he seats himself again, while from the niche rises the smoke of burnt incense, the smoldering of his mellow, fragrant cigar.
Length, breadth, thickness, the shape, the scent, the feel of things (22-23).
And H.D. proceeds to detail the configuration of Freud's consulting rooms. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, quips Nora Crow. It does seem just possible that H.D., who does not usually joke in Tribute, was joking here about her differences with Freud on the subject of the cigar with its length, breadth, and thickness so like that of a penis./129/
At these two moments, the Athené figure and the cigar, the issue is Freud's steadfast materialism. In the cigar joke, if joke it be, and in the Shylock comment ("pound of flesh"), H.D. links Freud's materialism to the cigar- penis-spear. I think, at some deep level in H.D.'s psyche, her two disagreements with Freud, materialism against spiritualism and missing penis against being perfect, were related. She wrote of the analysis as a whole, "We had come together in order to substantiate something. I did not know what" (13)./130/
"Substantiate" is important. The analysis itself was, for her, a search for a missing object and an attempt almost concretely to remake it. This quest, "to substantiate something", resonated among several stages of her psychosocial development. In the analysis, she felt, "Thoughts were things, to be collected, collated, analysed, shelved or resolved. Fragmentary ideas . . . were sometimes skilfully pieced together;" (14), like the jars and bowls and vases Freud's study displayed. Her special "memories, visions, dreams, reveries . . . are real. They are as real in their dimension of length, breadth, thickness, as any of the bronze or marble or pottery or clay objects that fill the cases around the walls." Such a wish for a rigid reality carries inevitably with it a fear: "There are dreams or sequences of dreams that follow a line . . . like a crack on a bowl that shows the bowl or vase may at any moment fall in pieces." The gaps would recur, in the breakdowns she suffered after the analysis. Neither insight nor mysticism can overcome the deepest faults in development./131/
Both her disagreements with Freud concern what is physically there, substantial, or not there. The ideological disagreement concerned the "spiritual realism" that was so important to H.D. Are the things of the spirit "there" or not there? Were they "there" at some time? What happened to them? Then, the penis: Is it "there" or not there? Was it "there"? What happened to it? Is its lack an imperfection? And, of course, the status of H.D.'s hallucinations was another major issue in the analysis. Were they just neurotic or psychotic or were they visions of something beyond ordinary reality?/132/
Further, as so many people who have written about H.D. have pointed out, her need for "spiritual realism" undoubtedly used her upbringing in an atmosphere of physically embodied--substantiated--Christian mysticism. Freud, however, was Jewish, and this difference came up in their first visit. In discussing nationalities, "`What am I' [asked Freud.] I said, `Well, a Jew.'" She could have said, "Viennese" or "psychoanalyst," but she said, "Jew." Perhaps her sensitivity to Freud's Jewishness is why she uses a faintly anti-semitic comment to express her disagreement with Freud about the Athené figure. That, at any rate, is the point made by Friedman and DuPlessis when they published "The Master." I see an even larger disagreement: What is there and what is not there? Her Christianity enabled her to see the spiritual beyond the material, his atheistic Jewishness did not, and this became "an argument implicit in our very bones." She wrote of it again in connection with his seeking immortality, but only through his grandchildren. "The eternal life he visualized was in the old Judaic tradition," "so tribal, so conventionally Mosaic." "That is how, faced with the blank wall . . . of physical annihilation, his mind would work" (62-3). /133/
In any case, as her comment with its reference to Shylock and cutting flesh suggests, H.D. had second thoughts about Freud's interpretation through the missing spear. These she expressed in "The Master," a long poem which she wrote in 1934 or 1935, probably during the winter just after the analysis, ten years before Tribute. But she indignantly refused to let the poem be published in 1935, lest her analysis with Freud be "spoiled." It was finally published from the Beinecke Library manuscript by two feminist scholars, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Susan Stanford Friedman, in 1981, carefully edited and interpreted./134/
From this poem, one can easily read her disagreement with Freud and the negative transference alongside the positive one. On the one hand, Freud was "beyond all-men," "so wise, / so beautiful / with his mouth so young / and his eyes--." "I found measureless truth / in his words." In this positive mode, she wonders about her loving both men and women.
But then she turns to her resentment of Freud's woman-is-deficient interpretations. "I do not wish to be treated like a child, a weakling."I had two loves separate;
God who loves all mountains,
alone knew why
and told the old man
which he did.
I was angry with the old man
with his talk of the man-strength,
I was angry with his mystery, his mysteries,
I argued till day-break;
O, it was late,
and God will forgive me, my anger,
but I could not accept it.
I could not accept from wisdom
what love taught,
woman is perfect.
The reference to day-break is curious, for in the letter of May 3, 1933, she wrote of being up all night generating evidence for, not against the interpretation. Perhaps she is referring to two different nights./135/
In section V of the poem, she begins to rhapsodize about woman-woman love:
there is purple flower
between her marble, her birch-tree white
or there is a red flower,
there is a rose flower
as her limbs fling wide in dance
there is a frail lavender flower
hidden in grass;
O God, what is it,
that in itself had power over the whole earth?
for she needs no man
herself is that dart and pulse of the male,
hands, feet, thighs,
Susan Stanford Friedman cleverly comments, "The impotence of Do-little has become the potency of Dart" (1990, 195), "Dart" being H.D.'s nom de plume for the novel Paint It Today written in 1921. Here, "herself is that dart and pulse" acts out in symbols the phallic fantasy of meeting the world--breaking into the world--with one's body./136/
The poem continues with her insistence on the material Freud and a death-wish: "Let the old man die, / let the old man be of the earth / he is earth." He will die and he will not have an afterlife (as H.D. will?). But she balances this denigration of his materialism with praise for Freud, "They will found temples in his name." (The New York Psychoanalytic Institute?) She sheds "terrible tears" for his nearness to death, yet he has been blind. Finally, she appeals to a universal spirit of all women: "Rhodocleia [renowned rose].
you are near beauty the sun
you are that Lord become woman./137/
The poem is a truly astonishing work. Like some of the poetry of Yeats' middle period, I think it would be rather cryptic to anyone who had not read some background materials: Tribute to Freud and even some of the controversy that the memoir has sparked. Yet, having done so, I am deeply moved, reading it simply as a poem. I find it lush and gorgeous and fleshy yet, in H.D.'s manner, transcendent and rhapsodic./138/
For my immediate purposes though, "The Master" expresses H.D.'s negative reaction to Freud's interpretation of the missing spear, unexpressed in her other writings about the analysis. Yet the poem also suggests for me how H.D. was able to adapt the self-understanding she gained through Freud toward better poetry and a better life. She was able to translate the results of her psychoanalytic search into her writing and into her bisexuality. As Nora Crow writes, "Sexuality and literature come together in H.D.'s play with the word perfect. She must be just as `perfect' in the expression of her bisexuality as she is `perfect' in the writing of her poems." In that vein, H.D. wrote in "The Master," "You are near beauty the sun," and the sun in the Corfu vision became Helios, Helen, her mother Helen. "You are that Lord become woman," the priestess, prophetess, founder of a new religion, like Christ, as H.D. herself longed to be./139/
That was to be the successful outcome of the first analysis, at least. Arlene Kramer Richards, like Crow, suggests--and I find their interpretation convincing--that H.D. became "perfect" by accepting her bisexuality. Richards sums up the course of H.D.'s penis envy and bisexuality through the analysis this way. Freud, in the Athené episode, was interpreting to H.D. what he took to be her own feelings of deficiency and inferiority about the lack of a penis. His interpretation succeeded because it played into her need to be "perfect." Freud then enabled her to recapture her sense of being perfect through her writing. In this context, I think it makes sense to read the Athené interpretation somewhat differently from the way it appears on the surface, as a simple interpretation of penis envy. Freud was saying she is perfect, the woman is perfect, only she has lost her instrument, her tool, her spear, which was, for H.D., poetry. H.D., he was implying, needed to get it back, that is, to break through the writer's block that had brought her to his consulting room./140/
In one of the last letters from the first analysis, some three weeks after her enthusiastic endorsement of the penis envy idea, she wrote Bryher about a dream in which she was watching a Noel Coward play. "I got that to mean that I was watching now from without, the "play" of the literary people [men] . . . . Anyhow, I had none of the usual p-envy [penis envy] reactions, was just amused" (5/26/33). She seems to have come to a resolution of the matter in her own mind. On that note the story of H.D.'s penis envy ends./141/
At least, that is how I would end it, but penis envy is not my cardinal concern. If I have spent this many paragraphs on it, it is because the topic has become so controversial. I believe that understanding H.D.'s particular case helps us understand the phenomenon as unique instead of, as Freud thought, a function of men's and women's bodies and therefore universal. Some women may not experience it at all. For those who do, it will be as different for each as H.D. is different from most women, because the phenomenon is just one part of a long sequence in a human being's development. It takes its form from what has gone before and gives form to what comes after. One would expect, as I find with H.D., that penis envy at its relatively "high" level builds on some earlier, deeper crisis, here, H.D.'s need to close the gaps between herself and her mother./142/
So far, however, we have dealt only with the first of H.D.'s two analyses with Freud. At the end of it, she had arrived at a number of insights./143/
First and most basic, she had understood that in her deepest being she wanted to get close to or even become her mother. But second, she had understood her mother in two senses. In the psychoanalytic jargon she shared with Freud, there was at one level the all- powerful "phallic mother" associated with her male lovers. Then, at a deeper level, there was the more mythic "moon-mother," an all encompassing "oral" mother-goddess./144/
She had come upon this supernatural mother in a dream late in the first analysis:
Evidently it meant that I had, in the uc-n, completely turned about to a homo layer . . . I was taking a step forward into the pure homo layer, not L. [Lesbian] exactly, but just that, the three sisters, the "band of sisters" with the "mother in heaven." The mother was of course, not personal but still included, as these things do, all the personal element. This is a turning-point. S.F. seemed much moved by it (3/26/33).
In other words, this mother was less a sexual figure, more a sister or, in H.D.'s mysticism, a mother-in-heaven./145/
She went on to contrast the two kinds of mother:
I was apparently hanging on to Kex [Macpherson] in some way, as one does, as the phallic-mother was a layer [I had reached] before the final moon-mother. This was no phallic mother . . . so now I am in this pure spirit-mother state, and very happy...
In other words, for H.D. the "phallic mother" is the mother at the phallic stage, the woman of power in the child's household. Her male lovers closed the gap between herself and this kind of mother. The new, spirit-mother is quite different. She is the oral, all-encompassing mother of earliest infancy, source of all, and therefore someone upon whom one is totally dependent. And her love for Bryher apparently closed the gap between herself and this deeper mother in a non-sexual way./146/
In this understanding of the two mothers, she had realized what she might have described by one of her favorite images, the palimpsest. Her later loves and other relationships were re- incarnations of her early relationships with her mother, father, and older brother./147/
It was through understanding these two mothers that she became comfortable with her bisexuality. Freud helped her to accept her special sexual history by, in effect, absolving her. "He more or less gave me his blessing and forgiveness and dispensation for all past `sins,' said it was not really necessary to dwell on all that, only as an indication of guilt toward mother, that otherwise there was nothing `wrong,' or words to that effect" (3/25/33)./148/
During the first analysis, she came to understand that her search for masculine lovers was, deep down, a quest for her mother and that her lesbian relationships were another kind of search for another kind of mother. She came to believe that only by writing was she to achieve the bodily and spiritual perfection she wanted for herself./149/
Appropriately enough, Freud urged her to break her writer's block and regain her "spear" by writing a straightforward history of her experiences during World War I and after. Susan Stanford Friedman calls this an effort to replace the "talking cure" with a "writing cure." He was urging H.D. to find her "perfection" that way. And she understood it as a further, final step: "I have got the counters sorted out, I think, pretty well. But the `cure' will be, I fear me, writing that damn vol. straight, as history, no frills . . . just a straight narrative, then later, changing names and so on" (5/15/33)./150/
So far, so good. She had done well and gone deep in the analysis. But it is clear from her breakdown after this first analysis that there were dysfunctional aspects of herself she had not understood. Further, H.D. had hit something of a wall in her analysis. She wrote, as the first analysis neared its end:
The vol. [the volume of her wartime and post-war experiences] writes itself, just what I wanted but I don't want to talk abut it too much . . . . I do feel I want to get it done and don't want to tempt providence. It will mean everything, but the more I like the vol., the less I like ps-a. That, I suppose, was sure to happen. I hate the ps-a hour, more than I can tell you. Yesterday, for a wonder, the small dogs and Wolf were quiet, then Yo-fi simply lay on the floor and snored, quite, quite loud, for nearly the whole time. I thought I was going to get up and simply scream. Freud says I have such clear and vivid dreams and they seem to have told everything, yet there is some block and connecting link missing that he can't get at. I suppose it is the "father" vibration, for we can't, no matter how we idealize the mother-idea, get rid of the father. I think that is it. . . . I think the link [from mythic to personal father] is the star-stuff [astrology], but as S.F. once or twice has given such a snort when I have gone into star-states, it sort of cripples me. But I think that is it. I am not, as you know a sloppy theosophist or horoscope-ist, but you know, I do believe in these things and think there is a whole other-science of them. And that is where, in a way, S.F. and I part company. I suppose that too, is symbolical of my leaving my own home and its surrondings and the strictly, so-called "scientific."' But I think you will agree that star-fish [astrological manifestations in the unconscious] stuff is my real world, and that getting that, I am, in a way, being "in love" also with my father, but of course, again a mystical "father in heaven," not conventional X-ian, but linked up too with Christ-myth. I write this, as it all helps to tell you, and also S.F. may nip it in the bud to-morrow. But I don't think he will. I think I must simply have it straight out with him. He is good, you know, too good and he has to stick to his scientific guns, but I have to stick to mine too. These Jews, I think, hold that any dealings with "lore" and that sort of craft is wrong. I think so too, when it IS WRONG!!!! But it isn't always. And I want to write my vol. to prove it. . . . the writing as far as it goes, satisfies me, and that is terrifically comforting and sustaining to me in the uc-n (5/28/33).
"I hate the ps-a hour."--what a contrast from her earlier, ecstatic accounts! Her negative feelings toward the analysis, her boredom, really, more concern with Jewishness, and her dislike, now, of the dogs' presence, show her negative transference and her resistance to dealing with some unresolved issues./151/
She had at least two. One was her "`father' vibration." The other concerned her disagreement with Freud about "spiritual realism," with its underlying theme, as she saw it, of Christian spirituality vs. Jewish (or atheistic) materialism./152/
Clearly, however, she was not ready to tackle these issues, for the day before this letter about her writing, she wrote to Bryher: "Now, however, I think the `moon of my delight' [the moon-dream] puts things nicely on the map. I am so happy about it. I feel the thing [analysis] now is absolutely OVER. But one will, of course, spend the month with odds and ends" (5/27/33). She was right. Her letters for the remaining month say little about the analysis as such, partly because she wrote about the frightening political situation, partly because Bryher had come to Vienna and letters were no longer needed./153/
In mid-June 1933, H.D. cut short the analysis to flee the turmoil of increasingly Nazified Vienna for Bryher's home in Switzerland. There, however, H.D. suffered some kind of mental breakdown and decided to return to Freud. Arrangements were made for five weeks of analysis, and she resumed some sixteen months later, at the end of October 1934. "Whereas," Friedman sums up, "her first analysis in 1933 centered on a recovery of the pre-Oedipal mother, the second in 1934 broke through her initial `terrific resistance' to discussing the `father vibration,' and centered on the father figure, particularly `the father who terrifies'" (1990, 338). The first analysis ended on a moony, mythical note; the second explored terrors./154/
At first there was no progress:
All seems to march with ps-a, but papa says I have set up a terrific resistance, its some "fear" he is anxious to get at, and is apparently very keen, does not let me wait, as he did last year, in the little room, ten minutes, but pops right in. . . I am anxious to get at this "terror" mania, and papa is too (11/1/34)./155/
Gradually, H.D. began to approach her terrors. "I suppose the 5 weeks will about couver this phase, as its got into the father-brother war-accident layer, not pleasant, as I have got it all tangled with `atrocities'--you know what I mean of course, by `atrocities,' war and so on." These she began to understand as a fear that her father would die. (When she was ten, she had discovered him, bloodied and half- conscious, after a near-fatal accident.) That fear became, in the transference, a fear that Freud would die, "which is of course a regular ps-a proceeding, but it is a very real thing, as mixed up with my own terror now of crossing streets etc. etc. So I think, though I AM NOT so happy this time--it is reality, rather than `dope,' it is doing the trick" (11/8/34). That is, she was dealing with present fears instead of past fantasies and psychoanalytic interpretations. One could say fantasies of violently "breaking" or being broken./156/
She discovered yet another meaning for her complicated sexual history: "Ps-a is very good and useful and I think is letting me free, but its rather painful, much resistance, all about war, accidents, fear of death, as I wrote you. Evidently much of `Zoo'; [sex], or some of it was a defence against that early phobia. Anyhow it marches" (11/9/34). She had had an important insight: sex was a defense as well as a gratification./157/
As she dug deeper, several frightening life experiences came together: her discovery of her father, bloodied, almost dead; war terrors and her own related phobias about riding trams and crossing streets; her fright at her first husband's attempts to blackmail her about the illegitimacy of her daughter; and the "Butts" world.
The whole now of the ps-a is about death, not so very cheerful, but I suppose the boil in the uc-n has bust. Apparently it is terrorr, A L L the time in the uc-n of the old group, you know who I mean... mixed up with that [Mary] Butts aura, you know what I mean, by "Butts." So you see, the work is progressing like mad . . . " (11/14/34).
By "Butts," H.D. meant an episode in her past involving the author Mary Butts in which she became--it's not very clear-- mixed up in some way with the circle around the notorious Aleister Crowley. In the teens and twenties, Crowley lured his followers into experimenting with hashish and cocaine and sadomasochistic sex and black masses in very dangerous ways. Some died, some went to prison. While the supernatural elements would have attracted H.D., the actuality evidently terrified her.
Papa seemed surprised that I hadn't mentioned the "Butts" world before. It apparently is very important to him-- represents the "father who terrifies," you know that type of psa- thing--and is prob. the clue. It made all the Corfu experience, I think, click into shape for him. He was very kind before but thought my ideas of psychic-phenom. a little extreme I know. Now he seems to see how it works. Anyhow, it is good to get that all out (11/15/34)./158/
There is a hint here of another important insight: "He seems to see how it works." I understand this as H.D.'s saying that Freud is beginning to understand how her "ideas of psychic-phenom." work in her mind. She herself now understood why she had had a nervous breakdown at the crash of Van der Leeuw. "`Papa' has put his finger on that father-terror complex, via the `Butts' group. It seems the Dutchman crashing, linked up with the `victims' of the other person," and she refers obscurely to two friends drawn into Crowley's activities. "You see it comes very near to reality and is also very fascinating" (11/16/34)./159/
Three days later, she had a momentous dream that introduced a related theme. She dreamed that Richard Aldington-- her "first actual lover"--was in bed with Bryher, and shot her, then himself. (Conrad Aiken, her friend and fellow-poet, had told her about such an episode in his life.) "I am sure, but will take it to papa, that it is primal scene."/160/
"Papa is most kind and helpful since he discouvered I had linked him up with blackmailing father- symbol." That is to say, Freud evidently felt more comfortable in the role of the "father who terrifies" than as the mother of the first analysis. "Papa is very clever. He said it was `father' this time, and evidently I linked it up with the usual text-book, Zoo [sexual] primal scene." "It is all terribly bed-rock, as you can see." "But Turtle [Hanns Sachs] was right when he said in Corfu, I was trying to get to my father" (11/19/34). And now she linked Crowley's victims to the bad-father, who commits theft, blackmail, and murder and her own sexual wish to be another victim of that father./161/
In the next few days, she pursued this line, but begged Bryher not to urge her to write, because she was realizing now the nature of her writer's block:
I have gone terribly deep with papa.
He says, "you had two things to hide, one that you were a girl, the other that you were a boy." It appears I am that all-but extinct phenomina, the perfect bi- [bisexual]. Well, this is terribly exciting, but for the moment, PLEASE do not speak of my own MSS., for it seems the conflict consists partly that what I write commits me--to one sex, or the other, I no longer HIDE. It is not quite so obvious as that--and no doubt, before I leave, we will come to some balance. All the same, PLEASE Fido, if you love me, and love my work, leave that to work its own will in its own way. . . . If I can rest, it will be all right. If I can go on my own two rails, it will be all right--but do not probe me or try to make me angry. I might die--Fido--literally--die. My whole life, literally, is one pure and perfect crucifiction--if I can use that much abused word. I am not, except in certain hours of writing and in certain hours of FORGETTING writing, ever free. Let me write, then let me FORGET my writing (11/24/34)./162/
In the same letter, she goes on to describe a similar conflict in her sexuality:
Those long hours [entertaining a conventional friend] are such torture--you see why? I can keep up being a "woman," even a "nice woman" for about two hours, then I get terror of claustraphobia, this is no joke--and have to get to an intellectual retreat, book or pages--to prove I am man. Then I prove back again. The only thing I want is the cloak of invisibility. That is why it is so hard to be at Audley [Bryher's parents' home] for more than a few hours. I can act perfectly, the part, for a few hours, then I feel I shall go mad. This makes me, as a "genius" if I may use the word, but breaks me, as a person. I know you will make allowances and try to understand. It has meant everything to have this connection with Freud.
Forgive me if I seem cranky Fido. I think I am about through for the time. I feel the noise so much now. We have done wonders, but O, the work. I will need at least six months to recuperate. You will be very kind???????
Please let me thank you and understand darling, my "balance," so terribly right and I am really happy, but don't upset it.
As her exhaustion suggests, the analytic work was going into very painful material./163/
A week later, she was able to get to the childhood roots of the dream.
Evidently that was T H E primal scene, and all the rest mstb. [masturbation], later affairs, all of the "Butts" fears in Corfu, kidnapping, and so on, terrors of war and that sort of thing, is built up on that first scene. Also, usually a child decides for or against one or other parent, or identifies himself with one. But to me, it was simply the loss of both parents, and a sort of perfect bi-sexual attitude arises, loss and independance. I have tried to be man, or woman, but I have to be both. But it will work out, papa says and I said, now in writing. Mstn. (with me) only breaks down the perfection, I have to be perfect (in balance), I get that in writing, and will become more abstract toward the writing in life, now I know WHAT I am. O, I am so very grateful and happy, Fido (11/27/34).
She wrote very elliptically, but, as I read between the lines, I see two things happening. First, she understood her adult terrors and phobias as continuations of the childhood terror at a primal scene. Second, she understood that the primal scene terror meant that neither parent was available to her for identification. As she grew up, she had to be both man and woman, perfect. She can achieve that through writing, but masturbation (does she mean mutual masturbation with Bryher?) defeats that need to be both sexes./164/
She describes the ending: "In this dream I end by going deep black and have a horrible nightmare loss and desolate feeling. So it is perfectly clear I did LOOSE both parents at the age of 3 or 4 and built up my whole love-life on that love and terror mixed, and violence as of war etc." Her sex life had defended against and continued this underlying terror./165/
"The bisexuality," writes Richards, "was a resolution that allowed Doolittle to bow gracefully out of the lesbian activity without rejecting Bryher, and thus without biting the hand which had so generously fed her. The resolution was strengthened by a consideration of the role of identification in forming the perfectly bisexual personality." Richards goes on to quote the above letter from November 27, and comments:
She had actually courted the hallucinations she experienced years earlier on a trip to the Greek Islands with Bryher. Freud seems to have convinced her that her hallucinations were symptoms, not illuminations, and had helped to reconcile her to her femininity and her bisexuality. After the analysis, Doolittle understood her bisexuality to entail elaboration of the fantasy through her work. She came to understand as well the need for activities that shored up her feminine identity to alternate with the more masculine activity of writing. The fantasy (or theory) of bisexuality replaced her earlier fantasy of damaged femininity. The hallucinations had been a maladaptive compromise. The poetry was a supremely adaptive one . . . . Freud had not only helped her to become more creative, but had also helped her to accept herself as a person./166/
Then, finally, the analysis reached a mysterious but apparently real "primal scene" experience. That is, at some point around her third year, H.D. had come upon a scene of lovemaking. She understood it (as children usually do) as a violent, frightening assault, and she was terrified. What actually happened never becomes clear in any of her writings, but The Gift recounts a nightmare during childhood that provides ample evidence to support her oblique references to such an episode in her letters about the analysis. In The Gift, she associated this event with a brutal slaughter, by white soldiers, of Pennsylvania Indians whom the Moravian community had befriended. We can now understand, as apparently H.D. did, her bisexuality and her writing and her mystical signs as part of one effort. All served to defend against this deep, underlying horror, brought up again in various episodes of her past and, long after the analysis, when she suffered through the bombing of London. The horror was associated with her father, so that she retreated from a desire for him to a desire for her mother, both the "phallic" mother and the deeper, supernatural moon-goddess-mother./167/
In short, the child H.D. had, so to speak, graduated from her unsatisfying mother to her father, but been driven back to her mother by fears associated with her father. As an adult, she repeated the same cycle. She would be drawn sexually or mystically to a male father-figure, but she would choose men who would cause her to feel again the fears she felt with her father. Then she would retreat from them to a mother- figure (either a powerful woman or a goddess-like mother), but then need the male again. Or so I read the conclusions from her analysis./168/
Evidently, this was one of Freud's analyses where he arranged with the patient (and with Bryher who was paying for the analysis) for a fixed number of sessions. Perhaps this was why H.D. had "gone terribly deep with papa" so terribly fast. Whatever the reason, the analysis now came to an end. One of Freud's sons had sent him from a box of oranges, and "Papa . . . solemnly presented me with one of the orange branches with leaves and oranges, all terribly symbolical. Well--I just managed to get through my hour, but had a very weepy time when I got back" (12/2/34). Understandably./169/
As Friedman and others have pointed out, the gift was indeed "terribly symbolical." It could have represented a phallic symbol, Freud giving her what he thought she thought she had lost or her mother had never given her. It could have been "the golden bough" of mythology, the gift of rebirth. Or it could have expressed a wish that now she would "bear fruit," that is, write. Freud had urged her to write a memoir of her troubled war years to continue the treatment. When he wrote to her later, he would ask gently, "Should I hear of your work progressing?" And that is what happened. She wrote./170/
As any effective analysis does, H.D.'s gave her the ability to use the themes the analysis had developed to self-analyze her ongoing, post-analytic life. As Friedman points out, she was able to transpose the talking cure with Freud into a "writing cure," her continuing exploration of herself in a variety of genres. Norman Holmes Pearson sums it up this way: "She did not get from him what we usually refer to as Freudianism. . . . What she got was what Freud knew that any analysand had to get--her own cohesion, her own frame of reference, the rounding out of her own personality and psyche. An analyst . . can never find the patient for himself; that is, find the identity." "You could say that H.D. devoted her life to this kind of search, this question of, Who am I?" Indeed, one could think of all of H.D.'s writings, at least after the analysis, as intense self- analyses./171/
She became immensely productive. Thus, she wrote to Bryher (12/16/34), describing her discovery of a male self "who has begun to edit the works of the pre-Freud H.D. Its quite a joke, the duality coming into shape, and I don't think this would happen, if I messed up uc-n too much." And indeed, she edited into final form and fired out in the period after the analysis a variety of writings that had languished, so to speak, in the desk drawer, her translation of Euripides' Ion (1937), and two manuscripts which were rejected by the publisher to her great disappointment. Yet she soldiered on, producing Nights and Pilate's Wife./172/
She was writing new things that embodied her unique combination of bisexuality, mysticism, the occult, and psychoanalytic ideas about the unconscious. One we have considered already, "The Master," the important poem about her analysis written, probably, the winter after the second analysis that ended in spring 1934. We have considered it in the context of H.D.'s penis envy, but the poem also says how she felt about the analysis some months after it had ended./173/
"The Master" begins with idolatry of Freud, "so wise / so beautiful," who made it possible for her to understand her two kinds of love. The old man explained the impossible. He made it possible for her to see how a woman could be both hot and cold, two things at once. But she wanted "a neat answer," and urged Freud to tell her "the secret" because "you will soon be dead" and the "fire of wisdom dies with you." She was angry because she had travelled far for an answer and had not got it. But she treated Freud's answer as a mystery with which she argued. "I could not accept from wisdom [Freud] / what love taught, / woman is perfect." Freud, I think, wanted her to accept what her kind of love taught her, that her female body was "herself perfect" by being bisexual, two in one. But she could not accept his didactic statement, this "talk of the man-strength" (penis envy?), until she met "a woman / yet beyond woman."/174/
Possibly H.D. is referring here to the woman in "The Dancer," included in her literary remains with "The Master" in a group of three poems. (The third was "The Poet," about her relationship with D. H. Lawrence, thus forming a triptych: woman-Freud-man.) Like the woman in "The Master," H.D. refers to her as Rhodocleia (renowned rose), as close to the sun, as both fire and ice, and so on. H.D. had referred a couple of times in the letters to going to shows in Vienna because she liked looking at the chorus girls. "The Dancer," however, probably refers to Anny Ahlers, a famous dancer who had recently died after she walked out a window, something that frightened H.D. because she nearly did the same on Corfu./175/
In "The Master," she goes on to reject the old man's talk of "man-strength," in a paean to woman's strength and dance and flower. "She needs no man, / herself / is that dart and pulse of the male . . . herself perfect." She returns to Freud, "the old man / who will bring a new world to birth." "Men" will build temples to him and discuss all his written words, but she will escape, she is no disciple. She cannot love him, for he is too close to death. But "one does not forget him / who makes all things feasible, / one does not forgive him / who makes God-in-all / possible, / for that is unbearable." A "woman's laughter / prophesies / happiness" but "not man, not men, / only one, the old man." She describes mysteries at which no man will be present, at which "men will see how long they have been blind," "shall see woman, perfect."/176/
I understand her to be saying here (sections X-XI), that men have blindly regarded woman as imperfect, but the old man, Freud, saw another possibility, a mystery. She could not accept this mystery from his teaching alone, but she did accept it from her love for the dancer. Thus, the old man "makes all things feasible . . . makes God-in-all / possible." Hence, it would be unbearable to "forgive" him. The poem ends with her fusion with the dancer-become- sun-goddess-god, "that Lord become woman."/177/
H.D. is writing in her most allusive style, as if for an intimate who will be able to supply the meanings of general references to Miletus or "the old man" or "the sun" (a reference to her vision on Corfu). As I read the poem, having read much of the background that H.D. assumes, she is saying that Freud made something besides female imperfection possible. It was not a neat answer, but a mystery, "the impossible." I believe she means Freud's idea that we are all of us both man and woman (although, according to classical theory, women want to become men and men fear becoming women). But she had to discover this in love, not analysis./178/
Be that as it may, the poem reenacts the pattern about herself that she discovered with Freud. That is, the poem starts with her idolatry of the father, but she retreats from that. Partly she subordinates Freud to God who can tell his daughter to "send peace / and surcease of peril." She also leaves Freud because of his impending death--no eternal life for this materialist. But she admits that he brings a new world to birth, in perhaps the faintest echo of the primal scene fears she uncovered in the analysis./179/
She gives up father-love in favor of woman-love. Partly she conceives of her ideal woman in genital terms, a rose between thighs. Partly she conceives of herself among the worshippers of a sun goddess: "You are near beauty the sun, / you are that Lord become woman." In psychoanalytic terms, she regresses from a father, partly thought of as a man, partly as a god, to a mother who also has two aspects, strong body, the phallic mother, and "Lord become woman," the eternal, oral mother. In terms of her poetic, she has combined her mystical yearnings with her bisexuality and her knowledge of her own pattern of desire and defense./180/
She explains this pattern more fully in The Gift, written six years after "The Master," She wrote this memoir of her childhood in 1941-43; it was partially published in 1982 but not published in its entirety until 1998. Driven by H.D.'s trying to cope with the terrors of the Blitz, this personal memoir continued her self- analysis through an exploration of her childhood. Like Tribute, like "The Master," it is written as free associations, but some things she does state explicitly./181/
The Gift supplies material missing from Tribute and even from the letters to Bryher. For example, the letters to Bryher provide an analysis of the nightmares, but The Gift gives the nightmares themselves. This self-analysis gave H.D. a defense against the terrors of the bombing which had re-awakened her early primal scene and other fears. It helped her cope, but it also continued her work with Freud.
I assembled The Gift during the early war-years, but without the analysis and the illuminating doctrine or philosophy of Sigmund Freud, I would hardly have found the clue or the bridge between the child- life, the memories of the peaceful Bethlehem, and the orgy of destruction, later to be witnessed and lived through in London. That outer threat and constant reminder of death, drove me inward, almost forced me to compensate, by memories of another world, an actual world where there had been security and comfort. But this was no mechanical intellectual trick of mind or memory, the Child actually returns to that world, she lives actually in those reconstructed scenes, or she watches them like a moving-picture (192).
Again, she re-enacts the regression from father-terror that had become her life pattern. Again, she physically closes the gap by putting herself, her very body, in her creations, her reconstructed scenes. "The Child actually returns."/182/
What, then, was "the gift"? It was something prophesied.
It was not really so very important that Mama had been, for instance, to a fortune-teller. Yet it was important. I do not remember when she first told me about it, yet I remember the strange gap in consciousness, the sort of emptiness there which I soon covered over with my childish philosophy or logic, when she said, "It's funny, the fortune-teller told me, I would have a child who was in some way especially gifted." It was that that stuck. We were not any of us "gifted," as if we had failed them somehow (51).
Notice how the "gift" will close the "gap in consciousness," that key concern of hers./183/
The gift was hereditary, belonging, really, to H.D.'s grandmother, "Mamalie." Both she and "Papalie," her mother's father, are for H.D. palimpsest-figures, a deeper reality behind the superficial reality of H.D.'s literal father and mother.
The Gift actually was Mamalie's. She had inherited it from her own father or her uncle or her great-uncle who was a master musician, as Zinzendorf (the founder of Moravianism) had been a master-singer. The Gift also might have been bequeathed to Mamalie through her mother, in whose family there was the usual Scotch legend of one of the family (maybe, far back in Scotland) being far-sighted or being second-sighted (166-67).
"Obviously this is my inheritance. I derive my imaginative faculties through my musician-artist mother" (Tribute 121). But, in fact, it was not her mother who gave her the gift. In the memoir she tells us how she acquired the gift in mysterious, nighttime, candlelit sessions with her aged grandmother, "Mamalie." "Mamalie . . . reveals it to me" (240). "The child," H.D. explains in her notes to The Gift, "could grasp the implications of the Secret through intuitive sympathy with her grandmother and the grandmother was conditioned to understand the Secret, because of the musical inheritance from her father and the psychic inheritance of her Scotch mother" (267-68)./184/
Mamalie gave her the gift, because her mother couldn't give it to her. Her mother had given it to Uncle Fred.
In these flashes of flash-backs, we have the ingredients of the Gift.
They had so much to give us, Papa and Papalie and old Father Weiss, as the whole town had affectionately called our grandmother's father. There were the others before these, who went back to the beginning of America and before America, but the Gift seemed to have passed us by. We were none of us "gifted," they would say.
"How do you mean--what?"
"0--I don't mean--I don't mean anything."
But they did mean something. They didn't think any of us were marked with that strange thing they called a Gift, the thing Uncle Fred had had from the beginning, the thing Papalie (they said) wasn't sure about . . . . So Papalie made sure of the Gift that Uncle Fred had. We hadn't any Gift to make sure about.
But where did he get the Gift, just like that? Why didn't Mama wait and teach us music like she did Uncle Fred when he was a little boy? Mama gave all her music to Uncle Fred, that is what she did. That is why we hadn't the Gift, because it was Mama who started being the musician and then she said she taught Uncle Fred; she gave it away, she gave the Gift to Uncle Fred, she should have waited and given the Gift to us. But there were other Gifts, it seemed.
"What--what do you mean, Uncle Hartley?"
"People draw, if a person draws or writes a book or something like that; a gift isn't just music. Artists are people who are gifted."
* * *"No, an artist is someone who--well--he can draw or paint or write a book or even do other things."
"Well, I don't know--well--to be artistic--I suppose you might say your Aunt Belle was artistic-- "
"Then can ladies be just the same as men?"
"Just the same what?"
"I mean what you said--about writing a book?"
"Why, yes, ladies write books of course, lots of ladies write very good books" (42-3).
This latter line of questioning stems from the child's seeing a performance of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her memory of the conversation with her uncle connects, in H.D.'s mind, the gift with supernatural powers, with her bisexuality, with what men have but women may have, and a much later belief. She had discovered in the analysis that she believed, "Book means penis evidently and as a `writer,' only, am I equal in uc-n [unconscious], in the right way with men," a belief she discovered, then transcended (5/15/33). The "gift" combined all these things for the adult. But the child believed that she could not have a gift because mother had given it to Uncle Fred./185/
She felt rage at one more of the "gaps" between her and her mother. Not to have a "gift," to be gifted, was to fail one's elders, was to disappoint mother, was to leave "the strange gap in consciousness, the sort of emptiness there" (51), and we have seen what gaps meant to her. On the page before her talk with Uncle Hartley, she wrote about these unconscious memories she was uncovering as buried treasure, perhaps somehow connected to a "gift," and "buried treasure" was the image she had used for Freud's insights. although here she says, "There is no royal road into this kingdom" of the racial and biological inheritance. "You just stumble on it . . . it does exist." Here she echoes "The Master," in which she seems to be saying she learned from a love affair "wisdom" that Freud could not teach her didactically. Nevertheless, the analysis made it possible for her to articulate her gifts and to close the painful gap. Unlike Freud, her mother had not given her the gift of artistic creativity, the thing that men like Uncle Fred had. This depriving mother is the mother she imagined killing in her "unedited manuscripts of Paint It To-Day and HER", as described by Susan Stanford Friedman (1990, 343)./186/
The gift would enable her to unite science and art into a new creative medium (50). Perhaps she was thinking of the movies she had made with Macpherson, perhaps of an "Aquarian science," like "X-ray and television and those things--science plus something uncanny or super-natural, not science in the old sense of the word" like, she had written Bryher, psychoanalysis (11/10/34). /187/
The gift involves making things. The children make--sculpt--the things for the Putz, the Moravian crèche, under the Christmas tree: "God had made a Child and we children in return now made God; we created Him as he had created us" (89). As she had written to Bryher, making books is giving birth (12/7/34)./188/
The gift is itself a thing made, something very real, substantiated.
It does exist moreover, not only in vague generalities or in sentimental musings, it exists, an actual psychic entity, that continent, for the most part buried, of the self, which contains cells or seeds which can be affiliated to the selves of people, living or long dead. Not just Mamalie's father who was our great-grandfather who made clocks, but people in Europe or people in England or people in Egypt. It is like matching beads. A bit of me can really "live" something of a word or phrase, cut on a wall at Karnak. But really "live" it, I mean. Then, I am for a moment (through a picture carved on a wall, tinted with just such bright colours as we had in our own paint-box) Egyptian; a little cell of my brain responds to a cell of someone's brain, who died thousands of years ago (51).
I see again H.D.'s insistence on a (rather Jungian) "spiritual realism" that quite contradicts Freud's uncompromising materialism. And again I see the links of H.D.'s mysticism to her artistic gift to a bisexuality that transcends and compensates for the missing pen- penis-gift. It closes gaps between past and present, Egypt and London, art and science, and between everyday reality and the eternal./189/
Through the medium of the Gift, her myths slide over into her Moravian version of Christianity: "So the Promise might be redeemed and the Gift restored. The Gift was a Gift of Vision, it was the Gift of Wisdom, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctus Spiritus" (214). There is, we can see, an ambiguity in the phrase, "the gift." It is both something given to you and something you give to someone else. For H.D., the gift meant that she had to use her own gift to give to others her own spiritual quest./190/
In The Gift, H.D. recommits herself to the Moravianism she was born into. Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian sect, had posited an unorthodox Trinity: "Mutter" replaced the Holy Ghost. This Mother, the Moravians believed, is the Holy Spirit, a Bride equal to God-the-Father, who brings forth the "supreme" man, Jesus Christ. In other words, Moravianism supplied the mother element missing in sterner versions of Christianity. "The patriarchal mythos of a universe ruled by an external father god-figure is . . . . replaced by a female mythos centered on a mother goddess-figure, the Comforter, an eternal refuge and home" (Augustine 9-11). Zinzendorf's creed had to appeal especially to H.D. and not just because she was brought up in it. His changes from orthodoxy precisely enacted her own psychological pattern: regression from father-worship and father-dominance to a relationship with mother./191/
We come again to H.D.'s complex of feelings about her father. They show in this archaeological comment:
Under every shrine to Zeus, to Jupiter, to Zeu-pater or Theus-pater or God-the-father, along the western coast of the Peloponnesus, there is an earlier altar. There is, beneath the carved super-structure of every temple to God-the-father, the dark cave or grotto or inner hall or cella to Mary, mère, Mut, Mutter, pray for us (114).
What she says is archaeologically accurate, but it also expresses her basic unconscious pattern: to approach father, then to regress from him to mother. There may even be the faintest echo of her primal scene fantasies associated with her father in her evoking a "dark cave" under the paternal super-structure./192/
In The Gift H.D. associates her "kind father" with Bluebeard. Her father did, after all, have a very black beard and his first wife and his two daughters by her were dead women in the graveyard (39). In a letter to Bryher during the first analysis, she had written of "the Scorpio, my father, a cold, distant, upright, devoted father and husband but for whose profession I had only terror, a blind fear of space and the distances of the planets and the fixed stars" (4/28/33). With these ambivalent feelings toward an astronomer-father, how could she fail to take up astrology? That is, she wished to fuse with him and get him (or "it" or her mother) back. Astronomy was a way to do that, but astrology provided a way to satisfy her parallel wish, to run away from him./193/
Her ever-present fear of gaps and spaces and distances suggests that she carried into her relation with her father her fears about the gaps between herself and her mother. Her deepest fears associated with him, however, were primal scene fears, which she had analyzed from a dream in which a huge snake curling up her parents' bedpost suddenly struck at the child's mouth. But they also connected to her terror when, at the age of ten, she opened the front door of their house to find her father standing there, bloodied, mute, and half-conscious from some unknown accident. That in turn she links to the slaughter in earlier times of the local Indians by renegade whites and therefore the breaking of the peace with the Moravians. And that in turn she links to her fears during the bombing of London./194/
Clearly, I think, H.D. came to understand these issues through her analysis with Freud. In understanding, she to some extent mastered them. She accepted her need to be perfect and her bisexuality, and she would cope with both through creativity. Equally clearly, however, H.D. did not finally deal with these issues in the analysis. It would be wrong to say that Freud "cured" her. World War II brought up all these disabling terrors again, and she suffered recurring bouts of mental illness all through her later life. Yet it is well to remember that she did her most distinguished creative work during those two wars (perhaps an illustration of the Kleinian theory that artistic creativity stems from the wish to reconstitute what has been lost in aggressive fantasy). Her basic character structure had not changed, and I am not surprised. I believe we can never change that, even through a psychoanalysis (Lichtenstein 1961)./195/
Be that as it may, we have, I think, seen her pattern, as she did, in her relationships, her beliefs, and her creativity. In one mode, she wishes to have or to be or to love or to be loved by her father, but she is frightened away by primal scene and other fears. She regresses to wanting to have or to be or to love or to be loved by her mother. But there she encounters two versions of her mother. In one (the "phallic mother" in psychoanalytic jargon), she finds the mother who is all-powerful but did not give her the gift (mystical powers, creativity, the penis, or simply mother herself). That mother she is overwhelmingly angry at. It was this sense that her mother attacked her and she attacked her mother in their earliest relationship that her later analysis with Walter Schmideberg explored (Edmunds, ch. 1). With him, she found links between her terrifying war phobia and fantasies of aggression in the early mother-child dyad./196/
Then, defending against her anger, she regresses again, this time to a more all-encompassing, mythic, timeless mother (an "oral mother" in jargon). This mother she perceives as a supreme mother-goddess. She, like all eternal things in H.D.'s mystical beliefs, is physically "there." Spiritual things have to be, in order to save you from the terrifying gaps. If she were "not there," as in Freud's materialist universe, that would be unspeakably awful. Perhaps out of that fear, perhaps out of the fear of the aggression in the relationship, she turns again to a father-figure and repeats the cycle./197/
H.D. herself understood her writings in these terms, at least her early "Greek" poems. "It is nostalgia for a lost land," she wrote in 1938. "I call it Hellas." And, as she had noted in Tribute, Freud had linked "`Hellas' (Greece), with Helen, her mother's name. "Greece was for H.D. the `motherland,'" writes Diana Collecott, "home of female divinities and . . . locus of the suppressed or lost world of female union."/198/
As with any of us, H.D.'s intellectual beliefs followed her unconscious needs. Her need for a mother led to her intellectual and emotional union with her Moravian mother(s). In the same mode, she had to believe in a mother goddess who was the beginning, yes, but also the nightmare, the dark cave, that would frighten her into repeating the cycle. So, if I quote more fully the paragraph that we have read once for her relation to her father, we can see her turn from mother to father, to mother again, in her characteristic cycle:
Mary, Maia, Miriam, Mut, Madre, Mère, Mother, pray for us. Pray for us, dark Mary, Mary, mère, mer; this is the nightmare, this is the dark horse, this is Mary, Maia, Mut, Mutter. This is Gaia, this is the beginning. This is the end. Under every shrine to Zeus, to Jupiter, to Zeu-pater or Theus-pater or God-the-father, along the western coast of the Peloponnesus, there is an earlier altar. There is, beneath the carved super- structure of every temple to God-the-father, the dark cave or grotto or inner hall or cella to Mary, mère, Mut, Mutter, pray for us" (113- 4)./199/
The analysis set her free in the limited sense that psychoanalysis does. That is, she became aware of her pattern. By understanding it and its sources, she could take conscious control of it. She could, for example, use the pattern of regression to the mother to get through, for example, the Blitz. She could let herself follow the pattern when she wished, but stop herself, sometimes, when she wanted. Yet her confusion of myth with reality persisted. The pattern--her identity theme--did not change./200/
Part of what H.D. had discovered in the analysis was a paradox: her gift of creativity came out of her fears as well as her desires. Her artistic creations and her mystical beliefs both satisfied her desires and defended against her fears. Thus, she tells us, she did not understand what the gift was, until the terrors of the bombing of London.
It was as if I were there all the time, in understanding anyway, of the "thing" that had happened before I was 10, the "thing" that had happened to me and the "thing" I had inherited from them. I, the child was still living but I was not free, not free to express my understanding of the Gift, until long afterwards. I was not in fact, completely free, until again there was the whistling of evil wings, the falling of poisonous arrows, the deadly signature of a sign of evil-magic in the sky" (166).
In this vein, The Gift, the final stage of her analysis, ends with this description of the bombing: "We have been shaken out of our ordinary dimension in time and we have crossed the chasm that divides time from time-out-of-time or from what they call eternity." Facing terror in this world, she found a refuge, so to speak, in eternity./201/
There, she hears a choir of Moravian voices and returns to the Indians whose massacre she had identified with the mysterious scene of violent sexuality she experienced as a child. But, "Now Golden Eagle with his arrows, has driven off the enemy." "I will give him the Morning Star"--the sentence is a line from the Book of Revelation (2:28), here drawn by lot in a meeting between whites and Indians. With these words, the gift is given: a Moravian Countess (with whom H.D. identifies) makes peace between them. A female H.D. gives the male her kind of strength, achieving a mystical and eternal peace to be hoped for if never, perhaps, quite achieved. "`It's the all-clear,' says Bryher. `Yes,' I say."/202/
Because we have such an extraordinary set of psychological materials for H.D., I have concentrated on her and her growing understanding of her identity. But these writings also give us an unparalleled portrait of an analysis by the master psychoanalyst himself. In fact, I know of no account by an analysand that gives more details about his techniques or the analytic experience as it seems from within./203/
The memoir, but even more, the letters to Bryher show us Freud as a therapist. They tell us yet again, as so many accounts of his practice have, that Freud by no means followed the rules he prescribed for the analysts that followed him. Other analysts were to practice neutrality, to keep out of their patients' lives, to limit contact to the consulting room and the psychoanalytic situation. The analysand was to pay for the analysis. By contrast, Freud negotiated payment for H.D. with Bryher. He conducted his sessions with his dogs in the room. His wife and daughter were visible presences. To emphasize a point, he banged on the old horsehair couch. H.D. brought him newspapers and magazines that spelled out the situation in Germany. He discussed politics, borrowed and lent books, concerned himself with H.D.'s hotel accommodations, introduced her to some new puppies, led her to see one of his antiquities, and, strangely, gossiped about people in and out of the analytic circle. To some extent, all the people whom H.D. observed in Freud's inner circle gossiped furiously about one another. I get the impression of a kind of Renaissance court with courtiers abuzz about who's in, who's out, and who's the Prince's new favorite./204/
Partly, I think Freud adopted this informal technique to recognize that H.D., for example, or Van der Leeuw, to say nothing of the psychiatrists from England and America who had come to him for training, were as much "students" as conventional analysands or "patients." They were to "help" with the psychoanalytic movement. It probably would not have seemed natural to maintain proper psychoanalytic distance with people who are, in a way, colleagues. Nevertheless, we know from many other accounts that Freud, with patients as well as "students," was quite informal, compared to a modern analyst./205/
Psychoanalyst Norman Rosenblood has suggested to me that Freud's lending H.D. books, showing her artifacts, or discussing European or psychoanalytic politics with her was deliberate. Freud recognized, Rosenblood suggests, that H.D. was what he would have called a "transference neurosis" as opposed to psychosis, but he would have thought her severely neurotic. (An analyst of today would call H.D. a "borderline," someone whose hold on reality is tenuous. Mythology, for H.D., was actuality, even after her analysis.) Freud's sharing books, artifacts, and politics with her kept her tied to reality. These links to reality built trust and strengthened, to some extent gratified, her positive transference, which he could then use therapeutically, by analyzing it. Encouraging her love also allowed her to develop the negative transference we see at the end of the first analysis and in "The Master," another basis for analytic work. At the same time, Freud may have measured out rather carefully interpretations that would loosen her adaptive commitment to fantasy./206/
Whatever the reason for the informality, In his informality in the analytic session, Freud's technique, I think, more resembles modern psychodynamic therapy than modern psychoanalysis, although even in therapy one would not get so personally involved. Unlike a psychotherapist, however, Freud sought out infantile material, whereas a modern therapist would stick fairly closely to current issues. One can discern the particular technique he seems to have used with H.D. (or that she imposed on him when instructed to "say whatever comes into your mind"). She would recount something in her current or recent or at least adult past, her war experiences, her lovers, or her writers' block. Or she would go off into one of her mythological flights. Then, together, they would dig back into her childhood for, again, whatever came into mind about that material. Finally, Freud would interpret, using a good deal of psychoanalytic jargon (not current practice) and being quite explicit about what he surmised had gone on in childhood. It is my impression that modern analysts would let more of this material come from the patient than Freud did. Possibly the limited time frame led him to interpret more rapidly and fully./207/
Susan Stanford Friedman comments on this informality, I think, insightfully:
[Freud] seemed to recognize that an intimate, personal conversation could stimulate a rich vein of free association, transference, or resistance. His virtuosity centered particularly on a brilliant ability to transform a personal moment into an analytic one. Human exchanges, based in real warmth and respect, could at a moment's notice become grist for the analytic mill (1990, 308).
Freud and H.D. fit each other in their love of myth. He exploited that love for the sake of the analysis./208/
H.D. offers us a clue to Freud's "brilliant ability" in her letter to Bryher of November 22, 1934, a few days before the analysis ended:
I have no ps-a to-day, rather a relief. I told Freud a long tale yesterday, full of important details. When I had used up the hour he said, `I can tell from the way you speak, that you are hiding things. So I did not have to listen. You ran your articles together. You did not speak clearly.' What a sell! Was I mad?????????????????
I am telling you some of the tricks of the trade. Evidently papa simply listens to the wave-lengths. But ... he was right, as we are on early mstbn. [masturbation] layer, and he says the dreams are V E R Y significant, in their very obscurity.
Freud was listening in a special way, not to the "important details," but to "the way you speak," how "you ran your articles together," how "you did not speak clearly." Hence any and all language was "grist for the analytic mill," an account of a dream or gossip about Havelock Ellis. Freud was listening to the language as language, as he described himself doing in his early case histories and in The Interpretation of Dreams. In later writings, he said less and less about the surface details he was listening to. More and more he wrote directly about the conclusions he had reached. One can get the impression that he was listening for those conclusions. H.D.'s description here, however, shows that as late as 1934, he was listening as he had listened at the beginning, more, evidently, to the verbal surface than to the verbal content. In Theodore Reik's famous phrase, he was "listening with the third ear."/209/
To me, the "third ear" contrasts strikingly to the way modern therapists and analysts listen. Freud was observing verbal behavior. Influenced, I think, by object-relations theory, modern therapists pay attention to the relationships described, hence to the content of the language rather than the linguistic behavior at the surface. To me, such listening makes a major departure from classical practice and not necessarily a good one. I think it replaces observable behavior, the words the analysand uses, with either the analyst's or the analysand's sense of the events or relationships described. Freud, I think, interpreted to H.D. not so much from events or relationships, but from the language she used about them./210/
He did not, of course, neglect relationships as such. The letters also show that Freud interpreted H.D. to herself in "oral" terms, giving her as a "student" theoretical constructs as well as personal insight. Moreover, he emphasized her early relationship with her mother. In his theoretical writings, as many have pointed out, Freud said a great deal about the oedipal triangle and conflicts with the father, and he tended to say little about the early mother- infant relationship, even after he broached it in 1920. H.D.'s analysis makes clear, however, that in an actual analysis of 1933 and "three years ago," he worked extensively with early oral dependency and conflict with the mother./211/
Possibly Freud was as active in a psychoanalysis as he was, because both of H.D.'s analyses had time limits (again, not current practice or, I believe, Freud's usual practice). Freud contracted with Bryher for so-and-so many sessions at such-and-such a fee. When that number of sessions was complete, the analysis was over. He had used a time-limited technique before (with Wolf Man and perhaps others), and surely the effect would be to press both analyst and analysand into working much harder. And H.D. did work hard./212/
I have made, in this Appendix, a long detour into the details of H.D.'s analysis, a long excursion from the main topic of this book, the literary process. It is an excursion made possible only by the generosity, insights, and researches of Susan Stanford Friedman and the other H.D. scholars. These extraordinary materials enabled me to trace H.D.'s themes from early infancy on. I detoured, because we can draw an important conclusion from this body of evidence./213/
A reading of H.D.'s identity theme, essentially from only her adult writings, coincides with the historical development of H.D.'s personality as revealed in her psychoanalysis with Freud and her self-analytic writings. Reading the themes of H.D.'s writings as if they were all laid out before us at once leads to the same themes that she discovered in her analysis. In a nutshell, a synchronic analysis of H.D.'s writings leads to the same themes as the diachronic psychoanalysis with Freud. The conclusions of Chapter One match those of this Appendix./214/
Her analysis tells us that she began her psychological life by needing to close the gaps between herself and her mother. Alternatively, she wanted to fuse with her mother so they would be eternally together. Or she could be mother. She learned to accept a mother-substitute, her brother, then her father. She balanced her need to be soft and so fuse with a mother (or one of her avatars) with the opposite need, to stand apart. This solution, too, had both positive and negative sides. As in the "Adonis" poem (paragraph 104 above), "Apart" from the "drift," of the leaves, one is permanent, perfect, like beaten gold. But one is separated from the object of desire./215/
In this later stage, she desired and learned and feared her own separateness and autonomy. As part of that separateness she began to seek hardness and boundaries. In a still later development she sought that hardness in masculine figures, longing to be or to fuse with them, but that was dangerous. Then she regressed from that position to try to be close to or at one with a mother-figure, the early need that had never ceased./216/
In Chapter One, I phrased H.D.'s identity theme this way: I see fearful gaps, but I can make and be and be in perfect signs that close those gaps. More fully, I cannot tolerate gaps between me and the eternal, but when I make the spiritual material or mythologize the everyday, I create a perfect, timeless hieroglyph-world which I can be and be in. In 1968 and 1973, when I knew of her analysis only through the first two-thirds of Tribute to Freud, I wrote, When I concretize the spiritual or mythologize the everyday, I create a perfect, timeless hieroglyph-world which I can be and be in. Or, abbreviated, I want to close the gap with signs./217/
There are, in effect, four terms to her identity theme:
words -- signs -- myths -- the ancient world -- the spiritualEach of these terms represents images and issues that permeate her writings and other artworks./218/
physicality -- materiality -- being
gaps -- distance -- spaces between these two
making -- being -- being in
Each also represents deep issues in her early relationships with her family. The signs-term, at one level, represents the astronomical signs her father used. For example, the dots in her Corfu vision may have been stars, and many of the signs, signets, and myths she wrote herself into were constellations. Yet her mother was also someone much involved with signs. There was her music, her speaking German, the "gift" of music she had given to Uncle Fred, but above all, there was the Moravianism. As H.D. tells us in The Gift it was there she first encountered elaborate signs and rituals and the mysterious "gift," which could have meant anything from a way to be closer to her mother to something men had that women didn't./219/
Her interest in mysterious, mystical signs became a poet's interest in words and the poetic style in which she will invoke like an incantation the names of gods or all the cognate words for "mother." The astronomical signs her father used became the gods and myths the poet wrote./220/
At the same time, there was the physical, material world that so delighted her. Hence she fell naturally into imagism: simply turning the physical thing into the incantatory word with no clutter, no comment--Imagism./221/
Inevitably, however, there were, for the poet, gaps, distances, spaces, discrepancies between the physical and the spiritual. These were deeply distressing--why? For the analysand, these were "interruptions" between herself and her somewhat distant mother, a gap she desperately wanted to close. And, as analysand, she spoke of her father as a distant man engaged with distant things and of her fear of the great spaces he dealt with--and was in./222/
The child's need to be close became the fourth term in H.D.'s poetic style (at least as I phrase it): the need to close the gap. To be loved, for the child, was to be close, to overcome the gaps and interruptions. More, to be close was to be physically in that family so much concerned with signs, not an outsider, not an exception, not a girl among boys. This need was, for the adult poet, as intense as a baby's need for its mother. Then, in later childhood, to "close the gap with signs," to establish the boundaries and edges of things (like connecting stars with lines to form constellations) or, still more generally, to concretize the abstract may have meant at the deepest level of her being: to touch my father. The adult poet's interest in puns might have come from a child's wish to "telescope" words. Words and signs were the way to close the gap. They were musical and magical, a mystic and mysterious gift, and yes, pace H.D.'s feminist critics, the missing penis. All had to be physically "there."/223/
Her need to make the spiritual material, her mysticism and religiosity, became her deepest difference with Freud. His unwillingness to accept the material existence of the spiritual was their deepest quarrel, one that she could partly acknowledge in Tribute. In her mind, I think, it paralleled Freud's insistence on a gap or defect in woman, the idea of penis envy that H.D. was able angrily to reject only in "The Master" written after the analysis was over. Both issues shared the same question, "Is it there?" Freud answered no, H.D. answered yes. She could feel anger about it (as she tells us in "The Master"), and she could joke about it, as in their pun about "gods" and "goods."/224/
In H.D.'s psychic development, longing for her mother became longing for her brother, then longing for her father. But she had to flee him because of the mysterious primal scene episode, and she turned back to her mother, first as all-powerful mother, then as nurturing goddess. Yet aggression in that relationship drove her back to the father in her bisexual cycle. That was her diachronic story. The synchronic pattern became the closing of gaps by being in signs that bridged physical and spiritual. At the deepest level, the gap meant the distance between child and parent. At higher levels, it meant the distance between oneself and the generations before. In her poetic imagination, she could say the child was the generations before, the female was the male, the rose was the dart, and the goddess was the god./225/
In short, H.D. discovered a history for herself (and for us) in her analysis. It confirms a reading of her works for a consistent pattern of psychological themes. The psychobiographer needs to begin with that kind of reading. We best understand a writer's creativity by listening as Freud listened. He understood her and helped her to understand herself, not through the "important details," the words as referring to something else, but to the words as words. As H.D. might comment at this point, "In the beginning was the Word."/226/
Augustine, Jane. "Introduction." The Gift by H.D. Gainesville FL: University Press of Florida, 1998. 1-28.
Bryher [Winifred Ellerman]. The Heart to Artemis: A Writer's Memoirs. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1962.
Collecott, Diana. "Images at the Crossroads: The `H.D. Scrapbook'" H.D.: Woman and Poet. Ed. Michael King. Orono Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1986. 319-67.
Crow [Jaffe], Nora. "`She Herself is the Writing': Language and Sexual Identity in H.D." Literature and Medicine 4 (1985): 86-111.
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau and Susan Stanford Friedman. "`Woman is Perfect': H.D.'s Debate with Freud." Feminist Studies 7.3 (1981): 417-30.
Edmunds, Susan. Out of Line: History, Psychoanalysis, and Montage in H.D.'s Long Poems. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.
Friedman, Susan Stanford. Penelope's Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.'s Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
-----, ed. Analyzing Freud : Letters of H.D., Bryher, and Their Circle.. Forthcoming. New York, New Directions.
Gregory, Horace. "Introduction." H.D. [Hilda Doolittle]. Helen in Egypt. New York: Grove, 1961.
H.D. [Hilda Doolittle]. Collected Poems, 1912-1944. Ed. Louis L. Martz. New York: New Directions, 1983. Abbreviated CP.
-----.. The Gift by H.D. Ed. Jane Augustine. Gainesville FL: University Press of Florida, 1998. 1-28.
-----. The Hedgehog. New York: New Directions, 1936.
-----. Helen in Egypt. Introduction by Horace Gregory. New York: Grove, 1961.
-----. Tribute to Freud: Writing on the Wall; Advent. Foreword by Norman Holmes Pearson. Boston: Godine, 1974 .
Holland, Norman N. Poems in Persons, revised edn. Christchurch, N.Z.: Cybereditions, September 15, 2000. Available .
-----. The I. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985. Available online at http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/nnh/theihome.htm.
Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. 3 Vols. New York: Basic, 1953-57.
Lichtenstein, Heinz. "Identity and Sexuality: A Study of Their Interrelationship in Man." Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 9 (1961): 179-260.
Pearson, Norman Holmes. "Norman Holmes Pearson on H.D.: An Interview." Interview with L. S. Dembo. Contemporary Literature 10.4 (1969): 435-46.
Williams, William Carlos. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1951.
Received: January 1, 2002, Published: April 26, 2002. Copyright © 2002 Norman N. Holland