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Hippolytus Temporizes & Ion

by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)

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H.D. succeeded in establishing her own voice in the choruses of Euripides, which turned them into excellent Imagist poetry.

—Barbara Guest, from Herself Defined

Brilliant reworkings of Euripides' classic dramas by the great modernist poet H.D., now available in one volume.


Hippolytus Temporizes & Ion

Fiction by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)

with a contribution by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)

H.D.’s 1927 adaptation of Euripides’ Hippolytus Temporizes and her 1937 translation of Ion appeared midpoint in her career. These two verse dramas can both be considered as “freely adapted” from plays by Euripides; they constitute a commentary in action, and in this regard resemble W. B.Yeats’s Oedipus plays and Ezra Pound’s Women of Trachis. In the first play, the young man Hippolytus is obsessed with the virgin goddess Artemis and discovers the depth of his passion with the sensual Phaedra, his disguised stepmother: this experience brings self-knowledge and death. The heroine Kreousa in Ion attempts to poison Ion when she fails to recognize him as her son by Apollo but sees in him instead the outsider and possible usurper of her throne. H.D.’s translations of the Greek were greatly admired by T. S. Eliot. In her re-workings, she creates modern versions of classic plays, enabling her to explore her favorite poetic themes. Sigmund Freud (with whom H.D. was undergoing analysis just before she embarked on Ion) commended her translations; and after writing them, H.D. was able to go on to write Helen in Egypt, “a sweeping epic of healing and integration.” These marvelous versions attest to H.D.’s claim that “the lines of this Greek poet (and all Greek poets if we have but the clue) are today as vivid and as fresh as they ever were.”

published November 1st, 2003