H. D.’s “Oread” (1914) demonstrates some of the qualities of early modernist free verse:

Whirl up, sea—
Whirl your pointed pines,
Splash your great pines
On our rocks,
Hurl your green over us,
Cover us with your pools of fir.

In the poem’s central image, pine trees seem to arise like waves from the sea, reaching up to embrace and cover the mountains. Although the poem has only one end-rhyme, which is not really a rhyme (pines/pines), it has various other elements that define it as verse rather than prose. The repetition of “whirl” at the beginning of the first two lines and the initial rhyme with “hurl” in line five structure the poem. There is little enjambment here. Each line contains its own syntactic unit, except that lines four and five form a single unit. Each of the five syntactic units begins with a verb in the imperative mood, addressed to the sea: whirl, splash, hurl, cover. The repetition of “your” also links the lines, and the poem moves from the first half, in which all the pronouns point to the sea, to a second half dominated by the pronoun “us,” referring to the mountain nymphs. The poem recalls Yeats’s “Who goes with Fergus?” in the skyward motion of the “pools of fir.”[1]

  1. ↑ This page has been adapted from Pericles Lewis’s Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 2007), pp.68-69.