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by H.D.


We’ve got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you’ll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(3) Base Camp

H.D.'s "Helen" doesn't have any fancy two-dollar words. It doesn't have some crazy rhyme scheme or meter. It doesn't have off-the-wall references (besides the reference to, you know, Ms. Helen of Troy herself), and the poem itself is pretty short.

But the poem's very spareness—the fact that it's only eighteen lines, that there aren't many words, that the words are so basic and simple-seeming—can actually make interpreting the poem a bit tricky. How can you interpret a poem in which there's not that much actual poem?

Never fear; Shmoop's here. If you're intimidated by H.D.'s spare style, check out our line-by-line "Summary" of the poem. We'll help you read between those lines.

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