When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an element
and smelt it like water,
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a
little troublesome, a little terrible.
I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death
nor in a walled garden,
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that
easily lock the world out of doors.
Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam-wet
granite sea-fang it is easy to praise
Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the
herds of the people that one should love them?
If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's
delight in the herds of the future.
Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy.
Leave the joys of government to Caesar.
Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of the
world falls on decay in the flesh increasing
Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient
blindness, and clemency for love.
This is the breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world
waiting, stalled between storms, decaying a little,
Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw the
savior Caesar but out of the blood-bath.
The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but
wisdom without love is the present savior,
Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladed machine subduing
the world with deep indifference.
The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known;
words and the little envies will hardly
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they
have never dared to confront.
Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale
swimming to shoal; Point Lobos
Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it;
the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary.
Out of incestuous love power and then ruin.
A man forcing the
imaginations of men,
Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his
own household with impious desire.
King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red tears
pouring from the torn pits
Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill
in the earthquake, against the eclipse
Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the
people: -that root was so sweet O dreadful agonist? -
I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to
its expiation; I heard the same cry.
A bad mountain to build your world on.
Am I another keeper of
the people, that on my own shore,
On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the
sicknesses I left behind me concern me?
Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid
west, over the deeps
Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns
flower and burn through color to quietness;
Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I
have found my rock, let them find theirs.
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his
time reap their daggers of gratitude.
Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that
easily locks the world out of doors.
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from
whom I desire not to be fugitive.
I see them: they are always crying.
The shored Pacific makes
perpetual music, and the stone mountains
Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light:
the people are always crying in their hearts.
One need not pity; certainly one must not love.
But who has seen
peace, if he should tell them where peace
Lives in the world.
they would be powerless to understand; and
he is not willing to be reinvolved.
How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell
the people anything but relative to that?
But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once,
of man and woman, of civilized
And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, of
living and dead, of human and not
Human, and dimly all the human future: -what should persuade him
to speak? And what could his words change?
The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed.
the man's words would be fixed also,
Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same
present compulsion in the iron consistency.
And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred
centuries quieted, some desert
Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the mud-
walled village and the mountain sepulchres.
Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the
open farms, and the people are fed.
They import and they consume reality.
Before sunrise a hawk in
the desert made them their thoughts.
Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed
Among the mild and unwarlike
Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed
but live greatly and be heard:
This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe on
the high cross to catch at their memories;
The price is known.
I have quieted love; for love of the people
I would not do it.
For power I would do it.
--But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man,
dead under torture? --What is power to a man
Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root,
neither of act nor desire.
For power living I would never do it; they'are not delightful to
touch, one wants to be separate.
After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the
abstract unborn children toward peace.
A man might have paid anguish indeed.
Except he had found the
standing sea-rock that even this last
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace
that quiets the desire even of praising it.
Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they
would be pitiable:
But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; they
are able then to be still and not cry.
And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of
the beauty of things, magically grow
Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial
themselves into the beauty they admired,
Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep
unconsciousness they used to mimic
Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard
stumbled homeward down the dark street.
They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no
savior, salvation comes and takes them by force,
It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the
blown storms, the stream's-end ocean.
With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having
realized the petulant human consciousness
Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both
pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate
But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, to
love the coast opposite humanity
And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it
is worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest.
Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's,
the mote in the eye that makes its object
Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the
inhuman God than the hunter's own image.
Top Robinson Jeffers Poems