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Best Famous Robinson Jeffers Poems

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by Robinson Jeffers | |

TO HIS FATHER

Christ was your lord and captain all your life,
He fails the world but you he did not fail,
He led you through all forms of grief and strife
Intact, a man full-armed, he let prevail
Nor outward malice nor the worse-fanged snake
That coils in one's own brain against your calm,
That great rich jewel well guarded for his sake
With coronal age and death like quieting balm.
I Father having followed other guides And oftener to my hurt no leader at all, Through years nailed up like dripping panther hides For trophies on a savage temple wall Hardly anticipate that reverend stage Of life, the snow-wreathed honor of extreme age.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

SUICIDES STONE

Peace is the heir of dead desire,
Whether abundance killed the cormorant
In a happy hour, or sleep or death
Drowned him deep in dreamy waters,
Peace is the ashes of that fire,
The heir of that king, the inn of that journey.
This last and best and goal: we dead Hold it so tight you are envious of us And fear under sunk lids contempt.
Death-day greetings are the sweetest.
Let trumpets roar when a man dies And rockets fly up, he has found his fortune.
Yet hungering long and pitiably That way, you shall not reach a finger To pluck it unripe and before dark Creep to cover: life broke ten whipstocks Over my back, broke faith, stole hope, Before I denounced the covenant of courage.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

DIVINELY SUPERFLUOUS BEAUTY

The storm-dances of gulls, the barking game of seals,
Over and under the ocean .
.
.
Divinely superfluous beauty Rules the games, presides over destinies, makes trees grow And hills tower, waves fall.
The incredible beauty of joy Stars with fire the joining of lips, O let our loves too Be joined, there is not a maiden Burns and thirsts for love More than my blood for you, by the shore of seals while the wings Weave like a web in the air Divinely superfluous beauty.


More great poems below...

by Robinson Jeffers | |

THE EXCESSES OF GOD

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

TO THE STONE-CUTTERS

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain.
The poet as well Builds his monument mockingly; For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun Die blind and blacken to the heart: Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found The honey of peace in old poems.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

TO THE HOUSE

I am heaping the bones of the old mother
To build us a hold against the host of the air;
Granite the blood-heat of her youth
Held molten in hot darkness against the heart
Hardened to temper under the feet
Of the ocean cavalry that are maned with snow
And march from the remotest west.
This is the primitive rock, here in the wet Quarry under the shadow of waves Whose hollows mouthed the dawn; little house each stone Baptized from that abysmal font The sea and the secret earth gave bonds to affirm you.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

We Are Those People

 I have abhorred the wars and despised the liars, laughed at the frightened
And forecast victory; never one moment's doubt.
But now not far, over the backs of some crawling years, the next Great war's column of dust and fire writhes Up the sides of the sky: it becomes clear that we too may suffer What others have, the brutal horror of defeat— Or if not in the next, then in the next—therefore watch Germany And read the future.
We wish, of course, that our women Would die like biting rats in the cellars, our men like wolves on the mountain: It will not be so.
Our men will curse, cringe, obey; Our women uncover themselves to the grinning victors for bits of chocolate.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

End Of The World

 When I was young in school in Switzerland, about the time of the Boer War,
We used to take it for known that the human race
Would last the earth out, not dying till the planet died.
I wrote a schoolboy poem About the last man walking in stoic dignity along the dead shore Of the last sea, alone, alone, alone, remembering all His racial past.
But now I don't think so.
They'll die faceless in flocks, And the earth flourish long after mankind is out.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Hurt Hawks

 I

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat, 

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head, The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him; Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him; Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
II I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail Had nothing left but unable misery From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom, He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death, Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old Implacable arrogance.
I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Shiva

 There is a hawk that is picking the birds out of our sky,
She killed the pigeons of peace and security,
She has taken honesty and confidence from nations and men,
She is hunting the lonely heron of liberty.
She loads the arts with nonsense, she is very cunning Science with dreams and the state with powers to catch them at last.
Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running.
This is the hawk that picks out the star's eyes.
This is the only hunter that will ever catch the wild swan; The prey she will take last is the wild white swan of the beauty of things.
Then she will be alone, pure destruction, achieved and supreme, Empty darkness under the death-tent wings.
She will build a nest of the swan's bones and hatch a new brood, Hang new heavens with new birds, all be renewed.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

The Epic Stars

 The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem-- This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle-- We don't know enough, we'll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

The Stars Go Over The Lonely Ocean

 Unhappy about some far off things
That are not my affair, wandering
Along the coast and up the lean ridges,
I saw in the evening
The stars go over the lonely ocean,
And a black-maned wild boar
Plowing with his snout on Mal Paso Mountain.
The old monster snuffled, "Here are sweet roots, Fat grubs, slick beetles and sprouted acorns.
The best nation in Europe has fallen, And that is Finland, But the stars go over the lonely ocean," The old black-bristled boar, Tearing the sod on Mal Paso Mountain.
"The world's in a bad way, my man, And bound to be worse before it mends; Better lie up in the mountain here Four or five centuries, While the stars go over the lonely ocean," Said the old father of wild pigs, Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.
"Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy And the dogs that talk revolution, Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies," Said the gamey black-maned boar Tusking the turf on Mal Paso Mountain.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Praise Life

 This country least, but every inhabited country
Is clotted with human anguish.
Remember that at your feasts.
And this is no new thing but from time out of mind, No transient thing, but exactly Conterminous with human life.
Praise life, it deserves praise, but the praise of life That forgets the pain is a pebble Rattled in a dry gourd.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Summer Holiday

 When the sun shouts and people abound
One thinks there were the ages of stone and the age of
 bronze
And the iron age; iron the unstable metal;
Steel made of iron, unstable as his mother; the tow-
 ered-up cities
Will be stains of rust on mounds of plaster.
Roots will not pierce the heaps for a time, kind rains will cure them, Then nothing will remain of the iron age And all these people but a thigh-bone or so, a poem Stuck in the world's thought, splinters of glass In the rubbish dumps, a concrete dam far off in the mountain.
.
.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Shine Perishing Republic

 While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening 
 to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
 mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots 
 to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and deca- dence; and home to the mother.
You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub- bornly long or suddenly A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thick- ening center; corruption Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught--they say-- God, when he walked on earth.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Birthday (Autobiography)

 Seventy years ago my mother labored to bear me,
A twelve-pound baby with a big head,
Her first, it was plain torture.
Finally they used the forceps And dragged me out, with one prong In my right eye, and slapped and banged me until I breathed.
I am not particularly grateful for it.
As to the eye: it remained invalid and now has a cataract.
It can see gods and spirits in its cloud, And the weird end of the world: the left one's for common daylight.
As to my mother: A rather beautiful young woman married to a grim clergyman Twenty-two years older than she: She had her little innocent diversions, her little travels in Europe— And once for scandal kissed the Pope's ring— Perhaps her life was no emptier than other lives.
Both parents Swim in my blood and distort my thought but the old man's welcome.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

The Answer

 Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence, and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not wish for evil; and not be duped By dreams of universal justice or happiness.
These dreams will not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful.
A severed hand Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history.
.
.
for contemplation or in fact.
.
.
Often appears atrociously ugly.
Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.
Love that, not man Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Be Angry At The Sun

 That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new.
That America must accept Like the historical republics corruption and empire Has been known for years.
Be angry at the sun for setting If these things anger you.
Watch the wheel slope and turn, They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.
Observe them gesticulating, Observe them going down.
The gang serves lies, the passionate Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth Hunts in no pack.
You are not Catullus, you know, To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar.
You are far From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty Political hatreds.
Let boys want pleasure, and men Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame, And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

July Fourth By The Ocean

 The continent's a tamed ox, with all its mountains,
Powerful and servile; here is for plowland, here is
 for park and playground, this helpless
Cataract for power; it lies behind us at heel
All docile between this ocean and the other.
If flood troubles the lowlands, or earthquake Cracks walls, it is only a slave's blunder or the natural Shudder of a new made slave.
Therefore we happy masters about the solstice Light bonfires on the shore and celebrate our power.
The bay's necklaced with fire, the bombs make crystal fountains in the air, the rockets Shower swan's-neck over the night water.
.
.
.
I imagined The stars drew apart a little as if from troublesome children, coldly compassionate; But the ocean neither seemed astonished nor in awe: If this had been the little sea that Xerxes whipped, how it would have feared us.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Natural Music

 The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers,
(Winter has given them gold for silver
To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their banks)
>From different throats intone one language.
So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without Divisions of desire and terror To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hunger smitten cities, Those voices also would be found Clean as a child's; or like some girl's breathing who dances alone By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Love The Wild Swan

 "I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch One color, one glinting flash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax, The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.
" --This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your .
.
.
self? At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can Hear the music, the thunder of the wings.
Love the wild swan.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Promise Of Peace

 The heads of strong old age are beautiful
Beyond all grace of youth.
They have strange quiet, Integrity, health, soundness, to the full They've dealt with life and been tempered by it.
A young man must not sleep; his years are war, Civil and foreign but the former's worse; But the old can breathe in safety now that they are Forgetting what youth meant, the being perverse, Running the fool's gauntlet and being cut By the whips of the five senses.
As for me, If I should wish to live long it were but To trade those fevers for tranquillity, Thinking though that's entire and sweet in the grave How shall the dead taste the deep treasure they have?


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Cassandra

 The mad girl with the staring eyes and long white fingers
Hooked in the stones of the wall,
The storm-wrack hair and screeching mouth: does it matter, Cassandra,
Whether the people believe
Your bitter fountain? Truly men hate the truth, they'd liefer
Meet a tiger on the road.
Therefore the poets honey their truth with lying; but religion— Vendors and political men Pour from the barrel, new lies on the old, and are praised for kind Wisdom.
Poor bitch be wise.
No: you'll still mumble in a corner a crust of truth, to men And gods disgusting—you and I, Cassandra.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

The Great Explosion

 The universe expands and contracts like a great heart.
It is expanding, the farthest nebulae Rush with the speed of light into empty space.
It will contract, the immense navies of stars and galaxies, dust clouds and nebulae Are recalled home, they crush against each other in one harbor, they stick in one lump And then explode it, nothing can hold them down; there is no way to express that explosion; all that exists Roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from each other into all the sky, new universes Jewel the black breast of night; and far off the outer nebulae like charging spearmen again Invade emptiness.
No wonder we are so fascinated with fireworks And our huge bombs: it is a kind of homesickness perhaps for the howling fireblast that we were born from.
But the whole sum of the energies That made and contain the giant atom survives.
It will gather again and pile up, the power and the glory-- And no doubt it will burst again; diastole and systole: the whole universe beats like a heart.
Peace in our time was never one of God's promises; but back and forth, live and die, burn and be damned, The great heart beating, pumping into our arteries His terrible life.
He is beautiful beyond belief.
And we, God's apes--or tragic children--share in the beauty.
We see it above our torment, that's what life's for.
He is no God of love, no justice of a little city like Dante's Florence, no anthropoid God Making commandments,: this is the God who does not care and will never cease.
Look at the seas there Flashing against this rock in the darkness--look at the tide-stream stars--and the fall of nations--and dawn Wandering with wet white feet down the Caramel Valley to meet the sea.
These are real and we see their beauty.
The great explosion is probably only a metaphor--I know not --of faceless violence, the root of all things.


by Robinson Jeffers | |

Carmel Point

 The extraordinary patience of things! 
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly.
It has all time.
It knows the people are a tide That swells and in time will ebb, and all Their works dissolve.
Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty Lives in the very grain of the granite, Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.
-As for us: We must uncenter our minds from ourselves; We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident As the rock and ocean that we were made from.