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The Purse-Seine

 Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark
 of the moon; daylight or moonlight
They could not tell where to spread the net, 
 unable to see the phosphorescence of the 
 shoals of fish.
They work northward from Monterey, coasting Santa Cruz; off New Year's Point or off Pigeon Point The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color light on the sea's night-purple; he points, and the helmsman Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the gleaming shoal and drifts out her seine-net.
They close the circle And purse the bottom of the net, then with great labor haul it in.
I cannot tell you How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, then, when the crowded fish Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall to the other of their closing destiny the phosphorescent Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body sheeted with flame, like a live rocket A comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside the narrowing Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night Stand erect to the stars.
Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: how could I help but recall the seine-net Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now There is no escape.
We have gathered vast populations incapable of free survival, insulated From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all dependent.
The circle is closed, and the net Is being hauled in.
They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet they shine already.
The inevitable mass-disasters Will not come in our time nor in our children's, but we and our children Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all powers--or revolution, and the new government Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls--or anarchy, the mass-disasters.
These things are Progress; Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps its reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria, splintered gleams, crackled laughter.
But they are quite wrong.
There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew that cultures decay, and life's end is death.

Poem by Robinson Jeffers
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