Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)
Photo: Edward Weston
From Flagons and Apples (1912)
From Californians (1916)
And the Stars
Perhaps you did not know how bright last night,
Especially above your seaside door,
Was all the marvelous starlit sky, and wore
White harmonies of very shining light.
Perhaps you did not want to seek the sight
Of that remembered rapture any more.--
But then at least you must have heard the shore
Roar with reverberant voices thro' the night.
Those stars were lit with longing of my own,
And the ocean's moan was full of my own pain.
Yet doubtless it was well for both of us
You did not come, but left me there alone.
I hardly ought to see you much again;
And stars, we know, are often dangerous.
Wonder and Joy
The things that one grows tired of--O, be sure
They are only foolish artificial things!
Can a bird ever tire of having wings?
And I, so long as life and sense endure,
(Or brief be they!) shall nevermore inure
My heart to the recurrence of the springs,
Of the gray dawns, the gracious evenings,
The infinite wheeling stars. A wonder pure
Must ever well within me to behold
Venus decline; or great Orion, whose belt
Is studded with three nails of burning gold,
Ascend the winter heaven. Who never felt
This wondering joy may yet be good or great:
But envy him not: he is not fortunate.
Thankful, my country, be to him who first
Brought hither from Australia oversea
Sapling or seed of the undeciduous tree
Whose grave and sombre foliage fears no burst
Of heat from summer-naked heavens, nor thirst
Though all the winter is rainless, and the bee
Starves, finding not a blossom. Patiently
The great roots delve, and feel though deep-immersed
Some layer of ancient moisture, and the leaves
Perish not, hanging pointed in the sky.
To see these lofty trunks gray-barked and broad
Wall with clear shade a long white southern road
I have been as one devoted, who receives
An impulse or a promise from on high.
The First Grass
It rained three autumn days, then close to frost
Under clear starlight the night shivering was.
The dawn rose cold and colorless as glass,
And when we wakened rains and clouds were lost.
The ocean surged and shouted stormy-tossed.
I went down to companion him. Alas,
What faint voice by the way? The sudden grass
Cried with thin lips as I the valley crossed,
Saying blade by blade, "Although the warm sweet rain
Awakened us, this world is all too cold.
We never dreamed it thus."--"Your champion bold
Is risen," I said; "he in an hour or twain
Will comfort you." I passed. Above the dune
Stood the wan splendorless daylight-waning moon.
When I Behold the Greatest
When I behold the greatest and most wise
Fall out of heaven, wings not by pride struck numb
Like Satan's, but to gain some humbler crumb
Of pittance from penurious granaries;
And when I see under each new disguise
The same cowardice of custom, the same dumb
Devil that drove our Wordswroth to become
Apologist of kings and priests and lies;
And how a man may find in all he loathes
Contentment after all, and so endear it
By cowardly craft it grows his inmost own;--
Then I renew my faith with firmer oaths,
And bind with more tremendous vows a spirit
That, often fallen, never has lain prone.