Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)




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.




   




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 decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life
      is good, be it stubbornly 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 thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, and 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.




   




Hurt Hawks

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.
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 for fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.




   




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 to 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.




   




Fire on the Hills

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brushfire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the black slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders.
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.