Thursday, July 18, 2002

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, 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 the noblest spirits,
that caught - they say - God, when he walked on earth.

- Robinson Jeffers, 1925 -

Like D.H. Lawrence a while back, Jeffers is a poet/writer that I knew by name only until recently. Making my way through the Vintage Books edition of his Selected Poems has been a delight and an education in the power of poetry. The above piece, for instance, resonates with a vision of man and his institutions that, in light of current events and considering it was penned well over 70 years ago, seems prophetic. Click here if you are interested in some brief analysis of the piece above.

That much of Jeffers' poetry is informed by the rugged and haunted beauty of the Carmel/Big Sur region of the Pacific Coast where he spent most of his life is, perhaps, one reason why I find his words so compelling. This is a landscape that I am familiar with, a place where the beauty and power of nature is a tangible thing, a place I would gladly live given my druthers and one which has inspired a number of poems from my own pen - Twenty Seven Years and Big Sur (impressions) to name a couple.

Someday, perhaps, Sarah and myself will leave America to it's vulgarities, sell all those possessions that are not essential, and find a home where our only neighbors are ancient Redwood trees and the whisper of the surf will greet us in the morning and lull us to dreams by night.

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