Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Robinson

Today in 1887 Robinson Jeffers was born. Here are three of his works:

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.

The Bird With the Dark Plumes

The bird with the dark plumes in my blood,
That never for one moment however I patched my truces
Consented to make peace with the people,
It is pitiful now to watch her pleasure In a breath of tempest
Breaking the sad promise of spring.
Are these that morose hawk's wings, vaulting, a mere mad swallow's,
The snow-shed peak, the violent precipice?
Poor outlaw that would not value their praise do you prize their blame?
"Their liking" she said "was a long creance,
But let them be kind enough to hate me that opens the sky."
It is almost as foolish my poor falcon
To want hatred as to want love; and harder to win.

The Vulture

I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit narrowing,
I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight- feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer.
I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Bear downward staring. I said, 'My dear bird, we are wasting time here.
These old bones will still work; they are not for you.' But how beautiful
he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the sea-light
over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak and
become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes--
What a sublime end of one's body, what an enskyment; what a life after death.

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