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. . Poems Jeffers Robinson

. . Poems Jeffers Robinson.

 

/ Jeffers Robinson (10 1887 20 1962) - .

A Little Scraping

True, the time, to one who does not love farce,
And if misery must be prefers it nobler, shows apparent vices;
At least it provides the cure for ambition.
One does not crave power in ant-hills, nor praise in a paper forest;
One must not even indulge the severe
Romance of separateness, as of Milton grown blind and old
In his broken temple against the drunkards:
The ants are good creatures, there is nothing to be heroic about.
But the time is not a strong prison either.
A little scraping the walls of dishonest contractor's concrete
Through a shower of chips and sand makes freedom.
Shake the dust from your hair. This mountain sea-coast is real,
For it reaches out far into past and future;
It is part of the great and timeless excellence of things. A few
Lean cows drift high up the bronze hill;
The heavy-necked plow-team furrows the foreland, gulls tread the furrow;
Time ebbs and flows but the rock remains.
Two riders of tired horses canter on the cloudy ridge;
Topaz-eyed hawks have the white air;
Or a woman with jade-pale eyes, hiding a knife in her hand,
Goes through cold rain over gray grass.
God is here, too, secretly smiling, the beautiful power
That piles up cities for the poem of their fall
And gathers multitude like game to be hunted when the season comes.

 

A Redeemer

The road had steepened and the sun sharpened on the high
ridges; the stream probably was dry,
Certainly not to be come to down the pit of the canyon. We
stopped for water at the one farm
In all that mountain. The trough was cracked with drought, the
moss on the boards dead, but an old dog
Rose like a wooden toy at the house-door silently. I said 'There
will be water somewhere about,'
And when I knocked a man showed us a spring of water. Though
his hair was nearly white I judged him
Forty years old at most. His eyes and voice were muted. It is
likely he kept his hands hidden,
I failed to see them until we had dipped the spring. He stood then
on the lip of the great slope
And looked westward over an incredible country to the far hills
that dammed the sea-fog: it billowed
Above them, cascaded over them, it never crossed them, gray
standing flood. He stood gazing, his hands
Were clasped behind him; I caught a glimpse of serous red under
the fingers, and looking sharply
When they drew apart saw that both hands were wounded. I said
'Your hands are hurt.' He twitched them from sight,
But after a moment having earnestly eyed me displayed them.
The wounds were in the hearts of the palms,
Pierced to the backs like stigmata of crucifixion. The horrible
raw flesh protruded, glistening
And granular, not scabbed, nor a sign of infection. 'These are
old wounds.' He answered, 'Yes. They don't heal.' He stood
Moving his lips in silence, his back against that fabulous basin
of mountains, fold beyond fold,
Patches of forest and scarps of rock, high domes of dead gray
pasture and gray beds of dry rivers,
dear and particular in die burning air, too bright to appear real,
to the last range
The fog from the ocean like a stretched compacted thunderstorm
overhung; and he said gravely:
'I pick them open. I made them long ago with a clean steel. It
is only a litde to pay'
He stretched and flexed the fingers, I saw his sunburnt lips whiten
in a line, compressed together,
'If only it proves enough for a time to save so many.' I
searched his face for madness but that
Is often invisible, a subtle spirit. 'There never,' he said, 'was
any people earned so much ruin.
I love them, I am trying to suffer for them. It would be bad if
I should die, I am careful
Against excess.' 'You think of the wounds,' I said, 'of Jesus?'
He laughed angrily and frowned, stroking
The fingers of one hand with the other. 'Religion is the people's
opium. Your little Jew-God?
My pain,' he said with pride, 'is voluntary.
They have done what never was done before. Not as a people
takes a land to love it and be fed,
A little, according to need and love, and again a little; sparing
the country tribes, mixing
Their blood with theirs, their minds with all the rocks and rivers,
their flesh with the soil: no, without hunger
Wasting the world and your own labor, without love possessing,
not even your hands to the dirt but plows
Like blades of knives; heartless machines; houses of steel: using
and despising the patient earth . . .
Oh, as a rich man eats a forest for profit and a field for vanity,
so you came west and raped
The continent and brushed its people to death. Without need,
the weak skirmishing hunters, and without mercy.
Well, God's a scarecrow; no vengeance out of old rags. But
there are acts breeding their own reversals
In their own bellies from the first day. I am here' he saidand
broke off suddenly and said 'They take horses
And give them sicknesses through hollow needles, their blood
saves babies: I am here on the mountain making
Antitoxin for all the happy towns and farms, the lovely blameless
children, the terrible
Arrogant cities. I used to think them terrible: their gray prosperity,
'their pride: from up here
Specks of mildew.

But when I am dead and all you with whole
hands think of nothing but happiness,
Will you go mad and kill each other? Or horror come over
the ocean on wings and cover your sun?
I wish,' he said trembling, 'I had never been born.'

His wife came from the door while he was talking. Mine asked
her quietly, 'Do you live all alone here,
Are you not afraid?' 'Certainly not,' she answered, 'he is
always gentle and loving. I have no complaint
Except his groans in the night keep me awake often. But when
I think of other women's
Troubles: my own daughter's: I'm older than my husband, I
have been married before: deep is my peace.'

 

All The Little Hoofprints

Farther up the gorge the sea's voice fainted and ceased.
We heard a new noise far away ahead of us, vague and metallic,
it might have been some unpleasant bird's voice
Bedded in a matrix of long silences. At length we came to a little
cabin lost in the redwoods,
An old man sat on a bench before the doorway filing a cross-cut
saw; sometimes he slept,
Sometimes he filed. Two or three horses in the corral by the
streamside lifted their heads
To watch us pass, but the old man did not.

In the afternoon we
returned the same way,
And had the picture in our minds of magnificent regions of space
and mountain not seen before. (This was
The first time that we visited Pigeon Gap, whence you look
down behind the great shouldering pyramid-
Edges of Pico Blanco through eagle-gulfs of air to a forest basin
Where two-hundred-foot redwoods look like the pile on a Turkish
carpet.) With such extensions of the idol-
Worshipping mind we came down the streamside. The old man
was still at his post by the cabin doorway, but now
Stood up and stared, said angrily 'Where are you camping?'
I said 'We're not camping, we're going home.' He said
From his flushed heavy face, 'That's the way fires get started.
Did you come at night?' 'We passed you this morning.
You were half asleep, filing a saw.' 'I'll kill anybody that starts
a fire here . . .' his voice quavered
Into bewilderment ... 'I didn't see you. Kind of feeble I guess.
My temperature's a hundred and two every afternoon.' 'Why,
what's the matter?' He removed his hat
And rather proudly showed us a deep healed trench in the bald
skull. 'My horse fell at the ford,
I must a cracked my head on a rock. Well, sir, I can't remember
anything till next morning.
I woke in bed the pillow was soaked with blood, the horse was
in the corral and had had his hay,'
Singing the words as if he had told the story a hundred times.
To whom? To himself, probably,
'The saddle was on the rack and the bridle on the right nail.
What do you think of that now?' He passed
His hand on his bewildered forehead and said, 'Unless an angel
or something came down and did it.
A basin of blood and water by the crick, I must 'a' washed myself.'
My wife said sharply, 'Have you been to a doctor?'
'Oh yes,' he said, 'my boy happened down.' She said 'You
oughtn't to be alone here: are you all alone here?'
'No,' he answered, 'horses. I've been all over the world: right
here is the most beautiful place in the world.
I played the piccolo in ships' orchestras.' We looked at the immense
redwoods and dark Fern-taken slip of land by the creek, where the horses were,
and the yuccaed hillsides high in the sun
Flaring like torches; I said 'Darkness comes early here.' He answered
with pride and joy, 'Two hundred and eighty-
Five days in the year the sun never gets in here.
Like living under the sea, green all summer, beautiful.' My wife
said, 'How do you know your temperature's
A hundred and two?' 'Eh? The doctor. He said the bone
Presses my brain, he's got to cut out a piece. I said 'All right,
you've got to wait till it rains,
I've got to guard my place through the fire-season.' By God,'
he said joyously,
'The quail on my roof wake me up every morning, then I look
out the window and a dozen deer
Drift up the canyon with the mist on their shoulders. Look in
the dust at your feet, all the little hoofprints,'

 

An Artist

That sculptor we knew, the passionate-eyed son of a quarryman,
Who astonished Rome and Paris in his meteor youth, and then
was gone, at his high tide of triumphs,
Without reason or good-bye; I have seen him again lately, after
twenty years, but not in Europe.

In desert hills I rode a horse slack-kneed with thirst. Down a
steep slope a dancing swarm
Of yellow butterflies over a shining rock made me hope water.
We slid down to the place,
The spring was bitter but the horse drank. I imagined wearings
of an old path from that wet rock
Ran down the canyon; I followed, soon they were lost, I came
to a stone valley in which it seemed
No man nor his mount had ever ventured, you wondered
whether even a vulture'd ever spread sail there.
There were stones of strange form under a cleft in the far hill;
I tethered the horse to a rock
And scrambled over. A heap like a stone torrent, a moraine,
But monstrously formed limbs of broken carving appeared in
the rock-fall, enormous breasts, defaced heads
Of giants, the eyes calm through the brute veils of fracture. It
was natural then to climb higher and go in
Up the cleft gate. The canyon was a sheer-walled crack winding
at the entrance, but around its bend
The walls grew dreadful with stone giants, presences growing
out of the rigid precipice, that strove
In dream between stone and life, intense to cast their chaos . . .
or to enter and return . . . stone-fleshed, nerve-stretched
Great bodies ever more beautiful and more heavy with pain,
they seemed leading to some unbearable
Consummation of the ecstasy . . . but there, troll among
Titans, the bearded master of the place accosted me
In a cold anger, a mallet in his hand, filthy and ragged. There
was no kindness in that man's mind,
But after he had driven me down to the entrance he spoke a
little.

The merciless sun had found the slot now
To hide in, and lit for the wick of that stone lamp-bowl a sky
almost, I thought, abominably beautiful;
While our lost artist we used to admire: for now I knew him:
spoke of his passion.

He said, 'Marble?
White marble is fit to model a snow-mountain: let man be
modest. Nor bronze: I am bound to have my tool
In my material, no irrelevances. I found this pit of dark-gray
freestone, fine-grained, and tough enough
To make sketches that under any weathering will last my lifetime

The town is eight miles off, I can fetch food and no one follows
me home. I have water and a cave
Here; and no possible lack of material. I need, therefore, nothing.
As to companions, I make them.
And models? They are seldom wanted; I know a Basque shepherd
I sometimes use; and a woman of the town.
What more? Sympathy? Praise? I have never desired them and
also I have never deserved them. I will not show you
More than the spalls you saw by accident.

What I see is the enormous
beauty of things, but what I attempt
Is nothing to that. I am helpless toward that.
It is only to form in stone the mould of some ideal humanity
that might be worthy to be
Under that lightning. Animalcules that God (if he were given
to laughter) might omit to laugh at.
Those children of my hands are tortured, because they feel,'
he said, 'the storm of the outer magnificence.
They are giants in agony. They have seen from my eyes
The man-destroying beauty of the dawns over their notch
yonder, and all the obliterating stars.
But in their eyes they have peace. I have lived a little and I
think
Peace marrying pain alone can breed that excellence in the
luckless race, might make it decent
To exist at all on the star-lit stone breast.

I hope,' he said, 'that
when I grow old and the chisel drops,
I may crawl out on a ledge of the rock and die like a wolf.'

These
fragments are all I can remember,
These in the flare of the desert evening. Having been driven
so brutally forth I never returned;
Yet I respect him enough to keep his name and the place secret.
I hope that some other traveller
May stumble on that ravine of Titans after their maker has
died. While he lives, let him alone.

 

Ante Mortem

It is likely enough that lions and scorpions
Guard the end; life never was bonded to be endurable nor the
act of dying
Unpainful; the brain burning too often
Earns, though it held itself detached from the object, often a
burnt age.
No matter, I shall not shorten it by hand.
Incapable of body or unmoved of brain is no evil, one always
went envying
The quietness of stones. But if the striped blossom
Insanity spread lewd splendors and lightning terrors at the end
of the forest;
Or intolerable pain work its known miracle,
Exile the monarch soul, set a sick monkey in the office . . .
remember me
Entire and balanced when I was younger,
And could lift stones, and comprehend in the praises the cruelties
of life.

 

Antrim

No spot of earth where men have so fiercely for ages of time
Fought and survived and cancelled each other,
Pict and Gael and Dane, McQuillan, Clandonnel, O'Neill,
Savages, the Scot, the Norman, the English,
Here in the narrow passage and the pitiless north, perpetual
Betrayals, relentless resultless fighting.
A random fury of dirks in the dark: a struggle for survival
Of hungry blind cells of life in the womb.
But now the womb has grown old, her strength has gone forth;
a few red carts in a fog creak flax to the dubs,
And sheep in the high heather cry hungrily that life is hard; a
plaintive peace; shepherds and peasants.

We have felt the blades meet in the flesh in a hundred ambushes
And the groaning blood bubble in the throat;
In a hundred battles the heavy axes bite the deep bone,
The mountain suddenly stagger and be darkened.
Generation on generation we have seen the blood of boys
And heard the moaning of women massacred,
The passionate flesh and nerves have flamed like pitch-pine and
fallen
And lain in the earth softly dissolving.
I have lain and been humbled in all these graves, and mixed new
flesh with the old and filled the hollow of my mouth
With maggots and rotten dust and ages of repose. I lie here and
plot the agony of resurrection.

 

Apology For Bad Dreams

I
In the purple light, heavy with redwood, the slopes drop seaward,
Headlong convexities of forest, drawn in together to the steep
ravine. Below, on the sea-cliff,
A lonely clearing; a little field of corn by the streamside; a roof
under spared trees. Then the ocean
Like a great stone someone has cut to a sharp edge and polished
to shining. Beyond it, the fountain
And furnace of incredible light flowing up from the sunk sun.
In the little clearing a woman
Is punishing a horse; she had tied the halter to a sapling at the
edge of the wood, but when the great whip
Clung to the flanks the creature kicked so hard she feared he
would snap the halter; she called from the house
The young man her son; who fetched a chain tie-rope, they
working together
Noosed the small rusty links round the horse's tongue
And tied him by the swollen tongue to the tree.
Seen from this height they are shrunk to insect size.
Out of all human relation. You cannot distinguish
The blood dripping from where the chain is fastened,
The beast shuddering; but the thrust neck and the legs
Far apart. You can see the whip fall on the flanks . . .
The gesture of the arm. You cannot see the face of the woman.
The enormous light beats up out of the west across the cloud-bars
of the trade-wind. The ocean
Darkens, the high clouds brighten, the hills darken together.
Unbridled and unbelievable beauty
Covers the evening world . . . not covers, grows apparent out
of it, as Venus down there grows out
From the lit sky. What said the prophet? 'I create good: and
I create evil: I am the Lord.'

II
This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places,
(The quiet ones ask for quieter suffering: but here the granite cliff
the gaunt cypresses crown
Demands what victim? The dykes of red lava and black what
Titan? The hills like pointed flames
Beyond Soberanes, the terrible peaks of the bare hills under the
sun, what immolation? )
This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places: and
like the passionate spirit of humanity
Pain for its bread: God's, many victims', the painful deaths, the
horrible transfigurements: I said in my heart,
'Better invent than suffer: imagine victims
Lest your own flesh be chosen the agonist, or you
Martyr some creature to the beauty of the place.' And I said,
'Burn sacrifices once a year to magic
Horror away from the house, this little house here
You have built over the ocean with your own hands
Beside the standing boulders: for what are we,
The beast that walks upright, with speaking lips
And little hair, to think we should always be fed,
Sheltered, intact, and self-controlled? We sooner more liable
Than the other animals. Pain and terror, the insanities of desire;
not accidents but essential,
And crowd up from the core:' I imagined victims for those
wolves, I made them phantoms to follow,
They have hunted the phantoms and missed the house. It is not
good to forget over what gulfs the spirit
Of the beauty of humanity, the petal of a lost flower blown
seaward by the night-wind, floats to its quietness.

III
Boulders blunted like an old bear's teeth break up from the
headland; below them
All the soil is thick with shells, the tide-rock feasts of a dead
people.
Here the granite flanks are scarred with ancient fire, the ghosts
of the tribe
Crouch in the nights beside the ghost of a fire, they try to remember
the sunlight,
Light has died out of their skies. These have paid something for
the future
Luck of the country, while we living keep old griefs in memory:
though God's
Envy is not a likely fountain of ruin, to forget evils calls down
Sudden reminders from the cloud: remembered deaths be our
redeemers;
Imagined victims our salvation: white as the half moon at midnight
Someone flamelike passed me, saying, 'I am Tamar Cauldwell,
I have my desire,'
Then the voice of the sea returned, when she had gone by, the
stars to their towers.
. . . Beautiful country burn again, Point Pinos down to the
Sur Rivers
Burn as before with bitter wonders, land and ocean and the
Carmel water.

IV
He brays humanity in a mortar to bring the savor
From the bruised root: a man having bad dreams, who invents
victims, is only the ape of that God.
He washes it out with tears and many waters, calcines it with
fire in the red crucible,
Deforms it, makes it horrible to itself: the spirit flies out and
stands naked, he sees the spirit,
He takes it in the naked ecstasy; it breaks in his hand, the atom
is broken, the power that massed it
Cries to the power that moves the stars, 'I have come home to
myself, behold me.
I bruised myself in the flint mortar and burnt me
In the red shell, I tortured myself, I flew forth,
Stood naked of myself and broke me in fragments,
And here am I moving the stars that are me.'
I have seen these ways of God: I know of no reason
For fire and change and torture and the old returnings.
He being sufficient might be still. I think they admit no reason;
they are the ways of my love.
Unmeasured power, incredible passion, enormous craft: no
thought apparent but burns darkly
Smothered with its own smoke in the human brain-vault: no
thought outside: a certain measure in phenomena:
The fountains of the boiling stars, the flowers on the foreland,
the ever-returning roses of dawn.

 

Ascent To The Sierras

Beyond the great valley an odd instinctive rising
Begins to possess the ground, the flatness gathers
to little humps and
barrows, low aimless ridges,
A sudden violence of rock crowns them. The crowded
orchards end, they
have come to a stone knife;
The farms are finished; the sudden foot of the
slerra. Hill over hill,
snow-ridge beyond mountain gather
The blue air of their height about them.

Here at the foot of the pass
The fierce clans of the mountain you'd think for
thousands of years,
Men with harsh mouths and eyes like the eagles' hunger,
Have gathered among these rocks at the dead hour
Of the morning star and the stars waning
To raid the plain and at moonrise returning driven
Their scared booty to the highlands, the tossing horns
And glazed eyes in the light of torches. The men have
looked back
Standing above these rock-heads to bark laughter
At the burning granaries and the farms and the town
That sow the dark flat land with terrible rubies...
lighting the dead...
It is not true: from this land
The curse was lifted; the highlands have kept peace
with the valleys; no
blood in the sod; there is no old sword
Keeping grim rust, no primal sorrow. The people are
all one people, their
homes never knew harrying;
The tribes before them were acorn-eaters, harmless
as deer. Oh, fortunate
earth; you must find someone
To make you bitter music; how else will you take bonds
of the future,
against the wolf in men's hearts?

 

Ave Caesar

No bitterness: our ancestors did it.
They were only ignorant and hopeful, they wanted freedom but wealth too.
Their children will learn to hope for a Caesar.
Or rather--for we are not aquiline Romans but soft mixed colonists--
Some kindly Sicilian tyrant who'll keep
Poverty and Carthage off until the Romans arrive,
We are easy to manage, a gregarious people,
Full of sentiment, clever at mechanics, and we love our luxuries.

 

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.

Anonymous submission.

 

Birds

The fierce musical cries of a couple of sparrowhawks hunting
on the headland,
Hovering and darting, their heads northwestward,
Prick like silver arrows shot through a curtain the noise of the
ocean
Trampling its granite; their red backs gleam
Under my window around the stone corners; nothing gracefuller,
nothing
Nimbler in the wind. Westward the wave-gleaners,
The old gray sea-going gulls are gathered together, the northwest
wind wakening
Their wings to the wild spirals of the wind-dance.
Fresh as the air, salt as the foam, play birds in the bright wind,
fly falcons
Forgetting the oak and the pinewood, come gulls
From the Carmel sands and the sands at the river-mouth, from
Lobos and out of the limitless
Power of the mass of the sea, for a poem
Needs multitude, multitudes of thoughts, all fierce, all flesh-eaters,
musically clamorous
Bright hawks that hover and dart headlong, and ungainly
Gray hungers fledged with desire of transgression, salt slimed
beaks, from the sharp
Rock-shores of the world and the secret waters.

 

Birth-Dues

Joy is a trick in the air; pleasure is merely
contemptible, the dangled
Carrot the ass follows to market or precipice;
But limitary pain -- the rock under the tower
and the hewn coping
That takes thunder at the head of the turret-
Terrible and real. Therefore a mindless dervish
carving himself
With knives will seem to have conquered the world.

The world's God is treacherous and full of
unreason; a torturer, but also
The only foundation and the only fountain.
Who fights him eats his own flesh and perishes
of hunger; who hides in the grave
To escape him is dead; who enters the Indian
Recession to escape him is dead; who falls in
love with the God is washed clean
Of death desired and of death dreaded.

He has joy, but Joy is a trick in the air; and
pleasure, but pleasure is contemptible;
And peace; and is based on solider than pain.
He has broken boundaries a little and that will
estrange him; he is monstrous, but not
To the measure of the God.... But I having told
you--
However I suppose that few in the world have
energy to hear effectively-
Have paid my birth-dues; am quits with the
people.

Submitted by Holt

 

Bixby's Landing

They burned lime on the hill and dropped it down
here in an iron car
On a long cable; here the ships warped in
And took their loads from the engine, the water
is deep to the cliff. The car
Hangs half way over in the gape of the gorge,
Stationed like a north star above the peaks of
the redwoods, iron perch
For the little red hawks when they cease from
hovering
When they've struck prey; the spider's fling of a
cable rust-glued to the pulleys.
The laborers are gone, but what a good multitude
Is here in return: the rich-lichened rock, the
rose-tipped stone-crop, the constant
Ocean's voices, the cloud-lighted space.
The kilns are cold on the hill but here in the
rust of the broken boiler
Quick lizards lighten, and a rattle-snake flows
Down the cracked masonry, over the crumbled
fire-brick. In the rotting timbers
And roofless platforms all the free companies
Of windy grasses have root and make seed; wild
buckwheat blooms in the fat
Weather-slacked lime from the bursted barrels.
Two duckhawks darting in the sky of their cliff-hung
nest are the voice of the headland.
Wine-hearted solitude, our mother the wilderness,
Men's failures are often as beautiful as men's
triumphs, but your returnings
Are even more precious than your first presence.

 

Boats In A Fog

Sports and gallantries, the stage, the arts, the antics of dancers,
The exuberant voices of music,
Have charm for children but lack nobility; it is bitter earnestness
That makes beauty; the mind
Knows, grown adult.
A sudden fog-drift muffled the ocean,
A throbbing of engines moved in it,
At length, a stone's throw out, between the rocks and the vapor,
One by one moved shadows
Out of the mystery, shadows, fishing-boats, trailing each other
Following the cliff for guidance,
Holding a difficult path between the peril of the sea-fog
And the foam on the shore granite.
One by one, trailing their leader, six crept by me,
Out of the vapor and into it,
The throb of their engines subdued by the fog, patient and
cautious,
Coasting all round the peninsula
Back to the buoys in Monterey harbor. A flight of pelicans
Is nothing lovelier to look at;
The flight of the planets is nothing nobler; all the arts lose virtue
Against the essential reality
Of creatures going about their business among the equally
Earnest elements of nature.

 

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.-As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

 

Cassandra

The mad girl with the staring eyes and long white fingers
Hooked in the stones of the wall,
The storm-wrack hair and screeching mouth: does it matter, Cassandra,
Whether the people believe
Your bitter fountain? Truly men hate the truth, they'd liefer
Meet a tiger on the road.
Therefore the poets honey their truth with lying; but religion
Vendors and political men
Pour from the barrel, new lies on the old, and are praised for kind
Wisdom. Poor bitch be wise.
No: you'll still mumble in a corner a crust of truth, to men
And gods disgustingyou and I, Cassandra.

 

Contemplation Of The Sword

Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide.
The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel,
formerly used to kill men, but here
In the sense of a symbol. The sword: that is: the storms
and counter-storms of general destruction; killing
of men,
Destruction of all goods and materials; massacre, more or
less intentional, of children and women;
Destruction poured down from wings, the air made accomplice,
the innocent air
Perverted into assasin and poisoner.

The sword: that is: treachery and cowardice, incredible
baseness, incredible courage, loyalties, insanities.
The sword: weeping and despair, mass-enslavement,
mass-tourture, frustration of all hopes
That starred man's forhead. Tyranny for freedom, horror for
happiness, famine for bread, carrion for children.
Reason will not decide at last, the sword will decide.

Dear God, who are the whole splendor of things and the sacred
stars, but also the cruelty and greed, the treacheries
And vileness, insanities and filth and anguish: now that this
thing comes near us again I am finding it hard
To praise you with a whole heart.
I know what pain is, but pain can shine. I know what death is,
I have sometimes
Longed for it. But cruelty and slavery and degredation,
pestilence, filth, the pitifulness
Of men like hurt little birds and animals . . . if you were
only
Waves beating rock, the wind and the iron-cored earth,
With what a heart I could praise your beauty.
You will not repent, nor cancel life, nor free man from anguish
For many ages to come. You are the one that tortures himself to
discover himself: I am
One that watches you and discovers you, and praises you in little
parables, idyl or tragedy, beautiful
Intolerable God.
The sword: that is:
I have two sons whom I love. They are twins, they were born
in nineteen sixteen, which seemed to us a dark year
Of a great war, and they are now of the age
That war prefers. The first-born is like his mother, he is so
beautiful
That persons I hardly know have stopped me on the street to
speak of the grave beauty of the boy's face.
The second-born has strength for his beauty; when he strips
for swimming the hero shoulders and wrestler loins
Make him seem clothed. The sword: that is: loathsome disfigurements,
blindness, mutilation, locked lips of boys
Too proud to scream.
Reason will not decide at last: the sword will decide.

 

Contrast

The world has many seas, Mediterranean, Atlantic, but
here is the shore of the one ocean.
And here the heavy future hangs like a cloud; the
enormous scene; the enormous games preparing
Weigh on the water and strain the rock; the stage is
here, the play is conceived; the players are
not found.

I saw on the Sierras, up the Kaweah valley above the
Moro rock, the mountain redwoods
Like red towers on the slopes of snow; about their
bases grew a bushery of Christmas green,
Firs and pines to be monuments for pilgrimage
In Europe; I remembered the Swiss forests, the dark
robes of Pilatus, no trunk like these there;
But these are underwood; they are only a shrubbery
about the boles of the trees.

Our people are clever and masterful;
They have powers in the mass, they accomplish marvels.
It is possible Time will make them before it
annuls them, but at present
There is not one memorable person, there is not one
mind to stand with the trees, one life with
the mountains.

 

De Rerum Virtute

I.

Here is the skull of a man: a mans thoughts and emotions
Have moved under the thin bone vault like clouds
Under the blue one: love and desire and pain,
Thunderclouds of wrath and white gales of fear
Have hung inside here: and sometimes the curious desire of knowing
Values and purpose and the causes of things
Has coasted like a little observer air-plane over the images
That filled this mind: it never discovered much,
And now alls empty, a bone bubble, a blown-out eggshell.

II.

Thats what its like: for the egg too has a mind,
Doing what our able chemists will never do,
Building the body of a hatchling, choosing among the proteins:
These for the young wing-muscles, these for the great
Crystalline eyes, these for the flighty nerves and brain:
Choosing and forming: a limited but superhuman intelligence,
Prophetic of the future and aware of the past:
The hawks egg will make a hawk, and the serpents
A gliding serpent: but each with a little difference
From its ancestorsand slowly, if it works, the race
Forms a new race: that also is a part of the plan
Within the egg. I believe the first living cell
Had echoes of the future in it, and felt
Direction and the great animals, the deep green forest
And whales-track sea; I believe this globed earth
Not all by chance and fortune brings forth her broods,
But feels and chooses. And the Galaxy, the firewheel
On which we are pinned, the whirlwind of stars in which our sun is one dust-grain, one electron, this giant atom of the universe
Is not blind force, but fulfils its life and intends its courses. All things are full of God.
Winter and summer, day and night, war and peace are God.

III.

Thus the thing stands; the labor and the games go on
What for? What for? Am I a God that I should know?
Men live in peace and happiness; men live in horror
And die howling. Do you think the blithe sun
Is ignorant that black waste and beggarly blindness trail him like hounds,
And will have him at last? He will be strangled
Among his dead satellites, remembering magnificence.

IV.

I stand on the cliff at Sovranes creek-mouth.
Westward beyond the raging water and the bent shoulder of the world
The bitter futile war in Korea proceeds, like an idiot
Prophesying. It is too hot in mind
For anyone, except God perhaps, to see beauty in it. Indeed it is hard to see beauty
In any of the acts of man: but that means the acts of a sick microbe
On a satellite of a dust-grain twirled in a whirlwind
In the world of stars ....
Something perhaps may come of him; in any event
He cant last long. Well: I am short of patience
Since my wife died ... and this era of spite and hate-filled half-worlds
Gets to the bone. I believe that man too is beautiful,
But it is hard to see, and wrapped up in falsehoods. Michael Angelo and the Greek sculptors
How they flattered the race! Homer and Shakespeare
How they flattered the race!

V.

One light is left us: the beauty of things, not men;
The immense beauty of the world, not the human world.
Lookand without imagination, desire nor dreamdirectly
At the mountains and sea. Are they not beautiful?
These plunging promontories and flame-shaped peaks
Stopping the sombre stupendous glory, the storm-fed ocean? Look at the Lobos Rocks off the shore,
With foam flying at their flanks, and the long sea-lions
Couching on them. Look at the gulls on the cliff wind,
And the soaring hawk under the cloud-stream
But in the sage-brush desert, all one sun-stricken
Color of dust, or in the reeking tropical rain-forest,
Or in the intolerant north and high thrones of iceis the earth not beautiful?
Nor the great skies over the earth?
The beauty of things means virtue and value in them.
It is in the beholders eye, not the world? Certainly.
It is the human minds translation of the transhuman
Intrinsic glory. It means that the world is sound,
Whatever the sick microbe does. But he too is part of it.

 

Decaying Lambskins

After all, we also stand on a height. Our blood and our culture
have passed the flood-marks of any world
Up to this time. Our engineers have nothing to learn from Rome's,
Egypt's, China's, and could teach them more
Than ever their myth-makers imagined. Our science, however
confused, personal and fabulous, can hardly
Lean low enough, sun-blinded eagle, to laugh at the strange
astronomies of Babylon, or at Lucretius
His childish dreams of origins, or Plato's
Lunatic swan. While as for our means and mastery of warfare, at
sea, on land, in the air ...
So boastful?
Because we are not proud but wearily ashamed of this peak of
time. What is noble in us, to kindle
The imagination of a future age? We shall seem a race of cheap
Fausts, vulgar magicians.
What men have we to show them? but inventions and appliances.
Not men but populations, mass-men; not life
But amusements; not health but medicines. And the odor: what
is that odor? Decaying lambskins: the Christian
Ideals that for protection and warmth our naked ancestors . . .
but naturally, after nineteen centuries . . .

O Mort, vieux capitaine, est-il temps, nous levons Tancre? It is perhaps
Time, almost time, to let our supreme inventions begin to work.
The exact intelligent guns
Can almost wheel themselves into action of their own accord, and
almost calculate their own trajectories.
The clever battleships know their objectives; the huge bombing-planes
and meteor pursuit-planes are all poised for ... what?
Vanity. This also is vanity; horrible too, but a vain dream.
Our civilization, the worst it can do, cannot yet destroy itself;
but only deep-wounded drag on for centuries.

 

Delusion Of Saints

The old pagan burials, uninscribed rock,
Secret-keeping mounds,
Have shed the feeble delusions that built them,
They stand inhumanly
Clean and massive; they have lost their priests.
But the cross-bearing stones
Still foot corruption, and their faces carved
With hopes and terrors
At length too savagely annulled to be left
Even ridiculous.
Long-suffering saints, flamelike aspirers,
You have won your reward:
You sleep now as easily as any dead murderer
Or worn-out lecher.
To have found your faith a liar is no thorn
In the narrow beds,
Nor laughter of unfriends nor rumor of the ruinous
Churches will reach you.
As at Clonmacnoise I saw them all ruined,
And at Cong, at Glendalough,
At Monasterboice; and at Kilrnacduagh
All ruined, all roofless
But the great cyclopean-stoned spire
That leans toward its fall.
A place perfectly abandoned of life,
Except that we heard
One old horse neighing across the stone hedges
In the flooded fields.

 

Distant Rainfall

Like mourning women veiled to the feet
Tall slender rainstorms walk slowly against gray cloud along the
far verge.
The ocean is green where the river empties,
Dull gray between the points of the headlands, purple where
the women walk.
What do they want? Whom are they mourning?
What hero's dust in the urn between the two hands hidden in
the veil?
Titaness after Titaness proudly
Bearing her tender magnificent sorrow at her heart, the lost
battle's beauty.

 

Divinely Superfluous Beauty

The storm-dances of gulls, the barking game of seals,
Over and under the ocean
Divinely superfluous beauty
Rules the games, presides over destinies, makes trees grow
And hills tower, waves fall.
The incredible beauty of joy
Stars with fire the joining of lips, O let our loves too
Be joined, there is not a maiden
Burns and thirsts for love
More than my blood for you, by the shore of seals while the wings
Weave like a web in the air
Divinely superfluous beauty.

 

End Of The World

When I was young in school in Switzerland, about the time of the Boer War,
We used to take it for known that the human race
Would last the earth out, not dying till the planet died. I wrote a schoolboy poem
About the last man walking in stoic dignity along the dead shore
Of the last sea, alone, alone, alone, remembering all
His racial past. But now I don't think so. They'll die faceless in flocks,
And the earth flourish long after mankind is out.

 

Evening Ebb

The ocean has not been so quiet for a long while; five nightherons
Fly shorelong voiceless in the hush of the air
Over the calm of an ebb that almost mirrors their wings.
The sun has gone down, and the water has gone down
From the weed-clad rock, but the distant cloud-wall rises. The
ebb whispers.
Great cloud-shadows float in the opal water.
Through rifts in the screen of the world pale gold gleams, and the
evening
Star suddenly glides like a flying torch.
As if we had not been meant to see her; rehearsing behind
The screen of the world for another audience.

 

Fawn's Foster-Mother

The old woman sits on a bench before the door and quarrels
With her meagre pale demoralized daughter.
Once when I passed I found her alone, laughing in the sun
And saying that when she was first married
She lived in the old farmhouse up Garapatas Canyon.
(It is empty now, the roof has fallen
But the log walls hang on the stone foundation; the redwoods
Have all been cut down, the oaks are standing;
The place is now more solitary than ever before.)
"When I was nursing my second baby
My husband found a day-old fawn hid in a fern-brake
And brought it; I put its mouth to the breast
Rather than let it starve, I had milk enough for three babies.
Hey how it sucked, the little nuzzler,
Digging its little hoofs like quills into my stomach.
I had more joy from that than from the others."
Her face is deformed with age, furrowed like a bad road
With market-wagons, mean cares and decay.
She is thrown up to the surface of things, a cell of dry skin
Soon to be shed from the earth's old eye-brows,
I see that once in her spring she lived in the streaming arteries,
The stir of the world, the music of the mountain.

 

Fire On The Hills

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
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 back 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 men.

 

Flight Of Swans

One who sees giant Orion, the torches of winter midnight,
Enormously walking above the ocean in the west of heaven;
And watches the track of this age of time at its peak of flight
Waver like a spent rocket, wavering toward new discoveries,
Mortal examinations of darkness, soundings of depth;
And watches the long coast mountain vibrate from bronze to green,
Bronze to green, year after year, and all the streams
Dry and flooded, dry and flooded, in the racing seasons;
And knows that exactly this and not another is the world,
The ideal is phantoms for bait, the spirit is a flicker on a grave;
May serve, with a certain detachment, the fugitive human race,
Or his own people, or his own household; but hardly himself;
And will not wind himself into hopes nor sicken with despairs.
He has found the peace and adored the God; he handles in autumn
The germs of far-future spring.
Sad sons of the stormy fall,
No escape, you have to inflict and endure; surely it is time for you
To learn to touch the diamond within to the diamond outside,
Thinning your humanity a little between the invulnerable diamonds,
Knowing that your angry choices and hopes and terrors are in vain,
But life and death not in vain; and the world is like a flight of swans.

 

Fog

Invisible gulls with human voices cry in the sea-cloud
'There is room, wild minds,
Up high in the cloud; the web and the feather remember
Three elements, but here
Is but one, and the webs and the feathers
Subduing but the one
Are the greater, with strength and to spare.' You dream, wild
criers,
The peace that all life
Dreams gluttonously, the infinite self that has eaten
Environment, and lives
Alone, unencroached on, perfectly gorged, one God.
Caesar and Napoleon
Visibly acting their dream of that solitude, Christ and Gautama,
Being God, devouring
The world with atonement for God's sake . . . ah sacred hungers,
The conqueror's, the prophet's,
The lover's, the hunger of the sea-beaks, slaves of the last peace,
Worshippers of oneness.

 

From The Women At Point Sur

XII
Here were new idols again to praise him;
I made them alive; but when they looked up at the face before
they had seen it they were drunken and fell down.
I have seen and not fallen, I am stronger than the idols,
But my tongue is stone how could I speak him? My blood in my
veins is seawater how could it catch fire?
The rock shining dark rays and the rounded
Crystal the ocean his beam of blackness and silence
Edged with azure, bordered with voices;
The moon her brittle tranquillity; the great phantoms, the fountains
of light, the seed of the sky,
Their plaintive splendors whistling to each other:
There is nothing but shines though it shine darkness; nothing but
answers; they are caught in the net of their voices
Though the voices be silence; they are woven in the nerve-warp.
One people, the stars and the people, one structure; the voids
between stars, the voids between atoms, and the vacancy
In the atom in the rings of the spinning demons,
Are full of that weaving; one emptiness, one presence: who had
watched all his splendor
Had known but a little: all his night, but a little.
I made glass puppets to speak of him, they splintered in my hand
and have cut me, they are heavy with my blood.
But the jewel-eyed herons have never beheld him
Nor heard; nor the tall owl with cat's ears, the bittern in the
willows, the squid in the rock in the silence of the ocean,
The vulture that broods in the pitch of the blue
And sees the earth globed, her edges dripping into rainbow twilights:
eyed hungers, blind fragments: I sometime
Shall fashion images great enough to face him
A moment and speak while they die. These here have gone mad:
but stammer the tragedy you crackled vessels.

 

Ghosts In England

At East Lulworth the dead were friendly and pitiful, I saw them
peek from their ancient earthworks on the coast hills
At the camps of the living men in the valley, the army-mechanics'
barracks, the roads where they try the tanks
And the armored cars: 'We also,' they say, 'trembled in our
time. We felt the world change in the rain,
Our people like yours were falling under the wheel. Great
past and declining present are a pitiful burden
For living men; but failure is not the worm that worries
the dead, you will not weep when you come,'
Said the soft mournful shadows on the Dorset shore. And those
on the Rollright ridge by the time-eaten stone-circle
Said nothing and had no wish in the world, having blessedly aged
out of humanity, stared with great eyes
White as the hollowed limestone, not caring but seeing, inhuman
as the wind.

But the other ghosts were not good,
But like a moon of jackals around a sick stag.
At Zennor in the tumbled granite chaos, at Marazion and the
angel's Mount, from the hoar tide-lines:
'Be patient, dead men, the tides of their day have turned,' from
the stone rings of the dead huts on Dartmoor,
The prison town like a stain of dirt on the distant hill: 'We not
the last,' they said, 'shall be hopeless,
We not alone hunger in the rain.' From Avebury in the high
heart of England, in the ancient temple,
When all the cottages darkened themselves to sleep: 'Send it
along the ridge-ways and say it on the hilltops
That the bone is broken and the meat will fall.'

There was also a
ghost of a king, his cheeks hollow as the brows
Of an old horse, was paddling his hands in the reeds of Dozmare
Pool, in the shallow, in the rainy twilight,
Feeling for the hilt of a ruinous and rusted sword. But they said
'Be patient a little, you king of shadows,
But only wait, they will waste like snow.' Then Arthur left
hunting for the lost sword, he grinned and stood up
Gaunt as a wolf; but soon resumed the old labor, shaking the
reeds with his hands.

Northeastward to Wantage
On the chalk downs the Saxon Alfred
Witlessly walks with his hands lamenting. 'Who are the people
and who are the enemy?' He says bewildered,
'Who are the living, who are the dead?' The more ancient dead
Watch him from the wide earthworks on White Horse Hill,
peer from the Ridgeway barrows, goggle from the broken
Mound and the scattered stones in the oval wood above Ashbury.
They whisper and exult.

In the north also
I saw them, from the Picts' houses in the black Caithness heather
to the bleak stones on Culloden Moor,
The rags of lost races and beaten clans, nudging each other, the
blue lips cracking with joy, the fleshless
Anticipatory fingers jabbing at the south. And on the Welsh
borders
Were dead men skipping and fleering behind all the hedges. An
island of ghosts. They seemed merry, and to feel
No pity for the great pillar of empire settling to a fall, the pride
and the power slowly dissolving.

 

Give Your Wish Light

By day and night dream about happy death,
Poor dog give your heart room, drag at the chain,
Breathe deep at dawn, wish it were the last breath,
Imagine the leaden ball planted in the brain,
The seed of that superb flower, dream the brave noose
That loves the neck so dearly it lets the life loose,
Dream the fierce joys of war where men like drunken
Jesuses fling the supreme gift at each other,
'Take blessedness, take it deep in your breast, brother . .
Dream on, dream all these joys, life might look shrunken
In lack of dreams. Give your wish light, give it room.
You know you will never untimely attempt the tomb.
Go in to your bride by daylight before the crowd
As if sweet death were a whore? You are too proud.

 

Going To The Horse Flats

Amazingly active a toothless old man
Hobbled beside me up the canyon, going to Horse Flats, he said,
To see to some hives of bees. It was clear that he lived alone and
craved companionship, yet he talked little
Until we came to a place where the gorge widened, and deer-hunters
had camped on a slip of sand
Beside the stream. They had left the usual rectangle of fired
stones and ashes, also some crumpled
Sheets of a recent newspaper with loud headlines. The old man
rushed at them
And spread them flat, held them his arm's length, squinting
through narrowed eyelids poor trick old eyes learn, to make
Lids act for lens. He read 'Spain Battle. Rebels kill captives. City
bombed Reds kill hostages. Prepare
For war Stalin warns troops.' He trembled and said, 'Please read
me the little printing, I hardly ever
Get to hear news.' He wrung his withered hands while I read;
it was strange in that nearly inhuman wilderness
To see an old hollow-cheeked hermit dancing to the world's
echoes. After I had read he said 'That's enough.
They were proud and oppressed the poor and are punished for
it; but those that punish them are full of envy and hatred
And are punished for it; and again the others; and again the
others. It is so forever, there is no way out.
Only the crimes and cruelties grow worse perhaps.' I said, 'You
are too hopeless. There are ways out.'
He licked his empty gums with his tongue, wiped his mouth and said
'What ways?' I said 'The Christian way: forgiveness, to forgive
your enemies,
Give good for evil.' The old man threw down the paper and
said 'How long ago did Christ live? Ah?
Have the people in Spain never heard about him? Or have the Russians,
Or Germans? Do you think I'm a fool?' 'Well,' I said to try
him, 'there's another way: extermination.
If the winning side will totally destroy its enemies, lives and
thoughts, liquidate them, firing-squads
For the people and fire for the books and records: the feud will then be
Finished forever.' He said justly, 'Yoiire the fool,' picked up
his bundle and hurried through the shadow-dapple
Of noon in the narrow canyon, his ragged coat-tails flapping like
mad over the coonskin patch
In the seat of his trousers. I waited awhile, thinking he wished
to be quit of company.

Sweet was the clear
Chatter of the stream now that our talk was hushed; the flitting
water-ouzel returned to her stone;
A lovely snake, two delicate scarlet lines down the dark back,
swam through the pool. The flood-battered
Trees by the stream are more noble than cathedral-columns.

Why
do we invite the world's rancors and agonies
Into our minds though walking in a wilderness? Why did he
want the news of the world? He could do nothing
To help nor hinder. Nor you nor I can . . . for the world. It
is certain the world cannot be stopped nor saved.
It has changes to accomplish and must creep through agonies
toward new discovery. It must, and it ought: the awful
necessity
Is also the sacrificial duty. Man's world is a tragic music and is not
played for man's happiness,
Its discords are not resolved but by other discords.

But for each man
There is real solution, let him turn from himself and man to love
God. He is out of the trap then. He will remain
Part of the music, but will hear it as the player hears it.
He will be superior to death and fortune, unmoved by success
or failure. Pity can make him weep still,
Or pain convulse him, but not to the center, and he can conquer
them. . . . But how could I impart this knowledge
To that old man?

Or indeed to anyone? I know that all men
instinctively rebel against it. But yet
They will come to it at last.
Then man will have come of age; he will still suffer and still die,
but like a God, not a tortured animal.

 

Granite And Cypress

White-maned, wide-throated, the heavy-shouldered children of
the wind leap at the sea-cliff.
The invisible falcon
Brooded on water and bred them in wide waste places, in a bridechamber
wide to the stars' eyes
In the center of the ocean,
Where no prows pass nor island is lifted ... the sea beyond
Lobos is whitened with the falcon's
Passage, he is here now,
The sky is one cloud, his wing-feathers hiss in the white grass,
my sapling cypresses writhing
In the fury of his passage
Dare not dream of their centuries of future endurance of tempest.
(I have granite and cypress,
Both long-lasting,
Planted in the earth; but the granite sea-boulders are prey to no
hawk's wing, they have taken worse pounding,
Like me they remember
Old wars and are quiet; for we think that the future is one piece
with the past, we wonder why tree-tops
And people are so shaken.)

 

Gray Weather

It is true that, older than man and ages to outlast him, the Pacific surf
Still cheerfully pounds the worn granite drum;
But there's no storm; and the birds are still, no song; no kind of excess;
Nothing that shines, nothing is dark;
There; is neither joy nor grief nor a person, the sun's tooth
sheathed in cloud,
And life has no more desires than a stone.
The stormy conditions of time and change are all abrogated, the essential
Violences of survival, pleasure,
Love, wrath and pain, and the curious desire of knowing, all perfectly
suspended.
In the cloudy light, in the timeless quietness,
One explores deeper than the nerves or heart of nature, the womb or soul,
To the bone, the careless white bone, the excellence.

 

Hands

Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara
The vault of rock is painted with hands,
A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men's palms, no
more,
No other picture. There's no one to say
Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended
Religion or magic, or made their tracings
In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful
Signs-manual are now like a sealed message
Saying: 'Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws.
All hail
You people with the cleverer hands, our supplanters
In the beautiful country; enjoy her a season, her beauty, and
come down
And be supplanted; for you also are human.'

 

Hellenistics

I look at the Greek-derived design that nourished my infancy
this Wedgwood copy of the Portland vase:
Someone had given it to my father my eyes at five years old
used to devour it by the hour.

I look at a Greek coin, four-drachma piece struck by Lysimachus:
young Alexander's head
With the horns of Ammon and brave brow-ridges, the bright
pride and immortal youth and wild sensitiveness.

I think of Achilles, Sappho, the Nike. I think of those mercenaries
who marched in the heart of Asia
And lived to salute the sea: the lean faces like lance-heads, the
grace of panthers. The dull welter of Asia.

I am past childhood, I look at this ocean and the fishing birds, the
streaming skerries, the shining water,
The foam-heads, the exultant dawn-light going west, the pelicans,
their huge wings half folded, plunging like stones.

Whatever it is catches my heart in its hands, whatever it is makes
me shudder with love
And painful joy and the tears prickle ... the Greeks were not
its inventors. The Greeks were not the inventors

Of shining clarity and jewel-sharp form and the beauty of God.
He was free with men before the Greeks came:
He is here naked on the shining water. Every eye that has a
man's nerves behind it has known him.

II
I think of the dull welter of Asia. I think of squalid savages along
the Congo: the natural
Condition of man, that makes one say of all beasts 'They are
not contemptible. Man is contemptible.' I see

The squalor of our own frost-bitten forefathers. I will praise the
Greeks for having pared down the shame of three vices
Natural to man and no other animal, cruelty and filth and superstition,
grained in man's making.

III
The age darkens, Europe mixes her cups of death, all the little
Caesars fidget on their thrones,
The old wound opens its clotted mouth to ask for new wounds.
Men will fight through; men have tough hearts.

Men will fight through to the autumn flowering and ordered
prosperity. They will lift their heads in the great cities
Of the empire and say: 'Freedom? Freedom was a fire. We are
well quit of freedom, we have found prosperity.'

They will say, 'Where now are the evil prophets?' Thus for a
time in the age's afterglow, the sterile time;
But the wounds drain, and freedom has died, slowly the machines
break down, slowly the wilderness returns.

IV
Oh distant future children going down to the foot of the mountain,
the new barbarism, the night of time,
Mourn your own dead if you remember them, but not for civilization,
not for our scuttled futilities.

You are saved from being little entrails feeding large brains, you
are saved from being little empty bundles of enjoyment,
You are not to be fractional supported people but complete men;
you will guard your own heads, you will have proud eyes.

You will stand among the spears when you meet; life will be
lovely and terrible again, great and in earnest;
You will know hardship, hunger and violence: these are not the
evils: what power can save you from the real evils

Of barbarism? What poet will be born to tell you to hate cruelty
and filth? What prophet will warn you
When the witch-doctors begin dancing, or if any man says 'I
am a priest,' to kill them with spears?

 

Hooded Night

At night, toward dawn, all the lights of the shore have died,
And the wind moves. Moves in the dark
The sleeping power of the ocean, no more beastlike than manlike,
Not to be compared; itself and itself.
Its breath blown shoreward huddles the world with a fog; no stars
Dance in heaven; no ship's light glances.
I see the heavy granite bodies of the rocks of the headland,
That were ancient here before Egypt had pyramids,
Bulk on the gray of the sky, and beyond them the jets of young trees
I planted the year of the Versailles peace.
But here is the final unridiculous peace. Before the first man
Here were the stones, the ocean, the cypresses,
And the pallid region in the stone-rough dome of fog where the moon
Falls on the west. Here is reality.
The other is a spectral episode: after the inquisitive animal's
Amusements are quiet: the dark glory.

 

Hope Is Not For The Wise

Hope is not for the wise, fear is for fools;
Change and the world, we think, are racing to a fall,
Open-eyed and helpless, in every newscast that is the news:
The time's events would seem mere chaos but all
Drift the one deadly direction. But this is only
The August thunder of the age, not the November.
Wise men hope nothing, the wise are naturally lonely
And think November as good as April, the wise remember
That Caesar and even final Augustulus had heirs,
And men lived on; rich unplanned life on earth
After the foreign wars and the civil wars, the border wars
And the barbarians: music and religion, honor and mirth
Renewed life's lost enchantments. But if life even
Had perished utterly, Oh perfect loveliness of earth and heaven.

 

Hurt Hawks

I

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.

II

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

 

Inscription For A Gravestone

I am not dead, I have only become inhuman:
That is to say,
Undressed myself of laughable prides and infirmities,
But not as a man
Undresses to creep into bed, but like an athlete
Stripping for the race.
The delicate ravel of nerves that made me a measurer
Of certain fictions
Called good and evil; that made me contract with pain
And expand with pleasure;
Fussily adjusted like a little electroscope:
That's gone, it is true;
(I never miss it; if the universe does,
How easily replaced!)
But all the rest is heightened, widened, set free.
I admired the beauty
While I was human, now I am part of the beauty.
I wander in the air,
Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean;
Touch you and Asia
At the same moment; have a hand in the sunrises
And the glow of this grass.
I left the light precipitate of ashes to earth
For a love-token.

 

Intellectuals

Is it so hard for men to stand by themselves,
They must hang on Marx or Christ, or mere Progress?
Clearly it is hard. But these ought to be leaders . . .
Sheep leading sheep, 'The fold, the fold.
Night comes, and the wolves of doubt.' Clearly it is hard.

Yourself, if you had not encountered and loved
Our unkindly all but inhuman God,
Who is very beautiful and too secure to want worshippers,
And includes indeed the sheep with the wolves,
You too might have been looking about for a church.

He includes the flaming stars and pitiable flesh,
And what we call things and what we call nothing.
He is very beautiful. But when these lonely have travelled
Through long thoughts to redeeming despair,
They are tired and cover their eyes; they flock into fold.

 

Iona: The Graves Of The Kings

I wish not to lie here.
There's hardly a plot of earth not blessed for burial, but here
One might dream badly.

In beautiful seas a beautiful
And sainted island, but the dark earth so shallow on the rock
Gorged with bad meat.

Kings buried in the lee of the saint,
Kings of fierce Norway, blood-boltered Scotland, bitterly dreaming
Treacherous Ireland.

Imagine what delusions of grandeur,
What suspicion-agonized eyes, what jellies of arrogance and terror
This earth has absorbed.

 

Joy

Though joy is better than sorrow joy is not great;
Peace is great, strength is great.
Not for joy the stars burn, not for joy the vulture
Spreads her gray sails on the air
Over the mountain; not for joy the worn mountain
Stands, while years like water
Trench his long sides. 'I am neither mountain nor bird
Nor star; and I seek joy.'
The weakness of your breed: yet at length quietness
Will cover those wistful eyes.

 

July Fourth By The Ocean

The continent's a tamed ox, with all its mountains,
Powerful and servile; here is for plowland, here is
for park and playground, this helpless
Cataract for power; it lies behind us at heel
All docile between this ocean and the other. If
flood troubles the lowlands, or earthquake
Cracks walls, it is only a slave's blunder or the
natural
Shudder of a new made slave. Therefore we happy
masters about the solstice
Light bonfires on the shore and celebrate our power.
The bay's necklaced with fire, the bombs make crystal
fountains in the air, the rockets
Shower swan's-neck over the night water.... I
imagined
The stars drew apart a little as if from troublesome
children, coldly compassionate;
But the ocean neither seemed astonished nor in awe:
If this had been the little sea that Xerxes whipped,
how it would have feared us.

 

Let Them Alone

If God has been good enough to give you a poet
Then listen to him. But for God's sake let him alone until he is dead;
no prizes, no ceremony,
They kill the man. A poet is one who listens
To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up
around him, and if he is tough enough,
He can shake off his enemies, but not his friends.
That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have
killed Keats; that is what makes
Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.

 

Life From The Lifeless

Spirits and illusions have died,
The naked mind lives
In the beauty of inanimate things.

Flowers wither, grass fades, trees wilt,
The forest is burnt;
The rock is not burnt.

The deer starve, the winter birds
Die on their twigs and lie
In the blue dawns in the snow.

Men suffer want and become
Curiously ignoble; as prosperity
Made them curiously vile.

But look how noble the world is,
The lonely-flowing waters, the secret-
Keeping stones, the flowing sky.

 

Love The Wild Swan

I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting
Hash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings."
--This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.

 

Margrave

On the small marble-paved platform
On the turret on the head of the tower,
Watching the night deepen.
I feel the rock-edge of the continent
Reel eastward with me below the broad stars.
I lean on the broad worn stones of the parapet top
And the stones and my hands that touch them reel eastward.
The inland mountains go down and new lights
Glow over the sinking east rim of the earth.
The dark ocean comes up,
And reddens the western stars with its fog-breath
And hides them with its mounded darkness.

The earth was the world and man was its measure, but our minds
have looked
Through the little mock-dome of heaven the telescope-slotted
observatory eyeball, there space and multitude came in
And the earth is a particle of dust by a sand-grain sun, lost in a
nameless cove of the shores of a continent.
Galaxy on galaxy, innumerable swirls of innumerable stars, endured
as it were forever and humanity
Came into being, its two or three million years are a moment, in
a moment it will certainly cease out from being
And galaxy on galaxy endure after that as it were forever . . .
But man is conscious,
He brings the world to focus in a feeling brain,
In a net of nerves catches the splendor of things,
Breaks the somnambulism of nature . . . His distinction perhaps,
Hardly his advantage. To slaver for contemptible pleasures
And scream with pain, are hardly an advantage.
Consciousness? The learned astronomer
Analyzing the light of most remote star-swirls
Has found them-or a trick of distance deludes his prism-
All at incredible speeds fleeing outward from ours.
I thought, no doubt they are fleeing the contagion
Of consciousness that infects this corner of space.

For often I have heard the hard rocks I handled
Groan, because lichen and time and water dissolve them,
And they have to travel down the strange falling scale
Of soil and plants and the flesh of beasts to become
The bodies of men; they murmur at their fate
In the hollows of windless nights, they'd rather be anything
Than human flesh played on by pain and joy,
They pray for annihilation sooner, but annihilation's
Not in the book yet.

So, I thought, the rumor
Of human consciousness has gone abroad in the world,
The sane uninfected far-outer universes
Flee it in a panic of escape, as men flee the plague
Taking a city: for look at the fruits of consciousness:
As in young Walter Margrave when he'd been sentenced for
murder: he was thinking when they brought him back
To the cell in jail,
'I've only a moment to arrange my thoughts,
I must think quickly, I must think clearly,
And settle the world in my mind before I kick off,' but to feel
the curious eyes of his fellow-prisoners
And the wry-mouthed guard's and so forth torment him through
the steel bars put his mind in a stupor, he could only
Sit frowning, ostentatiously unafraid. 'But I can control my
mind, their eyes can't touch my will.
One against all. What use is will at this end of everything? A
kind of nausea is the chief feeling . . .
In my stomach and throat . . . but in my head pride: I fought
a good fight and they can't break me; alone, unbroken,
Against a hundred and twenty-three million people. They are
going to kill the best brain perhaps in the world,
That might have made such discoveries in science
As would set the world centuries ahead, for I had the mind and
the power. Boo, it's their loss. Blind fools,
Killing their best.' When his mind forgot the eyes it made rapid
capricious pictures instead of words,
But not of the medical school and the laboratories, its late intense
interest; not at all of his crime; glimpses
Of the coast-range at home; the V of a westward canyon with
the vibrating
Blue line of the ocean strung sharp across it; that domed hill up
the valley, two cows like specks on the summit
And a beautiful-colored jungle of poison-oak at the foot; his
sister half naked washing her hair,
'My dirty sister,' whose example and her lovers had kept him
chaste by revulsion; the reed-grown mouth of the river
And the sand-bar against the stinging splendor of the sea ...
and anguish behind all the pictures
(He began to consider his own mind again) 'like a wall they
hang on.' Hang. The anguish came forward, an actual
Knife between two heartbeats, the organ stopped and then raced.
He experimented awhile with his heart,
Making in his mind a picture of a man hanged, pretending to
himself it was to happen next moment,
Trying to observe whether the beat suspended 'suspended,' he
thought in systole or in diastole.
The effect soon failed; the anguish remained. 'Ah my slack
lawyer, damn him, let slip chance after chance.
Scared traitor.' Then broken pictures of the scenes in court, the
jury, the judge, the idlers, and not one face
But bleak with hatred. 'But I met their eyes, one against all.'
Suddenly his mind became incapable
Of making pictures or words, but still wildly active, striking in
all directions like a snake in a fire,
Finding nothing but the fiery element of its own anguish. He got
up and felt the guard's eyes and sat down,
Turned side-face, resting his chin on his fist, frowning and
trembling. He saw clearly in his mind the little
Adrenal glands perched on the red-brown kidneys, as if all his
doomed tissues became transparent,
Pouring in these passions their violent secretion
Into his blood-stream, raising the tension unbearably. And the
thyroids; tension, tension. A long course of that
Should work grave changes. 'If they tortured a man like a laboratory
dog for discovery: there'd be value gained: but by
process
Of law for vengeance, because his glands and his brain have
made him act in another than common manner:
You incredible breed of asses!' He smiled self-consciously in
open scorn of the people, the guard at the door
To observe that smile 'my God, do I care about the turnkey's
opinion? 'suddenly his mind again
Was lashing like a burnt snake. Then it was torpid for a while.
This continued for months.

His father had come to visit him, he saw the ruinous white-haired head
Through two steel wickets under the bluish electric light that
seemed to peel the skin from the face.
Walter said cheerfully too loudly, 'Hullo. You look like a skull.'
The shaven sunk jaws in answer chewed
Inaudible words. Walter with an edge of pleasure thought 'Once
he was stronger than I! I used to admire
This poor old man's strength when I was a child,' and said 'Buck
up, old fellow, it will soon be over. Here's nothing
To cry for. Do you think I'm afraid to die? It's good people that
fear death, people with the soft streak
Of goodness in them fear death: but I, you know, am a monster,
don't you read the papers? Caught at last:
I fought a hundred and twenty-three million people. How's
Hazel? How's the farm? I could get out of this scrape
By playing dementia, but I refuse to, there's not an alienist living
Could catch me out. I'm the king of Spain dying for the world.
I've been persecuted since I was born
By a secret sect, they stuck pins into me
And fed me regular doses of poison for a certain reason. Why
do you pretend that you're my father?
God is. ... Believe me, I could get by with it.
But I refuse.'
Old Margrave looked timidly at the two guards
listening, and drew his brown tremulous hand
Across his eyes below the white hair. 'I thought of going to try
to see the governor, Walter.'
'That's it!' 'Don't hope for anything, Walter, they tell me that
there's no hope. They say that I shan't even
Be allowed to see him.' 'By God,' the young man said trembling,
'you can if you want to. Never believe that lawyer.
If Id had Dorking: but you couldn't afford him. Poor men have
no right to breed sons. I'd not be here
If you'd had money to put me through college. Tell the governor
I know he won't pardon, but he can commute the sentence to
life imprisonment. Then I can read and study,
I can help the penitentiary doctor, I can do something to help
humanity. Tell him it's madness
To throw such a brain as mine into the garbage. Don't deny my
guilt but tell him my reasons.
I kidnapped the little girl to get money to finish my medical
education. What's one child's life
Against a career like mine that might have saved
Thousands of children? Say I'd isolated the organism of infantile
paralysis: I'd have done more:
But that alone would save thousands of children. I was merciful;
she died quietly; tell him that.
It was only pithing a little white frog.
Don't you think you can make him understand? I'm not a criminal:
I judge differently from others. I wasn't
Afraid to think for myself. All I did
Was for money for my education, to help humanity. And tell
him if I've done wrong what's wrong? I've paid for it
With frightful suffering: the more developed the brain the greater
the agony. He won't admit that. Oh God,
These brains the size of a pea! To be juried
And strangled by a hundred and twenty-three million peas. Go
down on your knees to him. You owe me that: you'd no right
To breed, you're poor.
But you itched for a woman, you had to fetch me out of the
happy hill of not-being. Pfah, to hug a woman
And make this I. That's the evil in the world, that letter. I-I-
Tell the governor
That I'm not afraid of dying, that I laugh at death. No, no, we'll
laugh in private. Tell him I'm crazy.
I've come to that: after being the only sane mind among a hundred
and twenty-three million peas.
Anything, anything . . .'

He had let his nerves go wild on purpose,
to edge on the old man to action, now at last
Escaping utterly out of control they stumbled into a bog of thick
sobs. The guards pulled him up
And walked him away as if he were half insensible. He was not
insensible, but more acutely aware
Than ever in his life before of all that touched him, and of shame
and anguish.

You would be wise, you far stars,
To flee with the speed of light this infection.
For here the good sane invulnerable material
And nature of things more and more grows alive and cries.
The rock and water grow human, the bitter weed
Of consciousness catches the sun, it clings to the near stars,
Even the nearer portion of the universal God
Seems to become conscious, yearns and rejoices
And suffers: I believe this hurt will be healed
Some age of time after mankind has died,
Then the sun will say 'What ailed me a moment?' and resume
The old soulless triumph, and the iron and stone earth
With confident inorganic glory obliterate
Her ruins and fossils, like that incredible unfading red rose
Of desert in Arizona glowing life to scorn,
And grind the chalky emptied seed-shells of consciousness
The bare skulls of the dead to powder; after some million
Courses around the sun her sadness may pass:
But why should you worlds of the virgin distance
Endure to survive what it were better to escape?

I also am not innocent
Of contagion, but have spread my spirit on the deep world.
I have gotten sons and sent the fire wider.
I have planted trees, they also feel while they live.
I have humanized the ancient sea-sculptured cliff
And the ocean's wreckage of rock
Into a house and a tower,
Hastening the sure decay of granite with my hammer,
Its hard dust will make soft flesh;
And have widened in my idleness
The disastrous personality of life with poems,
That are pleasant enough in the breeding but go bitterly at last
To envy oblivion and the early deaths of nobler
Verse, and much nobler flesh;
And I have projected my spirit
Behind the superb sufficient forehead of nature
To gift the inhuman God with this rankling consciousness.

But who is our judge? It is likely the enormous
Beauty of the world requires for completion our ghostly increment,
It has to dream, and dream badly, a moment of its night.

On the little stone-belted platform
On the turret on the head of the tower,
Between the stars and the earth,
And the ocean and the continent.
One ship's light shines and eclipses
Very far out, behind the high waves on the hill of water.
In the east under the Hyades and rising Orion
Are many cities and multitudes of people,
But westward a long way they are few enough.
It is fortunate to look westward as to look upward.
In the south the dark river-mouth pool mirrors a star
That stands over Margrave's farmhouse. The old man has lost it,
he isn't there any more. He went down to the river-mouth
Last December, when recent rains had opened the stream and the
salmon were running. Fishermen very solemnly
Stood all along the low sand like herons, and sea-lions offshore
in the rolling waves with deep wet voices
Coughed at each other; the sea air is hoarse with their voices that
time of year. Margrave had rambled since noon
Among the little folds of the seaward field that he had forgotten
to plow and was trying to sell
Though he used to love it, but everything was lost now. He lay
awhile on his face in the rotting stubble and random
Unsown green blades, then he got up and drifted over the ridge
to the river-mouth sands, unaimed,
Pale and gap-eyed, as the day moon a clear morning, opposite the
sun. He noticed with surprise the many
Fishermen like herons in the shallows and along the sands; and
then that his girl Hazel was with him: who'd feared
What he might do to himself and had come to watch him when
he lay face down in the field. 'I know what they're doing,'
He said slyly, 'Hazel, they're fishing! I guess they don't know,'
He whispered, 'about our trouble. Oh no, don't tell them.' She
said, 'Don't go down, father, your face would tell them.
Sit here on the edge of grass, watch the brown river meet the
blue sea. Do look: that boy's caught something.
How the line cuts the water and the small wheel sings.' 'If I'd
been rich,'
Old Margrave answered, 'they'd have fixed the hook for . . .
Walter . . . with some other bait. It sticks in my mind that
. . . Walter
Blames me too much.' 'Look,' Hazel said, 'he's landing it now.
Oh, it's a big one.' 'I dreamed about fishing,
Some time ago,' he answered, 'but we were the fish. I saw the
people all running reaching for prizes
That dangled on long lines from the sky. A lovely girl or a sack
of money or a case of whiskey,
Or fake things like reputation, hackle-feathers and a hook. A man
would reach up and grab and the line
Jerked, then you knew by his face that the hook was in him,
wherever he went. Often they're played for half
A lifetime before they're landed: others, like . . . my son . . .
pulled up short. Oh, Oh,
It's not a dream.' He said gently, 'He wanted money for his
education, but you poor girl
Wanted boy friends, now you've got a round belly. That's the
hook. I wanted children and got
Walter and you. Hm? Hooked twice is too much. Let's walk.'
'Not that way: let's go up home, daddy.
It makes you unhappy to see them fishing.' 'No,' he answered,
'nothing can. I have it in my pocket.' She walked behind him,
Hiding herself, ashamed of her visible pregnancy and her brother's
fate; but when the old man stumbled
And wavered on the slope she went beside him to support him,
her right hand under his elbow, and wreathed his body
With the other arm.

The clear brown river ran eagerly through
the sand-hill, undercutting its banks,
That slid in masses; tall waves walked very slowly up stream from
the sea, and stood
Stationary in the throat of the channel before they dissolved. The
rock the children call Red-cap stood
High and naked among the fishermen, the orange lichen on its
head. At the sea-end of the sand
Two boys and a man had rifles instead of rods, they meant to
punish the salmon-devouring sea-lions
Because the fish were fewer than last year; whenever a sleek
brown head with the big questioning eyes
Broke sea they fired. Margrave had heard the shots but taken no
notice, but when he walked by the stream
He saw a swimmer look up from the water and its round dark eye
Suddenly burst red blood before it went down. He cried out and
twisted himself from Hazel's hand
And ran like a squirrel along the stream-bank. 'I'll not allow it!'
He snatched at a rifle. 'Why should my lad
Be hanged for killing and all you others go free?' He wrestled
feebly to gain the rifle, the sand-bank
Slid under his feet, he slipped and lay face down in the running
stream and was hauled astrand. Then Hazel
Came running heavily, and when he was able to walk she led him
away. The sea-beast, blinded but a painful
Vain gleam, starved long before it could die; old Margrave still
lives. Death's like a little gay child that runs
The world around with the keys of salvation in his foolish fingers,
lends them at random where they're not wanted,
But often withholds them where most required.

Margrave's son
at this time
Had only four days to wait, but death now appeared so dreadful
to him that to speak of his thoughts and the abject
Horror, would be to insult humanity more than it deserves. At
last the jerked hemp snapped the neck sideways
And bruised the cable of nerves that threads the bone rings; the
intolerably strained consciousness in a moment changed.
It was strangely cut in two parts at the noose, the head's
Consciousness from the body's; both were set free and flamed;
the head's with flashing paradisal light
Like the wild birth of a star, but crying in bewilderment and
suddenly extinguished; the body's with a sharp emotion
Of satisfied love, a wave of hard warmth and joy, that ebbed cold
on darkness. After a time of darkness
The dreams that follow upon death came and subsided, like
fibrillar twitchings
Of the nerves unorganizing themselves; and some of the small
dreams were delightful and some, slight miseries,
But nothing intense; then consciousness wandered home from the
cell to the molecule, was utterly dissolved and changed;
Peace was the end of the play, so far as concerns humanity. Oh
beautiful capricious little savior,
Death, the gay child with the gipsy eyes, to avoid you for a time
I think is virtuous, to fear you is insane.

On the little stone-girdled platform
Over the earth and the ocean
I seem to have stood a long time and watched the stars pass.
They also shall perish I believe.
Here to-day, gone to-morrow, desperate wee galaxies
Scattering themselves and shining their substance away
Like a passionate thought. It is very well ordered.

 

Meditation On Saviors

I
When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an element
and smelt it like water,
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a
little troublesome, a little terrible.

I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death
nor in a walled garden,
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that
easily lock the world out of doors.

Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam-wet
granite sea-fang it is easy to praise
Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the
herds of the people that one should love them?

If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's
delight in the herds of the future. Not yours.
Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy.
Leave the joys of government to Caesar.

Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of the
world falls on decay in the flesh increasing
Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient
blindness, and clemency for love.

This is the breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world
waiting, stalled between storms, decaying a little,
Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw the
savior Caesar but out of the blood-bath.

The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but
wisdom without love is the present savior,
Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladed machine subduing
the world with deep indifference.

The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known;
words and the little envies will hardly
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they
have never dared to confront.

II
Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale
swimming to shoal; Point Lobos
Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it;
the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary.

Out of incestuous love power and then ruin. A man forcing the
imaginations of men,
Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his
own household with impious desire.

King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red tears
pouring from the torn pits
Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill
in the earthquake, against the eclipse

Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the
people: -that root was so sweet O dreadful agonist? -
I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to
its expiation; I heard the same cry.

A bad mountain to build your world on. Am I another keeper of
the people, that on my own shore,
On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the
sicknesses I left behind me concern me?

Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid
west, over the deeps
Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns
flower and burn through color to quietness;

Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I
have found my rock, let them find theirs.
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his
time reap their daggers of gratitude.

III
Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that
easily locks the world out of doors.
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from
whom I desire not to be fugitive.

I see them: they are always crying. The shored Pacific makes
perpetual music, and the stone mountains
Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light:
the people are always crying in their hearts.

One need not pity; certainly one must not love. But who has seen
peace, if he should tell them where peace
Lives in the world...they would be powerless to understand; and
he is not willing to be reinvolved.

IV
How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell
the people anything but relative to that?
But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once,
of man and woman, of civilized

And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, of
living and dead, of human and not
Human, and dimly all the human future: -what should persuade him
to speak? And what could his words change?

The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed. But
the man's words would be fixed also,
Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same
present compulsion in the iron consistency.

And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred
centuries quieted, some desert
Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the mud-
walled village and the mountain sepulchres.

V
Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the
open farms, and the people are fed.
They import and they consume reality. Before sunrise a hawk in
the desert made them their thoughts.

VI
Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed
bloodthirstiness. Among the mild and unwarlike
Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed
but live greatly and be heard:

This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe on
the high cross to catch at their memories;
The price is known. I have quieted love; for love of the people
I would not do it. For power I would do it.

--But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man,
dead under torture? --What is power to a man
Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root,
neither of act nor desire.

For power living I would never do it; they'are not delightful to
touch, one wants to be separate. For power
After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the
abstract unborn children toward peace...

A man might have paid anguish indeed. Except he had found the
standing sea-rock that even this last
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace
that quiets the desire even of praising it.

VII
Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they
would be pitiable:
But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; they
are able then to be still and not cry.

And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of
the beauty of things, magically grow
Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial
themselves into the beauty they admired,

Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep
unconsciousness they used to mimic
Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard
stumbled homeward down the dark street.

They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no
savior, salvation comes and takes them by force,
It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the
blown storms, the stream's-end ocean.

With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having
realized the petulant human consciousness
Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both
pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate

But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, to
love the coast opposite humanity
And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it
is worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest.

Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's,
the mote in the eye that makes its object
Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the
inhuman God than the hunter's own image.

 

Natural Music

The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers,
(Winter has given them gold for silver
To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their banks)
From different throats intone one language.
So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without
Divisions of desire and terror
To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hunger smitten cities,
Those voices also would be found
Clean as a child's; or like some girl's breathing who dances alone
By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers.

 

New Years Eve

Staggering homeward between the stream and the trees the unhappy
drunkard
Babbles a woeful song and babbles
The end of the world, the moon's like fired Troy in a flying
cloud, the storm
Rises again, the stream's in flood.
The moon's like the sack of Carthage, the Bastile's broken, pedlars
and empires
Still deal in luxury, men sleep in prison.
Old Saturn thinks it was better in his grandsire's time but that's
from the brittle
Arteries, it neither betters nor worsens.
(Nobody knows my love the falcon.)
It has always bristled with phantoms, always factitious, mildly absurd;
The organism, with no precipitous
Degeneration, slight imperceptible discounts of sense and faculty,
Adapts itself to the culture-medium.
(Nobody crawls to the test-tube rim,
Nobody knows my love the falcon.)
The star's on the mountain, the stream snoring in flood; the brain-lit
drunkard
Crosses midnight and stammers to bed.
The inhuman nobility of things, the ecstatic beauty, the inveterate
steadfastness
Uphold the four posts of the bed.
(Nobody knows my love the falcon.)

 

Night

The ebb slips from the rock, the sunken
Tide-rocks lift streaming shoulders
Out of the slack, the slow west
Sombering its torch; a ship's light
Shows faintly, far out,
Over the weight of the prone ocean
On the low cloud.

Over the dark mountain, over the dark pinewood,
Down the long dark valley along the shrunken river,
Returns the splendor without rays, the shining of shadow,
Peace-bringer, the matrix of all shining and quieter of shining.
Where the shore widens on the bay she opens dark wings
And the ocean accepts her glory. O soul worshipful of her
You like the ocean have grave depths where she dwells always,
And the film of waves above that takes the sun takes also
Her, with more love. The sun-lovers have a blond favorite,
A father of lights and noises, wars, weeping and laughter,
Hot labor, lust and delight and the other blemishes. Quietness
Flows from her deeper fountain; and he will die; and she is
immortal.

Far off from here the slender
Flocks of the mountain forest
Move among stems like towers
Of the old redwoods to the stream,
No twig crackling; dip shy
Wild muzzles into the mountain water
Among the dark ferns.
O passionately at peace you being secure will pardon
The blasphemies of glowworms, the lamp in my tower, the
fretfulness
Of cities, the cressets of the planets, the pride of the stars.
This August night in a rift of cloud Antares reddens,
The great one, the ancient torch, a lord among lost children,
The earth's orbit doubled would not girdle his greatness, one fire
Globed, out of grasp of the mind enormous; but to you O Night
What? Not a spark? What flicker of a spark in the faint far
glimmer
Of a lost fire dying in the desert, dim coals of a sand-pit the
Bedouins
Wandered from at dawn . . . Ah singing prayer to what gulfs
tempted
Suddenly are you more lost? To us the near-hand mountain
Be a measure of height, the tide-worn cliff at the sea-gate a
measure of continuance.

The tide, moving the night's
Vastness with lonely voices,
Turns, the deep dark-shining
Pacific leans on the land,
Feeling his cold strength
To the outmost margins: you Night will resume
The stars in your time.

O passionately at peace when will that tide draw shoreward?
Truly the spouting fountains of light, Antares, Arcturus,
Tire of their flow, they sing one song but they think silence.
The striding winter giant Orion shines, and dreams darkness.
And life, the flicker of men and moths and the wolf on the hill,
Though furious for continuance, passionately feeding, passionately
Remaking itself upon its mates, remembers deep inward
The calm mother, the quietness of the womb and the egg,
The primal and the latter silences: dear Night it is memory
Prophesies, prophecy that remembers, the charm of the dark.
And I and my people, we are willing to love the four-score years
Heartily; but as a sailor loves the sea, when the helm is for harbor.
Have men's minds changed,
Or the rock hidden in the deep of the waters of the soul
Broken the surface? A few centuries
Gone by, was none dared not to people
The darkness beyond the stars with harps and habitations.
But now, dear is the truth. Life is grown sweeter and lonelier,
And death is no evil.

 

Night Without Sleep

The world's as the world is; the nations rearm and prepare to
change; the age of tyrants returns;
The greatest civilization that has ever existed builds itself higher
towers on breaking foundations.
Recurrent episodes; they were determined when the ape's children
first ran in packs, chipped flint to an edge.
I lie and hear dark rain beat the roof, and the blind wind.

In the morning perhaps
I shall find strength again
To value the immense beauty of this time of the world, the flowers
of decay their pitiful loveliness, the fever-dream
Tapestries that back the drama and are called the future. This
ebb of vitality feels the ignoble and cruel
Incidents, not the vast abstract order.

I lie and hear dark rain beat
the roof, and the night-blind wind.
In the Ventana country darkness and rain and the roar of waters
fill the deep mountain-throats.
The creekside shelf of sand where we lay last August under a slip of stars,
And firelight played on the leaning gorge-walls, is drowned and
lost. The deer of the country huddle on a ridge
In a close herd under madrone-trees; they tremble when a rockslide
goes down, they open great darkness-
Drinking eyes and press closer.

Cataracts of rock
Rain down the mountain from cliff to cliff and torment the
stream-bed. The stream deals with them. The laurels are wounded,
Redwoods go down with their earth and lie thwart the gorge. I
hear the torrent boulders battering each other,
I feel the flesh of the mountain move on its bones in the wet
darkness.

Is this more beautiful
Than man's disasters? These wounds will heal in their time; so
will humanity's. This is more beautiful ... at night . . .

 

No Resurrection

Friendship, when a friend meant a helping sword,
Faithfulness, when power and life were its fruits, hatred, when the hated
Held steel at your throat or had killed your children, were more than metaphors.
Life and the world were as bright as knives.

But now, if I should recall my ruins
From the grass-roots and build my body again in the heavy grave,
Twist myself naked up through the earth like a strong white worm,
Tip the great stone, gulp the white air,

And live once more after long ages
In the change of the world: I should find the old human affections hollowed.
Should I need a friend? No one will really stab me from behind,
The people in the land of the living walk weaponless.

Should I hate an enemy? The evil-doers
Are pitiable now. Or to whom be faithful? Of whom seek faith?
Who has eaten of the victor's feast and shared the fugitive silence
Of beaten men on the mountain: suffer

Resurrection to join this midge-dance
Of gutted and multiplied echoes of life in the latter sun?
Dead man, be quiet. A fool of a merchant, who'd sell good earth
And grass again to make modern flesh.

 

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are
drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then
suddenly
The old granite forgets half a year's filth:
The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings
of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then. . . . But all
seasons
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long
coast
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more
numerous,
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

 

Now Returned Home

Beyond the narrows of the Inner Hebrides
We sailed the cold angry sea toward Barra, where Heaval mountain
Lifts like a mast. There were few people on the steamer, it was late in the
year; I noticed most an old shepherd,
Two wise-eyed dogs wove anxious circles around his feet, and a thin-armed
girl
Who cherished what seemed a doll, wrapping it against the sea-wind. When
it moved I said to my wife 'She'll smother it.'
And she to the girl: 'Is your baby cold? You'd better run down out of the
wind and uncover its face.'
She raised the shawl and said 'He is two weeks old. His mother died in
Glasgow in the hospital
Where he was born. She was my sister.' I looked ahead at the bleak island,
gray stones, ruined castle,
A few gaunt houses under the high and comfortless mountain; my wife
looked at the sickly babe,
And said 'There's a good doctor in Barra? It will soon be winter.' 'Ah,'
she answered, 'Barra'd be heaven for him,
The poor wee thing, there's Heaval to break the wind. We live on a wee
island yonder away,
Just the one house.'

The steamer moored, and a skiffwhat they call a
curragh, like a canvas canoe
Equipped with oarscame swiftly along the side. The dark-haired girl
climbed down to it, with one arm holding
That doubtful slip of life to her breast; a tall young man with sea-pale eyes
and an older man
Helped her; if a word was spoken I did not hear it. They stepped a mast
and hoisted a henna-color
Bat's wing of sail.

Now, returned home
After so many thousands of miles of road and ocean, all the hulls sailed in,
the houses visited,
I remember that slender skiff with dark henna sail
Bearing off across the stormy sunset to the distant island
Most clearly; and have rather forgotten the dragging whirlpools of London,
The screaming haste of New York.

 

On Building With Stone

To be an ape in little of the mountain-making mother
Like swarthy Cheops, but my own hands
For only slaves, is a far sweeter toil than to cut
Passions in verse for a sick people.
I'd liefer bed one boulder in the house-wall than be the time's
Archilochus: we name not Homer: who now
Can even imagine the fabulous dawn when bay-leaves (to a blind
Beggar) were not bitter in the teeth?

 

Original Sin

The man-brained and man-handed ground-ape, physically
The most repulsive of all hot-blooded animals
Up to that time of the world: they had dug a pitfall
And caught a mammoth, but how could their sticks and stones
Reach the life in that hide? They danced around the pit, shrieking
With ape excitement, flinging sharp flints in vain, and the stench of their bodies
Stained the white air of dawn; but presently one of them
Remembered the yellow dancer, wood-eating fire
That guards the cave-mouth: he ran and fetched him, and others
Gathered sticks at the woods edge; they made a blaze
And pushed it into the pit, and they fed it high, around the mired sides
Of their huge prey. They watched the long hairy trunk
Waver over the stifle trumpeting pain,
And they were happy.

Meanwhile the intense color and nobility of sunrise,
Rose and gold and amber, flowed up the sky. Wet rocks were shining, a little wind
Stirred the leaves of the forest and the marsh flag-flowers; the soft valley between the low hills
Became as beautiful as the sky; while in its midst, hour after hour, the happy hunters
Roasted their living meat slowly to death.

These are the people.
This is the human dawn. As for me, I would rather

Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man.
But we are what we are, and we might remember
Not to hate any person, for all are vicious;
And not be astonished at any evil, all are deserved;
And not fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.

 

Ossians Grave

PREHISTORIC MONUMENT NEAR CUSHENDALL
IN ANTRIM
Steep up in Lubitavish townland stands
A ring of great stones like fangs, the shafts of the stones
Grown up with thousands of years of gradual turf,
The fangs of the stones still biting skyward; and hard
Against the stone ring, the oblong enclosure
Of an old grave guarded with erect slabs; gray rocks
Backed by broken thorn-trees, over the gorge of Glenaan;
It is called Ossian's Grave. Ossian rests high then,
Haughtily alone.
If there were any fame or burial or monument
For me to envy,
Warrior and poet they should be yours and yours.
For this is the pure fame, not caged in a poem,
Fabulous, a glory untroubled with works, a name in the north
Like a mountain in the mist, like Aura
Heavy with heather and the dark gray rocks, or Trostan
Dark purple in the cloud: happier than what the wings
And imperfections of work hover like vultures
Above the carcass.
I also make a remembered name;
And I shall return home to the granite stones
On my cliff over the greatest ocean
To be blind ashes under the butts of the stones:
As you here under the fanged limestone columns
Are said to lie, over the narrow north straits
Toward Scotland, and the quick-tempered Moyle. But written
reminders
Will blot for too long a year the bare sunlight
Above my rock lair, heavy black birds
Over the field and the blood of the lost battle.
Oh but we lived splendidly
In the brief light of day
Who now twist in our graves.
You in the guard of the fanged
Erect stones; and the man-slayer
Shane O'Neill dreams yonder at Cushendun
Crushed under his cairn;
And Hugh McQuillan under his cairn
By his lost field in the bog on Aura;
And I a foreigner, one who has come to the country of the dead
Before I was called,
To eat the bitter dust of my ancestors;
And thousands on tens of thousands in the thronged earth
Under the rotting freestone tablets
At the bases of broken round towers;
And the great Connaught queen on her mountain-summit
The high cloud hoods, it creeps through the eyes of the cairn,

We dead have our peculiar pleasures, of not
Doing, of not feeling, of not being.
Enough has been felt, enough done, Oh and surely
Enough of humanity has been. We lie under stones
Or drift through the endless northern twilights
And draw over our pale survivors the net of our dream.
All their lives are less
Substantial than one of our deaths, and they cut turf
Or stoop in the steep
Short furrows, or drive the red carts, like weeds waving
Under the glass of water in a locked bay,
Which neither the wind nor the wave nor their own will
Moves; when they seem to awake
It is only to madden in their dog-days for memories of dreams
That lost all meaning many centuries ago.

Oh but we lived splendidly
In the brief light of day,
You with hounds on the mountain
And princes in palaces,
I on the western cliff
In the rages of the sun:
Now you lie grandly under your stones
But I in a peasant's hut
Eat bread bitter with the dust of dead men;
The water I draw at the spring has been shed for tears
Ten thousand times,
Or wander through the endless northern twilights
From the rath to the cairn, through fields
Where every field-stone's been handled
Ten thousand times,
In a uterine country, soft
And wet and worn out, like an old womb
That I have returned to, being dead.

Oh but we lived splendidly
Who now twist in our graves.
The mountains are alive;
Tievebuilleagh lives, Trostan lives,
Lurigethan lives;
And Aura, the black-faced sheep in the belled heather;
And the swan-haunted loughs; but also a few of us dead
A life as inhuman and cold as those.

 

People And A Heron

A desert of weed and water-darkened stone under my western windows
The ebb lasted all afternoon,
And many pieces of humanity, men, women, and children, gathering shellfish,
Swarmed with voices of gulls the sea-breach.
At twilight they went off together, the verge was left vacant, an
evening heron
Bent broad wings over the black ebb,
And left me wondering why a lone bird was dearer to me that many people.
Well: rare is dear: but also I suppose
Well reconciled with the world but not with our own natures
we grudge to see them
Reflected on the world for a mirror.

 

Phenomena

Great-enough both accepts and subdues; the great frame takes
all creatures;
From the greatness of their element they all take beauty.
Gulls; and the dingy freightship lurching south in the eye of a
rain-wind;
The airplane dipping over the hill; hawks hovering
The white grass of the headland; cormorants roosting upon the
guano-
Whitened skerries; pelicans awind; sea-slime
Shining at night in the wave-stir like drowned men's lanterns;
smugglers signaling
A cargo to land; or the old Point Pinos lighthouse
Lawfully winking over dark water; the flight of the twilight
herons,
Lonely wings and a cry; or with motor-vibrations
That hum in the rock like a new storm-tone of the ocean's to
turn eyes westward
The navy's new-bought Zeppelin going by in the twilight,
Far out seaward; relative only to the evening star and the ocean
It slides into a cloud over Point Lobos.

 

Post Mortem

Happy people die whole, they are all dissolved in a moment,
they have had what they wanted,
No hard gifts; the unhappy
Linger a space, but pain is a thing that is glad to be forgotten;
but one who has given
His heart to a cause or a country,
His ghost may spaniel it a while, disconsolate to watch it. I was
wondering how long the spirit
That sheds this verse will remain
When the nostrils are nipped, when the brain rots in its vault
or bubbles in the violence of fire
To be ash in metal. I was thinking
Some stalks of the wood whose roots I married to the earth of
this place will stand five centuries;
I held the roots in my hand,
The stems of the trees between two fingers: how many remote
generations of women
Will drink joy from men's loins,
And dragged from between the thighs of what mothers will
giggle at my ghost when it curses the axemen,
Gray impotent voice on the sea-wind,
When the last trunk falls? The women's abundance will have
built roofs over all this foreland;
Will have buried the rock foundations
I laid here: the women's exuberance will canker and fail in its
time and like clouds the houses
Unframe, the granite of the prime
Stand from the heaps: come storm and wash clean: the plaster
is all run to the sea and the steel
All rusted; the foreland resumes
The form we loved when we saw it. Though one at the end of
the age and far off from this place
Should meet my presence in a poem,
The ghost would not care but be here, long sunset shadow in the
seams of the granite, and forgotten
The flesh, a spirit for the stone.

 

Praise Life

This country least, but every inhabited country
Is clotted with human anguish.
Remember that at your feasts.

And this is no new thing but from time out of mind,
No transient thing, but exactly
Conterminous with human life.

Praise life, it deserves praise, but the praise of life
That forgets the pain is a pebble
Rattled in a dry gourd.

 

Promise Of Peace

The heads of strong old age are beautiful
Beyond all grace of youth. They have strange quiet,
Integrity, health, soundness, to the full
They've dealt with life and been tempered by it.
A young man must not sleep; his years are war,
Civil and foreign but the former's worse;
But the old can breathe in safety now that they are
Forgetting what youth meant, the being perverse,
Running the fool's gauntlet and being cut
By the whips of the five senses. As for me,
If I should wish to live long it were but
To trade those fevers for tranquillity,
Thinking though that's entire and sweet in the grave
How shall the dead taste the deep treasure they have?

 

Quia Absurdum

Guard yourself from the terrible empty light of space, the bottomless
Pool of the stars. (Expose yourself to it: you might learn something.)

Guard yourself from perceiving the inherent nastiness of man and woman.
(Expose yourself to it: you might learn something.)

Faith, as they now confess, is preposterous, an act of will. Choose the Christian sheep-cote
Or the Communist rat-fight: faith will cover your head from the man-devouring stars.

 

Rearmament

These grand and fatal movements toward death: the grandeur
of the mass
Makes pity a fool, the tearing pity
For the atoms of the mass, the persons, the victims, makes it
seem monstrous
To admire the tragic beauty they build.
It is beautiful as a river flowing or a slowly gathering
Glacier on a high mountain rock-face,
Bound to plow down a forest, or as frost in November,
The gold and flaming death-dance for leaves,
Or a girl in the night of her spent maidenhood, bleeding and
kissing.
I would burn my right hand in a slow fire
To change the future ... I should do foolishly. The beauty
of modern
Man is not in the persons but in the
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.

 

Return

A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies,
Let the rich life run to the roots again.
I will go to the lovely Sur Rivers
And dip my arms in them up to the shoulders.
I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers
In the ocean wind over the river boulders.
I will touch things and things and no more thoughts,
That breed like mouthless May-flies darkening the sky,
The insect clouds that blind our passionate hawks
So that they cannot strike, hardly can fly.
Things are the hawk's food and noble is the mountain, Oh noble
Pico Blanco, steep sea-wave of marble.

 

Rock And Hawk

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.

This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Disinterestedness;

Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.

 

Salmon-Fishing

The days shorten, the south blows wide for showers now,
The south wind shouts to the rivers,
The rivers open their mouths and the salt salmon
Race up into the freshet.
In Christmas month against the smoulder and menace
Of a long angry sundown,
Red ash of the dark solstice, you see the anglers,
Pitiful, cruel, primeval,
Like the priests of the people that built Stonehengc,
Dark silent forms, performing
Remote solemnities in the red shallows
Of the river's mouth at the year's turn,
Drawing landward their live bullion, the bloody mouths
And scales full of the sunset
Twitch on the rocks, no more to wander at will
The wild Pacific pasture nor wanton and spawning
Race up into fresh water.

 

Science

Man, introverted man, having crossed
In passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter
century
Has begot giants; but being taken up
Like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts cannot manage
his hybrids.
Being used to deal with edgeless dreams,
Now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward: they
have thirsty points though.
His mind forebodes his own destruction;
Actaeon who saw the goddess naked among leaves and his hounds
tore him.
A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle,
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this infinitely
little too much?

 

Second-Best

A Celtic spearman forcing the cromlech-builder's brown
daughter;
A blond Saxon, a slayer of Britons,
Building his farm outside the village he'd burned; a Norse
Voyager, wielder of oars and a sword,
Thridding the rocks at the fjord sea-end, hungry as a hawk;
A hungry Gaelic chiefling in Ulster,
Whose blood with the Norseman's rotted in the rain on a heather
hill:
These by the world's time were very recent
Forefathers of yours. And you are a maker of verses. The pallid
Pursuit of the world's beauty on paper,
Unless a tall angel comes to require it, is a pitiful pastime.
If, burnished new from God's eyes, an angel:
And the ardors of the simple blood showing clearly a little
ridiculous
In this changed world: write and be quiet.

 

Self-Criticism In February

The bay is not blue but sombre yellow
With wrack from the battered valley, it is speckled with violent
foam-heads
And tiger-striped with long lovely storm-shadows.
You love this better than the other mask; better eyes than yours
Would feel the equal beauty in the blue.
It is certain you have loved the beauty of storm disproportionately.
But the present time is not pastoral, but founded
On violence, pointed for more massive violence: perhaps it is not
Perversity but need that perceives the storm-beauty.
Well, bite on this: your poems are too full of ghosts and demons,
And people like phantoms how often life's are
And passion so strained that the clay mouths go praying for destruction
Alas, it is not unusual in life;
To every soul at some time. But 'why insist on it? And now
For the worst fault: you have never mistaken
Demon nor passion nor idealism for the real God.
Then what is most disliked in those verses
Remains most true. Unfortunately. If only you could sing
That God is love, or perhaps that social
Justice will soon prevail. I can tell lies in prose.

 

Shakespeares Grave

Doggerel,' he thought, 'will do for church-wardens,
Poetry's precious enough not to be wasted,'
And rhymed it all out with a skew smile:
'Spare these stones. Curst be he that moves my bones-
Will hold the hands of masons and grave-diggers.'
But why did the good man care? For he wanted quietness.
He had tasted enough life in his time
To stuff a thousand; he wanted not to swim wide
In waters, nor wander the enormous air,
Nor grow into grass, enter through the mouths of cattle
The bodies of lusty women and warriors,
But all be finished. He knew it feelingly; the game
Of the whirling circles had become tiresome.
'Annihilation's impossible, but insulated
In the church under the rhyming flagstone
Perhaps my passionate ruins may be kept off market
To the end of this age. Oh, a thousand years
Will hardly leach,' he thought, 'this dust of that fire.'

 

Shane ONeills Cairn

TO U. J.
When you and I on the Palos Verdes cliff
Found life more desperate than dear,
And when we hawked at it on the lake by Seattle,
In the west of the world, where hardly
Anything has died yet: we'd not have been sorry, Una,
But surprised, to foresee this gray
Coast in our days, the gray waters of the Moyle
Below us, and under our feet
The heavy black stones of the cairn of the lord of Ulster.
A man of blood who died bloodily
Four centuries ago: but death's nothing, and life,
From a high death-mark on a headland
Of this dim island of burials, is nothing either.
How beautiful are both these nothings.

 

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 deca-
dence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub-
bornly 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 thick-
ening 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 noblest spirits, that caught--they say--
God, when he walked on earth.

 

Shine, Republic

The quality of these trees, green height; of the sky, shining, of
water, a clear flow; of the rock, hardness
And reticence: each is noble in its quality. The love of freedom
has been the quality of Western man.

There is a stubborn torch that flames from Marathon to Concord,
its dangerous beauty binding three ages
Into one time; the waves of barbarism and civilization have
eclipsed but have never quenched it.

For the Greeks the love of beauty, for Rome of ruling; for the
present age the passionate love of discovery;
But in one noble passion we are one; and Washington, Luther,
Tacitus, Aeschylus, one kind of man.

And you, America, that passion made you. You were not born
to prosperity, you were born to love freedom.
You did not say 'en masse,' you said 'independence.' But we
cannot have all the luxuries and freedom also.

Freedom is poor and laborious; that torch is not safe but hungry,
and often requires blood for its fuel.
You will tame it against it burn too clearly, you will hood it
like a kept hawk, you will perch it on the wrist of Caesar.

But keep the tradition, conserve the forms, the observances, keep
the spot sore. Be great, carve deep your heel-marks.
The states of the next age will no doubt remember you, and edge
their love of freedom with contempt of luxury.

 

Shiva

There is a hawk that is picking the birds out of our sky,
She killed the pigeons of peace and security,
She has taken honesty and confidence from nations and men,
She is hunting the lonely heron of liberty.
She loads the arts with nonsense, she is very cunning
Science with dreams and the state with powers to catch them at last.
Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running.
This is the hawk that picks out the star's eyes.
This is the only hunter that will ever catch the wild swan;
The prey she will take last is the wild white swan of the beauty of things.
Then she will be alone, pure destruction, achieved and supreme,
Empty darkness under the death-tent wings.
She will build a nest of the swan's bones and hatch a new brood,
Hang new heavens with new birds, all be renewed.

 

Shooting Season

IN THE NORTH OF SCOTLAND
The whole countryside deployed on the hills of heather, an army
with banners,
The beaters whoop the grouse to the butts.
Three gentlemen fling up their guns and the frightened covey is
a few wings fewer;
Then grooms approach with the panniered horses.
The gray old moorland silence has closed like water and covered
the gunshots.
Wave on wave goes the moor to the great
Circle of the sky; the cairn on the slope names an old battle and
beyond are
Broad gray rocks the grave-marks of clans.
Blond Celtic warriors lair in the sky-line barrows, down toward
the sea
Stand the tall stones of the Danish captains.
We dead that handled weapons and hunted in earnest, we old
dead have watched
Three little living gentlemen yonder
With a bitter flavor in the grin of amusement, uneasily remembering
our own
Old sports and delights. It is better to be dust.

 

Sign-Post

Civilized, crying: how to be human again; this will tell you how.
Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from humanity,
Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow,
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity
Make your veins cold; look at the silent stars, let your eyes
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes;
Things are the God; you will love God and not in vain,
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length
You will look back along the star's rays and see that even
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven.
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength
And sickness; but now you are free, even to be human,
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman.

 

So Many Blood-Lakes

We have now won two world-wars, neither of which concerned us, we were
slipped in. We have levelled the powers
Of Europe, that were the powers of the world, into rubble and
dependence. We have won two wars and a third is comming.

This one--will not be so easy. We were at ease while the powers of the
world were split into factions: we've changed that.
We have enjoyed fine dreams; we have dreamed of unifying the world; we
are unifying it--against us.

Two wars, and they breed a third. Now gaurd the beaches, watch the
north, trust not the dawns. Probe every cloud.
Build power. Fortress America may yet for a long time stand, between the
east and the west, like Byzantium.

--As for me: laugh at me. I agree with you. It is a foolish business to
see the future and screech at it.
One should watch and not speak. And patriotism has run the world through
so many blood-lakes: and we always fall in.

 

Soliloquy

August and laurelled have been content to speak for an age,
and the ages that follow
Respect them for that pious fidelity;
But you have disfeatured time for timelessness.
They had heroes for companions, beautiful youths to dream of,
rose-marble-fingered
Women shed light down the great lines;
But you have invoked the slime in the skull,
The lymph in the vessels. They have shown men Gods like
racial dreams, the woman's desire,
The man's fear, the hawk-faced prophet's; but nothing
Human seems happy at the feet of yours.
Therefore though not forgotten, not loved, in gray old years
in the evening leaning
Over the gray stones of the tower-top,
You shall be called heartless and blind;
And watch new time answer old thought, not a face strange
nor a pain astonishing;
But you living be laired in the rock
That sheds pleasure and pain like hailstones.

 

Still The Mind Smiles

Still the mind smiles at its own rebellions,
Knowing all the while that civilization and the other evils
That make humanity ridiculous, remain
Beautiful in the whole fabric, excesses that balance each other
Like the paired wings of a flying bird.
Misery and riches, civilization and squalid savagery,
Mass war and the odor of unmanly peace:
Tragic flourishes above and below the normal of life.
In order to value this fretful time
It is necessary to remember our norm, the unaltered passions,
The same-colored wings of imagination,
That the crowd clips, in lonely places new-grown; the unchanged
Lives of herdsmen and mountain farms,
Where men are few, and few tools, a few weapons, and their
dawns are beautiful.
From here for normal one sees both ways,
And listens to the splendor of God, the exact poet, the sonorous
Antistrophe of desolation to the strophe multitude.

 

Subjected Earth

Walking in the flat Oxfordshire fields
Where the eye can find no rock to rest on but little flints
Speckle the soil, and the million-berried hedges
Tingle with birds at evening, I saw the sombre
November day redden and go down; a flight of lapwings
Whirled in the hollow of the field, and half-tame pheasants
Cried from the trees. I remembered impatiently
How the long bronze mountain of my own coast,
Where color is no account and pathos ridiculous, the sculpture is all,
Breaks the arrows of the setting sun
Over the enormous mounded eyeball of ocean.

The soft alien twilight
Worn and weak with too much humanity hooded my mind.
Poor flourishing earth, meek-smiling slave,
If sometime the swamps return and the heavy forest, black beech
and oak-roots
Break up the paving of London streets;
And only, as long before, on the lifted ridgeways
Few people shivering by little fires
Watch the night of the forest cover the land
And shiver to hear the wild dogs howling where the cities were,
Would you be glad to be free? I think you will never
Be glad again, so kneaded with human flesh, so humbled and changed.
Here all's down hill and passively goes to the grave,
Asks only a pinch of pleasure between the darknesses,
Contented to think that everything has been done
That's in the scope of the race: so should I also perhaps
Dream, under the empty angel of this twilight,
But the great memory of that unhumanized world,
With all its wave of good and evil to climb yet,
Its exorbitant power to match, its heartless passion to equal,
And all its music to make, beats on the grave-mound.

 

Suicide's Stone

Peace is the heir of dead desire,
Whether abundance killed the cormorant
In a happy hour, or sleep or death
Drowned him deep in dreamy waters,
Peace is the ashes of that fire,
The heir of that king, the inn of that journey.

This last and best and goal: we dead
Hold it so tight you are envious of us
And fear under sunk lids contempt.
Death-day greetings are the sweetest.
Let trumpets roar when a man dies
And rockets fly up, he has found his fortune.

Yet hungering long and pitiably
That way, you shall not reach a finger
To pluck it unripe and before dark
Creep to cover: life broke ten whipstocks
Over my back, broke faith, stole hope,
Before I denounced the covenant of courage.

 

Summer Holiday

When the sun shouts and people abound
One thinks there were the ages of stone and the age of
bronze
And the iron age; iron the unstable metal;
Steel made of iron, unstable as his mother; the tow-
ered-up cities
Will be stains of rust on mounds of plaster.
Roots will not pierce the heaps for a time, kind rains
will cure them,
Then nothing will remain of the iron age
And all these people but a thigh-bone or so, a poem
Stuck in the world's thought, splinters of glass
In the rubbish dumps, a concrete dam far off in the
mountain...

 

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 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.

 

The Beaks Of Eagles

An eagle's nest on the head of an old redwood on one of the
precipice-footed ridges
Above Ventana Creek, that jagged country which nothing but a
falling meteor will ever plow; no horseman
Will ever ride there, no hunter cross this ridge but the winged
ones, no one will steal the eggs from this fortress.
The she-eagle is old, her mate was shot long ago, she is now mated
with a son of hers.
When lightning blasted her nest she built it again on the same
tree, in the splinters of the thunderbolt.
The she-eagle is older than I; she was here when the fires of
eighty-five raged on these ridges,
She was lately fledged and dared not hunt ahead of them but ate
scorched meat. The world has changed in her time;
Humanity has multiplied, but not here; men's hopes and thoughts
and customs have changed, their powers are enlarged,
Their powers and their follies have become fantastic,
The unstable animal never has been changed so rapidly. The
motor and the plane and the great war have gone over him,
And Lenin has lived and Jehovah died: while the mother-eagle
Hunts her same hills, crying the same beautiful and lonely cry and
is never tired; dreams the same dreams,
And hears at night the rock-slides rattle and thunder in the throats
of these living mountains.
It is good for man
To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and
anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's way
Until all his capacities have been explored: and it is good for him
To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact
in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles.

 

The Bed By The Window

I chose the bed downstairs by the sea-window for a good death-bed
When we built the house, it is ready waiting,
Unused unless by some guest in a twelvemonth, who hardly suspects
Its latter purpose. I often regard it,
With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled
That they kill each other and a crystalline interest
Remains alone. We are safe to finish what we have to finish;
And then it will sound rather like music
When the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky
Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: 'Come, Jeffers.'

 

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 Bloody Sire

It is not bad. Let them play.
Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane
Speak his prodigious blasphemies.
It is not bad, it is high time,
Stark violence is still the sire of all the worlds values.

What but the wolfs tooth whittled so fine
The fleet limbs of the antelope?
What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawks head?
Violence has been the sire of all the worlds values.

Who would remember Helens face
Lacking the terrible halo of spears?
Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,
The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?
Violence, the bloody sire of all the worlds values.

Never weep, let them play,
Old violence is not too old to beget new values.

 

The Broadstone

NEAR FINVOY, COUNTY ANTRIM
We climbed by the old quarries to the wide highland of heath,
On the slope of a swale a giant dolmen,
Three heavy basalt pillars upholding the enormous skb,
Towers and abides as if time were nothing.
The hard stones are hardly dusted with lichen in nobody knows
What ages of autumns in this high solitude
Since a recordless tribe of an unknown race lifted them up
To be the availing hero's memorial,
And temple of his power. They gathered their slighter dead
from the biting
Winds of time in his lee, the wide moor
About him is swollen with barrows and breaks upon many stones,
Lean gray guardians of old urned ashes,
In waves on waves of purple heather and blithe spray of its bells.
Here lies the hero, more than half God,
And nobody knows his name nor his race, in the bee-bright
necropolis,
With the stone circle and his tribe around him.
Sometimes perhaps (but who'd confess it?) in soft adolescence
We used to wonder at the world, and have wished
To hear some final harmony resolve the discords of life?
Here they are all perfectly resolved.

 

The Caged Eagles Death Dream

from CAWDOR
While George went to the house
For his revolver, Michal climbed up the hill
Weeping; but when he came with death in his hand
She'd not go away, but watched. At the one shot
The great dark bird leaped at the roof of the cage
In silence and struck the wood; it fell, then suddenly
Looked small and soft, muffled in its folded wings.
The nerves of men after they die dream dimly
And dwindle into their peace; they are not very passionate,
And what they had was mostly spent while they lived.
They are sieves for leaking desire; they have many pleasures
And conversations; their dreams too are like that.
The unsocial birds are a greater race;
Cold-eyed, and their blood burns. What leaped up to death,
The extension of one storm-dark wing filling
its world,
Was more than the soft garment that fell. Something had flown
away. Oh cage-hoarded desire,
Like the blade of a breaking wave reaped by the wind, or flame
rising from fire, or cloud-coiled lightning
Suddenly unfurled in the cave of heaven: I that am stationed,
and cold at heart, incapable of burning,
My blood like standing sea-water lapped in a stone pool, my desire
to the rock, how can I speak of you?
Mine will go down to the deep rock.
This rose,
Possessing the air over its emptied prison,
The eager powers at its shoulders waving shadowless
Unwound the ever-widened spirals of flight
As a star light, it spins the night-stabbing threads
From its own strength and substance: so the aquiline desire
Burned itself into meteor freedom and spired
Higher still, and saw the mountain-dividing
Canyon of its captivity (that was to Cawdor
Almost his world) like an old crack in a wall,
Violet-shadowed and gold-lighted; the little stain
Spilt on the floor of the crack was the strong forest;
The grain of sand was the Rock. A speck, an atomic
Center of power clouded in its own smoke
Ran and cried in the crack; it was Cawdor; the other
Points of humanity had neither weight nor shining
To prick the eyes of even an eagle's passion.

This burned and soared. The shining ocean below lay on the
shore
Like the great shield of the moon come down, rolling bright rim
to rim with the earth. Against it the multiform
And many-canyoned coast-range hills were gathered into one
carven mountain, one modulated
Eagle's cry made stone, stopping the strength of the sea. The
beaked and winged effluence
Felt the air foam under its throat and saw
The mountain sun-cup Tassajara, where fawns
Dance in the steam of the hot fountains at dawn,
Smoothed out, and the high strained ridges beyond Cachagua,
Where the rivers are born and the last condor is dead,
Flatten, and a hundred miles toward morning the Sierras
Dawn with their peaks of snow, and dwindle and smooth down
On the globed earth.

It saw from the height and desert space of
unbreathable air
Where meteors make green fire and die, the ocean dropping
westward to the girdle of the pearls of dawn
And the hinder edge of the night sliding toward Asia; it saw
far under eastward the April-delighted
Continent; and time relaxing about it now, abstracted from being,
it saw the eagles destroyed,
Mean generations of gulls and crows taking their world: turn
for turn in the air, as on earth
The white faces drove out the brown. It saw the white decayed
and the brown from Asia returning;
It saw men learn to outfly the hawk's brood and forget it again;
it saw men cover the earth and again
Devour each other and hide in caverns, be scarce as wolves. It
neither wondered nor cared, and it saw
Growth and decay alternate forever, and the tides returning.

It saw, according to the sight of its kind, the archetype
Body of life a beaked carnivorous desire
Self-upheld on storm-broad wings: but the eyes
Were spouts of blood; the eyes were gashed out; dark blood
Ran from the ruinous eye-pits to the hook of the beak
And rained on the waste spaces of empty heaven.
Yet the great Life continued; yet the great Life
Was beautiful, and she drank her defeat, and devoured
Her famine for food.
There the eagle's phantom perceived
Its prison and its wound were not its peculiar wretchedness,
All that lives was maimed and bleeding, caged or in blindness,
Lopped at the ends with death and conception, and shrewd
Cautery of pain on the stumps to stifle the blood, but not
Refrains for all that; life was more than its functions
And accidents, more important than its pains and pleasures,
A torch to burn in with pride, a necessary
Ecstasy in the run of the cold substance,
And scape-goat of the greater world. (But as for me,
I have heard the summer dust crying to be born
As much as ever flesh cried to be quiet.)
Pouring itself on fulfilment the eagle's passion
Left life behind and flew at the sun, its father.
The great unreal talons took peace for prey
Exultantly, their death beyond death; stooped upward, and struck
Peace like a white fawn in a dell of fire.

 

The Coast-Road

A horseman high alone as an eagle on the spur of the mountain
over Mirmas Canyon draws rein, looks down
At the bridge-builders, men, trucks, the power-shovels, the teeming
end of the new coast-road at the mountain's base.
He sees the loops of the road go northward, headland beyond
headland, into gray mist over Eraser's Point,
He shakes his fist and makes the gesture of wringing a chicken's
neck, scowls and rides higher.

I too
Believe that the life of men who ride horses, herders of cattle on
the mountain pasture, plowers of remote
Rock-narrowed farms in poverty and freedom, is a good life. At
the far end of those loops of road
Is what will come and destroy it, a rich and vulgar and bewildered
civilization dying at the core,
A world that is feverishly preparing new wars, peculiarly vicious
ones, and heavier tyrannies, a strangely
Missionary world, road-builder, wind-rider, educator, printer and
picture-maker and broadcaster,
So eager, like an old drunken whore, pathetically eager to impose
the seduction of her fled charms
On all that through ignorance or isolation might have escaped
them. I hope the weathered horseman up yonder
Will die before he knows what this eager world will do to his
children. More tough-minded men
Can repulse an old whore, or cynically accept her drunken kindnesses
for what they are worth,
But the innocent and credulous are soon corrupted.

Where is our
consolation? Beautiful beyond belief
The heights glimmer in the sliding cloud, the great bronze gorge-cut
sides of the mountain tower up invincibly,
Not the least hurt by this ribbon of road carved on their sea-foot.

 

The Cruel Falcon

Contemplation would make a good life, keep it strict, only
The eyes of a desert skull drinking the sun,
Too intense for flesh, lonely
Exultations of white bone;
Pure action would make a good life, let it be sharp-
Set between the throat and the knife.
A man who knows death by heart
Is the man for that life.
In pleasant peace and security
How suddenly the soul in a man begins to die.
He shall look up above the stalled oxen
Envying the cruel falcon,
And dig under the straw for a stone
To bruise himself on.

 

The Cycle

The clapping blackness of the wings of pointed cormorants,
the great indolent planes
Of autumn pelicans nine or a dozen strung shorelong,
But chiefly the gulls, the cloud-caligraphers of windy spirals
before a storm,
Cruise north and south over the sea-rocks and over
That bluish enormous opal; very lately these alone, these and the
clouds
And westering lights of heaven, crossed it; but then
A hull with standing canvas crept about Point Lobos . . . now
all day long the steamers
Smudge the opal's rim; often a seaplane troubles
The sea-wind with its throbbing heart. These will increase, the
others diminish; and later
These will diminish; our Pacific has pastured
The Mediterranean torch and passed it west across the fountains
of the morning;
And the following desolation that feeds on Crete
Feed here; the clapping blackness of the wings of pointed cormorants,
the great sails
Of autumn pelicans, the gray sea-going gulls,
Alone will streak the enormous opal, the earth have peace like the
broad water, our blood's
Unrest have doubled to Asia and be peopling
Europe again, or dropping colonies at the morning star: what
moody traveler
Wanders back here, watches the sea-fowl circle
The old sea-granite and cemented granite with one regard, and
greets my ghost,
One temper with the granite, bulking about here?

 

The Day Is A Poem (September 19, 1939)

This morning Hitler spoke in Danzig, we hear his voice.
A man of genius: that is, of amazing
Ability, courage, devotion, cored on a sick child's soul,
Heard clearly through the dog wrath, a sick child
Wailing in Danzig; invoking destruction and wailing at it.
Here, the day was extremely hot; about noon
A south wind like a blast from hell's mouth spilled a slight rain
On the parched land, and at five a light earthquake
Danced the house, no harm done. Tonight I have been amusing myself
Watching the blood-red moon droop slowly
Into the black sea through bursts of dry lightning and distant thunder.
Well: the day is a poem: but too much
Like one of Jeffers's, crusted with blood and barbaric omens,
Painful to excess, inhuman as a hawk's cry.

 

The Dead To Clemenceau:

NOVEMBER, 1929
Come (we say) Clemenceau.
Why should you live longer than others? The vacuum that sucked
Us down, and the former stars, draws at you also.

No wrench for a man near ninety.
They were younger who crowded us out of distinction the year you drove them
Like flies on a fire. We don't say it was wrong.

We don't say it was right.
These heavy choices are less than verbal, down here, to us dead.
Never a thorn in the crown of greatness down here.

Not even Wilson laments here
The cuckoo brood of design. This is the cave you conjectured;
Nothing in death, as nothing in life, surprises you.

You were not surprised when France
Put you aside, when the war was finished, as a sick man mending
Puts aside the strong poison that turned his fever.

You'd not be surprised to hear
Your enemies praising your name and the Paris cannon applaud you;
Not surprised, nor much pleased, nor envious of more.

Your negative straightness of mind
And bleached like a drowned man's cast-up thigh-bone by eroding age-
Hardly required the clear corrections of death.

 

The Deer Lay Down Their Bones

I followed the narrow cliffside trail half way up the mountain
Above the deep river-canyon. There was a little cataract crossed the path,
flinging itself
Over tree roots and rocks, shaking the jeweled fern-fronds, bright bubbling
water
Pure from the mountain, but a bad smell came up. Wondering at it I clam-
bered down the steep stream
Some forty feet, and found in the midst of bush-oak and laurel,
Hung like a bird's nest on the precipice brink a small hidden clearing,
Grass and a shallow pool. But all about there were bones Iying in the grass,
clean bones and stinking bones,
Antlers and bones: I understood that the place was a refuge for wounded
deer; there are so many
Hurt ones escape the hunters and limp away to lie hidden; here they have
water for the awful thirst
And peace to die in; dense green laurel and grim cliff

Make sanctuary, and a sweet wind blows upward from the deep gorge.--I
wish my bones were with theirs.
But that's a foolish thing to confess, and a little cowardly. We know that life
Is on the whole quite equally good and bad, mostly gray neutral, and can
be endured
To the dim end, no matter what magic of grass, water and precipice, and
pain of wounds,
Makes death look dear. We have been given life and have used it--not a
great gift perhaps--but in honesty
Should use it all. Mine's empty since my love died--Empty? The flame-
haired grandchild with great blue eyes
That look like hers?--What can I do for the child? I gaze at her and wonder
what sort of man
In the fall of the world . . . I am growing old, that is the trouble. My chil-
dren and little grandchildren
Will find their way, and why should I wait ten years yet, having lived sixty-
seven, ten years more or less,
Before I crawl out on a ledge of rock and die snapping, like a wolf
Who has lost his mate?--I am bound by my own thirty-year-old decision:
who drinks the wine
Should take the dregs; even in the bitter lees and sediment
New discovery may lie. The deer in that beautiful place lay down their
bones: I must wear mine.

 

The Epic Stars

The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem--
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle--
We don't know enough, we'll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.

 

The Excesses Of God

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

 

The Eye

The Atlantic is a stormy moat; and the Mediterranean,
The blue pool in the old garden,
More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice
Of ships and blood, and shines in the sun; but here the Pacific--
Our ships, planes, wars are perfectly irrelevant.
Neither our present blood-feud with the brave dwarfs
Nor any future world-quarrel of westering
And eastering man, the bloody migrations, greed of power, clash of
faiths--
Is a speck of dust on the great scale-pan.
Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland
plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke
Into pale sea--look west at the hill of water: it is half the
planet:
this dome, this half-globe, this bulging
Eyeball of water, arched over to Asia,
Australia and white Antartica: those are the eyelids that never
close;
this is the staring unsleeping
Eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars.

 

The Giants Ring

BALLYLESSON, NEAR BELFAST
Whoever is able will pursue the plainly
False immortality of not having lived in vain but leaving some
mark in the world.
Secretly mocking at his own insanity
He labors the same, he knows that no dead man's lip was ever
curled in self-scorn,
And immortality is for the dead.
Jesus and Caesar out of the bricks of man's weakness, Washington
out of the brittle
Bones of man's strength built their memorials,
This nameless chief of a knot of forgotten tribes in the Irish darkness
used faithfuller
Simpler materials: to diadem a hilltop
That sees the long loughs and the Mourne Mountains, with a ring
of enormous embankment, and to build
In the center that great toad of a dolmen
Piled up of ponderous basalt that sheds the centuries like raindrops.
He drove the labor,
And has earmarked already some four millenniums.
His very presence is here, thick-bodied and brutish, a brutal and
senseless will-power.
Immortality? While Homer and Shakespeare are names,
Not of men but verses, and the elder has not lived nor the
younger will not, such treadings of time.
Conclude that secular like Christian immortality's
Too cheap a bargain: the name, the work or the soul: glass beads
are the trade for savages.

 

The Great Explosion

The universe expands and contracts like a great heart.
It is expanding, the farthest nebulae
Rush with the speed of light into empty space.
It will contract, the immense navies of stars and galaxies,
dust clouds and nebulae
Are recalled home, they crush against each other in one
harbor, they stick in one lump
And then explode it, nothing can hold them down; there is no
way to express that explosion; all that exists
Roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from each
other into all the sky, new universes
Jewel the black breast of night; and far off the outer nebulae
like charging spearmen again
Invade emptiness.
No wonder we are so fascinated with
fireworks
And our huge bombs: it is a kind of homesickness perhaps for
the howling fireblast that we were born from.

But the whole sum of the energies
That made and contain the giant atom survives. It will
gather again and pile up, the power and the glory--
And no doubt it will burst again; diastole and systole: the
whole universe beats like a heart.
Peace in our time was never one of God's promises; but back
and forth, live and die, burn and be damned,
The great heart beating, pumping into our arteries His
terrible life.
He is beautiful beyond belief.
And we, God's apes--or tragic children--share in the beauty.
We see it above our torment, that's what life's for.
He is no God of love, no justice of a little city like Dante's
Florence, no anthropoid God
Making commandments,: this is the God who does not care
and will never cease. Look at the seas there
Flashing against this rock in the darkness--look at the
tide-stream stars--and the fall of nations--and dawn
Wandering with wet white feet down the Caramel Valley to
meet the sea. These are real and we see their beauty.
The great explosion is probably only a metaphor--I know not
--of faceless violence, the root of all things.

 

The Great Sunset

A flight of six heavy-motored bombing-planes
Went over the beautiful inhuman ridges a straight course northward;
the incident stuck itself in my memory
More than a flight of band-tail pigeons might have done
Because those wings of man and potential war seemed really intrusive
above the remote canyon.
They changed it; I cannot say they profaned it, but the memory
All day remained like a false note in familiar music, and suggested
no doubt
The counter-fantasy that came to my eyes in the evening, on the
ocean cliff.

I came from the canyon twilight
Exactly at sunset to the open shore, and felt like a sudden extension
of consciousness the wild free light
And biting north-wind. The cloud-sky had lifted from the western
horizon and left a long yellow panel
Between the slate-edge ocean and the eyelid cloud; the smoky
ball of the sun rolled on the sea-line
And formless bits of vapor flew across, but when the sun was
down
The panel of clear sky brightened, the rags of moving cloud took
memorable shapes, dark on the light,
Whether I was dreaming or not, they became spears and war-axes,
horses and sabres, gaunt battle-elephants
With towered backs; they became catapults and siege-guns, high-tilted
howitzers, long tractors, armored and turreted;
They became battleships and destroyers, and great fleets of warplanes
... all the proud instruments
Of man imposing his will upon weaker men: they were like a
Roman triumph, but themselves the captives,
A triumph in reverse: all the tools of victory
Whiffed away on the north-wind into a cloud like a conflagration,
swept from the earth, no man
From this time on to exploit nor subdue any other man. I thought,
'What a pity our kindest dreams
Are complete liars,' and turned from the glowing west toward
the cold twilight. 'To be truth-bound, the neutral
Detested by all the dreaming factions, is my errand here.'

 

The Low Sky

No vulture is here, hardly a hawk,
Could long wings or great eyes fly
Under this low-lidded soft sky?

On the wide heather the curlew's whistle
Dies of its echo, it has no room
Under the low lid of this tomb.

But one to whom mind and imagination
Sometimes used to seem burdensome
Is glad to lie down awhile in the tomb.

Among stones and quietness
The mind dissolves without a sound,
The flesh drops into the ground.

 

The Low Sky

No vulture is here, hardly a hawk,
Could long wings or great eyes fly
Under this low-lidded soft sky?

On the wide heather the curlew's whistle
Dies of its echo, it has no room
Under the low lid of this tomb.

But one to whom mind and imagination
Sometimes used to seem burdensome
Is glad to lie down awhile in the tomb.

Among stones and quietness
The mind dissolves without a sound,
The flesh drops into the ground.

 

The Machine

The little biplane that has the river-meadow for landing-field
And carries passengers brief rides,
Buzzed overhead on the tender blue above the orange of sundown.
Below it five troubled night-herons
Turned short over the shore from its course, four east, one northward.
Beyond them
Swam the new moon in amber.
I don't know why, but lately the forms of things appear to me with time
One of their visible dimensions.
The thread brightness of the bent moon appeared enormous, unnumbered
Ages of years; the night-herons
Their natural size, they have croaked over the shore in the hush at sundown
Much longer than human language
Has fumbled with the air: but the plane having no past but a certain future,
Insect in size as in form,
Was also accepted, all these forms of power placed without preference
In the grave arrangement of the evening.

 

The Maid's Thought

Why listen, even the water is sobbing for something.
The west wind is dead, the waves
Forget to hate the cliff, in the upland canyons
Whole hillsides burst aglow
With golden broom. Dear how it rained last month,
And every pool was rimmed
With sulphury pollen dust of the wakening pines.
Now tall and slender suddenly
The stalks of purple iris blaze by the brooks,
The pencilled ones on the hill;
This deerweed shivers with gold, the white globe-tulips
Blow out their silky bubbles,
But in the next glen bronze-bells nod, the does
Scalded by some hot longing
Can hardly set their pointed hoofs to expect
Love but they crush a flower;
Shells pair on the rock, birds mate, the moths fly double.
O it Is time for us now
Mouth kindling mouth to entangle our maiden bodies
To make that burning flower.

 

The Old Mans Dream After He Died

from CAWDOR
Gently with delicate mindless fingers
Decomposition began to pick and caress the unstable chemistry
Of the cells of the brain; Oh very gently, as the first weak breath
of wind in a wood: the storm is still far,
The leaves are stirred faintly to a gentle whispering: the nerve-cells,
by what would soon destroy them, were stirred
To a gentle whispering. Or one might say the brain began to
glow, with its own light, in the starless
Darkness under the dead bone sky; like bits of rotting wood on
the floor of the night forest
Warm rains have soaked, you see them beside the path shine like
vague eyes. So gently the dead man's brain
Glowing by itself made and enjoyed its dream.

The nights of many
years before this time
He had been dreaming the sweetness of death, as a starved man
dreams bread, but now decomposition
Reversed the chemistry; who had adored in sleep under so many
disguises the dark redeemer
In death across a thousand metaphors of form and action celebrated
life. Whatever he had wanted
To do or become was now accomplished, each bud that had been
nipped and fallen grew out to a branch,
Sparks of desire forty years quenched flamed up fulfilment.
Out of time, undistracted by the nudging pulse-beat, perfectly
real to itself being insulated
From all touch of reality the dream triumphed, building from
past experience present paradise
More intense as the decay quickened, but ever more primitive
as it proceeded, until the ecstasy
Soared through a flighty carnival of wines and women to the
simple delight of eating flesh, and tended
Even higher, to an unconditional delight. But then the interconnections
between the groups of the brain
Failing, the dreamer and the dream split into multitude. Soon the
altered cells became unfit to express
Any human or at all describable form of consciousness.

Pain and
pleasure are not to be thought
Important enough to require balancing: these flashes of pos-tmortal
felicity by mindless decay
Played on the breaking harp by no means countervalued the excess
of previous pain. Such discords
In the passionate terms of human experience are not resolved,
nor worth it.

 

The Place For No Story

The coast hills at Sovranes Creek:
No trees, but dark scant pasture drawn thin
Over rock shaped like flame;
The old ocean at the land's foot, the vast
Gray extension beyond the long white violence;
A herd of cows and the bull
Far distant, hardly apparent up the dark slope;
And the gray air haunted with hawks:
This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen.
No imaginable
Human presence here could do anything
But dilute the lonely self-watchful passion

 

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.

 

The Silent Shepherds

What's the best life for a man?
--Never to have been born, sings the choros, and the next best
Is to die young. I saw the Sybil at Cumae
Hung in her cage over the public street--
What do you want, Sybil? I want to die.
Apothanein Thelo. Apothanein Thelo. Apothanein Thelo.
You have got your wish. But I meant life, not death.
What's the best life for a man? To ride in the wind. To ride
horses and herd cattle
In solitary places above the ocean on the beautiful mountain,
and come home hungry in the evening
And eat and sleep. He will live in the wild wind and quick rain,
he will not ruin his eyes with reading,
Nor think too much.
However, we must have philosophers.
I will have shepherds for my philosophers,
Tall dreary men lying on the hills all night
Watching the stars, let their dogs watch the sheep. And I'll have
lunatics
For my poets, strolling from farm to farm, wild liars distorting
The country news into supernaturalism--
For all men to such minds are devils or gods--and that increases
Man's dignity, man's importance, necessary lies
Best told by fools.
I will have no lawyers nor constables
Each man guard his own goods: there will be manslaughter,
But no more wars, no more mass-sacrifice. Nor I'll have no doctors,
Except old women gathering herbs on the mountain,
Let each have her sack of opium to ease the death-pains.

That would be a good world, free and out-doors.
But the vast hungry spirit of the time
Cries to his chosen that there is nothing good
Except discovery, experiment and experience and discovery: To look
truth in the eyes,
To strip truth naked, let our dogs do our living for us
But man discover.
It is a fine ambition,
But the wrong tools. Science and mathematics
Run parallel to reality, they symbolize it, they squint at it,
They never touch it: consider what an explosion
Would rock the bones of men into little white fragments and unsky
the world
If any mind for a moment touch truth.

 

The Songs Of The Dead Men To The Three Dancers

I. TO DESIRE
(Here a dancer enters and dances.)
Who is she that is fragrant and desirable,
Clothed but enough to wake wantonness,
And proud of her polished lithe body and her narrowing of
kohl-darkened eyelids with arrows between them?
Ah, ah, ah! Goddess of the world,
Young serpent in the veins of the rock,
In the mountain of jewels a young serpent, in the veins of a
man a sweet viper all emerald: ah Goddess
Are we proof to the hilt, are you pleased with us
When the splendor of your undulant insolence
Pricks the dark entrails of death, his foregathered grow hot for
you, the skeleton stands up to be amorous?
Ah, ah, ah! Goddess of the flesh
Will you think it a gift lacking grace
That the gates of the grave have been battered before you, the
iron doors to us dead in the deepest abysm?
For who has gone down to the dead or has touched them?
Did Jesus of Nazareth when he lay in deep hell
For three days and since lived as they say and has failed us?
No man nor no woman has gone down to us dead
Living until now, but the proof is here now, ah beautiful torture
us again and again.
We are fleshless, we tremble to your flesh,
Dear Goddess to taste of the dew
On your arms when you dance or to lip at the glitter of your
burnished thighs or the breast of your barrenness.
In the book of your triumphs with no term
Inscribe a more wonderful deed,
That you quickened the dead, that you lifted the flesh of the
fleshless, ah Goddess, ah! dancing, us dead men.
(The dancer goes out.)

II. TO DEATH
(A second dancer enters and dances.)
Was it lovely to lie among violets ablossom in the valleys of
love on the breast of the south?
It was lovely but lovelier now
To behold the calm head of the dancer we dreaded, his curls are
as tendrils of the vineyard, O Death
Sweet and more sweet is your dancing.
Like the swoon of fulfilment of love in some lonelier vale among
flowers is the languor that flushes us,
O why did we fear him, for Death
Is a beautiful youth and his eyes are sleepy, the lids droop heavily
with wine when he wakens,
And his breast is more smooth than a dove's.
Fair Garda, gay water with olives engarlanded, lake of blue
laughter in a bay of the Alps
It is better for our spirits to be here
In the desolate hollows of darkness beholding the beauty of our
dancer than at rest on your hills
Of anemones and jonquils immingled.
And gay from the glacier womb, boy-throated for gladness to
shout where the snow-crags throng
Ran foaming the rivulet Rhone,
When the mountains were sprung for his passage, the ridges of
granite were splintered; and lovely the lake was
Under the vineyards of Vaud,
And at evening empurpling the peaks of the Chablais were
painted on the sleep and deep shadow of its waters
When the sundown was flame on la Dole.
But the best of the course is the last broad slumber, O river of
France to forget and go down
Slow-gliding and sultrily stagnant
Past Aries to the Gulf of the Lion and that azure and beautiful
grave in the waves of the south
That are warmest and best . . . and an end . . .
(The dancer has gone out.)

III. TO VICTORY
(A third dancer enters and dances.)
Use us again, you in the world only of goddesses worshipful
now or adored,
Helmeted victory!
How did we bow, even in dream, visions betraying us, unto some
other and base
Power when your splendor there
Struck on the gates? Use us again, awfully beautiful. Blood will
reblossom from death
Burning to minister
All its revived fire at your feet, only to merit an eye-glance, or
flash of your hand's
Gauntleted majesty.
Pounding of guns clear you a path, trample the ports of decision
and triumph on the slain.
Men when they fall in it
Gayly they die, scattering for flowers rosy and white at your
feet the red blood and pale brains
Carpeting battlefields.
Towering in steel, terribly armed, which of the daughters of
heaven is so hotly desired?
None has embraced you yet,
All of us burn, beautifully mad, frantic with lust of your beauty
and with thirst of your mouth's
Terrible maidenhood;
Holy and white, under the steel, hide the sweet limbs of our
longing desire in a deep
Sacred virginity.
Emperors and lords gave her in vain cities of gold and whole
nations of blood, for she took
Gifts, but rejected them.
Neither a king's bribe nor a bold armorer's hammer prevails to
unrivet the steel
Belt of her maidenhood,
Yet shall our prayer surely be heard. Goddess of glory revoke our
exemption of death,
Twice let us die for you.
Use us again, though but an hour: surely the prayer is as humble
as the gift would be great,
Helmeted Victory.
(The dancer goes out.)

 

The Stars Go Over The Lonely Ocean

Unhappy about some far off things
That are not my affair, wandering
Along the coast and up the lean ridges,
I saw in the evening
The stars go over the lonely ocean,
And a black-maned wild boar
Plowing with his snout on Mal Paso Mountain.

The old monster snuffled, "Here are sweet roots,
Fat grubs, slick beetles and sprouted acorns.
The best nation in Europe has fallen,
And that is Finland,
But the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
The old black-bristled boar,
Tearing the sod on Mal Paso Mountain.

"The world's in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
Said the old father of wild pigs,
Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.

"Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy
And the dogs that talk revolution,
Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies,"
Said the gamey black-maned boar
Tusking the turf on Mal Paso Mountain.

 

The Summit Redwood

Only stand high a long enough time your lightning
will come; that is what blunts the peaks of
redwoods;
But this old tower of life on the hilltop has taken
it more than twice a century, this knows in
every
Cell the salty and the burning taste, the shudder
and the voice.

The fire from heaven; it has
felt the earth's too
Roaring up hill in autumn, thorned oak-leaves tossing
their bright ruin to the bitter laurel-leaves,
and all
Its under-forest has died and died, and lives to be
burnt; the redwood has lived. Though the fire
entered,
It cored the trunk while the sapwood increased. The
trunk is a tower, the bole of the trunk is a
black cavern,
The mast of the trunk with its green boughs the
mountain stars are strained through
Is like the helmet-spike on the highest head of an
army; black on lit blue or hidden in cloud
It is like the hill's finger in heaven. And when the
cloud hides it, though in barren summer, the
boughs
Make their own rain.

Old Escobar had a cunning trick
when he stole beef. He and his grandsons
Would drive the cow up here to a starlight death and
hoist the carcass into the tree's hollow,
Then let them search his cabin he could smile for
pleasure, to think of his meat hanging secure
Exalted over the earth and the ocean, a theft like a
star, secret against the supreme sky.

 

The Trap

I am not well civilized, really alien here: trust me not.
I can understand the guns and the airplanes,
The other conveniences leave me cold.

'We must adjust our economics to the new abundance .
Of what? Toys: motors, music-boxes,
Paper, fine clothes, leisure, diversion.

I honestly believe (but really an alien here: trust me not)
Blind war, compared to this kind of life,
Has nobility, famine has dignity.

Be happy, adjust your economics to the new abundance;
One is neither saint nor devil, to wish
The intolerable nobler alternative.

 

The Treasure

Mountains, a moment's earth-waves rising and hollowing; the
earth too's an ephemerid; the stars-
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in their
summer, they spiral
Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives
long, the whole sky's
Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf
before birth, and the gulf
After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of
eternity is nothing too tiresome,
Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of
activity.
Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were prologue
and epilogue merely
To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called
life? I fancy
That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it; interjection,
a jump of the breath at that silence;
Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure
says 'Ah!' but the treasure's the essence;
Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he
gathers it, inexhaustible treasure.

 

The Truce And The Peace

(NOVEMBER, 1918)
Peace now for every fury has had her day,
Their natural make is moribund, they cease,
They carry the inward seeds of quick decay,
Build breakwaters for storm but build on peace.
The mountains' peace answers the peace of the stars,
Our petulances are cracked against their term.
God built our peace and plastered it with wars,
Those frescoes fade, flake off, peace remains firm.
In the beginning before light began
We lay or fluttered blind in burdened wombs,
And like that first so is the last of man,
When under death for husband the amorous tombs
Are covered and conceived; nine months go by
No midwife called, nine years no baby's cry.

II
Peace now, though purgatory fires were hot
They always had a heart something like ice
That coldly peered and wondered, suffering not
Nor pleased in any park, nor paradise
Of slightly swelling breasts and beautiful arms
And throat engorged with very carnal blood.
It coldly peered and wondered, 'Strong God your charms
Are glorious, I remember solitude.
Before youth towered we knew a time of truth
To have eyes was nearly rapture.' Peace now, for war
Will find the cave that childhood found and youth.
Ten million lives are stolen and not one star
Dulled; wars die out, life will die out, death cease,
Beauty lives always and the beauty of peace.

III
Peace to the world in time or in a year,
In the inner world I have touched the instant peace.
Man's soul's a flawless crystal coldly clear,
A cold white mansion that he yields in lease
To tenant dreams and tyrants from the brain
And riotous burnings of the lovelier flesh.
We pour strange wines and purples all in vain.
The crystal remains pure, the mansion fresh.
All the Asian bacchanals and those from Thrace
Lived there and left no wine-mark on the walls.
What were they doing in that more sacred place
All the Asian and the Thracian bacchanals?
Peace to the world to-morrow or in a year,
Peace in that mansion white, that crystal clear.

IV
Peace now poor earth. They fought for freedom's sake,
She was starving in a corner while they fought.
They knew not whom they stabbed by Onega Lake,
Whom lashed from Archangel, whom loved, whom sought.
How can she die, she is the blood unborn,
The energy in earth's arteries beating red,
The world will flame with her in some great morn,
The whole great world flame with her, and we be dead.
Here in the west it grows by dim degrees,
In the east flashed and will flame terror and light.
Peace now poor earth, peace to that holier peace
Deep in the soul held secret from all sight.
That crystal, the pure home, the holier peace,
Fires flaw not, scars the crudest cannot crease.

V
South of the Big Sur River up the hill
Three graves are marked thick weeds and grasses heap,
Under the forest there I have stood still
Hours, thinking it the sweetest place to sleep , . .
Strewing all-sufficient death with compliments
Sincere and unrequired, coveting peace . . .
Boards at the head not stones, the text's rude paints
Mossed, rain-rubbed . . . wasting hours of scanty lease
To admire their peace made perfect. From that height
But for the trees the whole valley might be seen,
But for the heavy dirt, the eye-pits no light
Enters, the heavy dirt, the grass growing green
Over the dirt, the molelike secretness,
The immense withdrawal, the dirt, the quiet, the peace.

VI
Women cried that morning, bells rocked with mirth,
We all were glad a long while afterward,
But still in dreary places of the earth
A hundred hardly fed shall labor hard
To clothe one belly and stuff it with soft meat,
Blood paid for peace but still those poor shall buy it,
This sweat of slaves is no good wine but yet
Sometimes it climbs to the brain. Be happy and quiet,
Be happy and live, be quiet or God might wake.
He sleeps in the mountain that is heart of man's heart,
He also in promontory fists, and make
Of stubborn-muscled limbs, he will not start
For a little thing ... his great hands grope, unclose,
Feel out for the main pillars . . . pull down the house . . .

VII
After all, after all we endured, who has grown wise?
We take our mortal momentary hour
With too much gesture, the derisive skies
Twinkle against our wrongs, our rights, our power.
Look up the night, starlight's a steadying draught
For nerves at angry tension. They have all meant well,
Our enemies and the knaves at whom we've laughed,
The liars, the clowns in office, the kings in hell,
fhey have all meant well in the main . . . some of them tried
The mountain road of tolerance . . . They have made war,
Conspired, oppressed, robbed, murdered, lied and lied,
Meant well, played the loud fool . . . and star by star
Winter Orion pursues the Pleiades
In pale and huge parade, silence and peace.

VIII
That ice within the soul, the admonisher
Of madness when we're wildest, the unwinking eye
That measures all things with indifferent stare,
Choosing far stars to check near objects by,
That quiet lake inside and underneath,
Strong, undisturbed by any angel of strife,
Being so tranquil seems the presence of death,
Being so central seems the essence of life.
Is it perhaps that death and life make truce
In neutral zone while their old feud beyond
Fires the towered cities? Surely for a strange use
He sphered that eye of flawless diamond.
It does not serve him but with line and rod
Measures him, how indeed should God serve God?

IX
It does not worship him, it will not serve.
And death and life within that Eye combine,
Within that only untorturable nerve
Of those that make a man, within that shrine
Which there is nothing ever can profane,
Where life and death are sister and brother and lovers,
The golden voice of Christ were heard in vain,
The holy spirit of God visibly hovers.
Small-breasted girls, lithe women heavy-haired,
Loves that once grew into our nerves and veins,
Yours Freedom was desire that deeper dared
To the citadel where mastery remains,
Yours to the spirit . . . discount the penny that is
Ungivable, this Eye, this God, this Peace.
All in a simple innocence I strove
To give myself away to any power,
Wasting on women's bodies wealth of love,
Worshipping every sunrise mountain tower;
Some failure mocked me still denying perfection,
Parts of me might be spended not the whole,
I sought of wine surrender and self-correction,
I failed, I could not give away my soul.
Again seeking to give myself I sought
Outward in vain through all things, out through God,
And tried all heights, all gulfs, all dreams, all thought.
I found this wisdom on the wonderful road,
The essential Me cannot be given away,
The single Eye, God cased in blood-shot clay.

XI
Peace to the world in time or in a year,
But always all our lives this peace was ours.
Peace is not hard to have, it lies more near
Than breathing to the breast. When brigand powers
Of anger or pain or the sick dream of sin
Break our soul's house outside the ruins we weep.
We look through the breached wall, why there within
All the red while our peace was lying asleep.
Smiling in dreams while the broad knives drank blood,
The robbers triumphed, the roof burned overhead,
The eternal living and untroubled God
Lying asleep upon a lily bed.
Men screamed, the bugles screamed, walls broke in the air,
We never knew till then that He was there.

 

The Wind-Struck Music

Ed Stiles and old Tom Birnam went up to their cattle on the
bare hills
Above Mai Paso; they'd ridden under the stars' white death,
when they reached the ridge the huge tiger-lily
Of a certain cloud-lapped astonishing autumn sunrise opened all
its petals. Ed Stiles pulled in his horse,
That flashy palamino he rode cream-color, heavy white mane,
white tail, his pride and said
'Look, Tom. My God. Ain't that a beautiful sunrise?' Birnam
drew down his mouth, set the hard old chin,
And whined: 'Now, Ed: listen here: I haven't an ounce of
poetry in all my body. It's cows we're after.'
Ed laughed and followed; they began to sort the heifers out of
the herd. One red little deer-legged creature
Rolled her wild eyes and ran away down the hill, the old man
hard after her. She ran through a deep-cut gully,
And Birnam's piebald would have made a clean jump but the clay lip
Crumbled under his take-off, he slipped and
Spilled in the pit,
flailed with four hooves and came out scrambling.
Stiles saw them vanish,
Then the pawing horse and the flapping stirrups. He rode and
looked down and saw the old man in the gulley-bottom
Flat on his back, most grimly gazing up at the sky. He saw the
earth banks, the sparse white grass,
The strong dark sea a thousand feet down below, red with reflections
of clouds. He said 'My God,
Tom, are you hurt?' Who answered slowly, 'No, Ed.
I'm only lying here thinking o' my four sons' biting the words
Carefully between his lips 'big handsome men, at present lolling
in bed in their . . . silk . . . pyjamas . . .
And why the devil I keep on working?' He stood up slowly and
wiped the dirt from his cheek, groaned, spat,
And climbed up the clay bank. Stiles laughed: 'Tom, I can't tell
you: I guess you like to. By God I guess
You like the sunrises.' The old man growled in his throat and said
'Catch me my horse.'

This old man died last winter, having
lived eighty-one years under open sky,
Concerned with cattle, horses and hunting, no thought nor emotion
that all his ancestors since the ice-age
Could not have comprehended. I call that a good life; narrow,
but vastly better than most
Men's lives, and beyond comparison more beautiful; the wind-struck
music man's bones were moulded to be the harp for.

 

Thebaid

How many turn back toward dreams and magic, how many
children
Run home to Mother Church, Father State,
To find in their arms the delicious warmth and folding of souls.
The age weakens and settles home toward old ways.
An age of renascent faith: Christ said, Marx wrote, Hitler says,
And though it seems absurd we believe.
Sad children, yes. It is lonely to be adult, you need a father.
With a little practice you'll believe anything.

Faith returns, beautiful, terrible, ridiculous,
And men are willing to die and kill for their faith.
Soon come the wars of religion; centuries have passed
Since the air so trembled with intense faith and hatred.
Soon, perhaps, whoever wants to live harmlessly
Must find a cave in the mountain or build a cell
Of the red desert rock under dry junipers,
And avoid men, live with more kindly wolves
And luckier ravens, waiting for the end of the age.

Hermit from stone cell
Gazing with great stunned eyes,
What extravagant miracle
Has amazed them with light,
What visions, what crazy glory, what wings?
I see the sun set and rise
And the beautiful desert sand
And the stars at night,
The incredible magnificence of things.
I the last living man
That sees the real earth and skies,
Actual life and real death.
The others are all prophets and believers
Delirious with fevers of faith.

 

Time Of Disturbance

The best is, in war or faction or ordinary vindictive
life, not to take sides.
Leave it for children, and the emotional rabble of the
streets, to back their horse or support a brawler.

But if you are forced into it: remember that good and
evil are as common as air, and like air shared
By the panting belligerents; the moral indignation that
hoarsens orators is mostly a fool.

Hold your nose and compromise; keep a cold mind. Fight,
if needs must; hate no one. Do as God does,
Or the tragic poets: they crush their man without hating
him, their Lear or Hitler, and often save without
love.

As for these quarrels, they are like the moon, recurrent
and fantastic. They have their beauty but night's
is better.
It is better to be silent than make a noise. It is better
to strike dead than strike often. It is better not
to strike.

 

To A Young Artist

It is good for strength not to be merciful
To its own weakness, good for the deep urn to run
over, good to explore
The peaks and the deeps, who can endure it,
Good to be hurt, who can be healed afterward: but
you that have whetted consciousness
Too bitter an edge, too keenly daring,
So that the color of a leaf can make you tremble
and your own thoughts like harriers
Tear the live mind: were your bones mountains,
Your blood rivers to endure it? and all that labor
of discipline labors to death.
Delight is exquisite, pain is more present;
You have sold the armor, you have bought shining
with burning, one should be stronger than
strength
To fight baresark in the stabbing field
In the rage of the stars: I tell you unconsciousness
is the treasure, the tower, the fortress;
Referred to that one may live anything;
The temple and the tower: poor dancer on the flints
and shards in the temple porches, turn home.

 

To His Father

Christ was your lord and captain all your life,
He fails the world but you he did not fail,
He led you through all forms of grief and strife
Intact, a man full-armed, he let prevail
Nor outward malice nor the worse-fanged snake
That coils in one's own brain against your calm,
That great rich jewel well guarded for his sake
With coronal age and death like quieting balm.
I Father having followed other guides
And oftener to my hurt no leader at all,
Through years nailed up like dripping panther hides
For trophies on a savage temple wall
Hardly anticipate that reverend stage
Of life, the snow-wreathed honor of extreme age.

 

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.

 

To The Rock That Will Be A Cornerstone Of The House

Old garden of grayish and ochre lichen,
How long a rime since the brown people who have vanished from
here
Built fires beside you and nestled by you
Out of the ranging sea-wind? A hundred years, two hundred,
You have been dissevered from humanity
And only known the stubble squirrels and the headland rabbits,
Or the long-fetlocked plowhorses
Breaking the hilltop in December, sea-gulls following,
Screaming in the black furrow; no one
Touched you with love, the gray hawk and the red hawk touched
you
Where now my hand lies. So I have brought you
Wine and white milk and honey for the hundred years of famine
And the hundred cold ages of sea-wind.

I did not dream the taste of wine could bind with granite,
Nor honey and milk please you; but sweetly
They mingle down the storm-worn cracks among the mosses,
Interpenetrating the silent
Wing-prints of ancient weathers long at peace, and the older
Scars of primal fire, and the stone
Endurance that is waiting millions of years to carry
A corner of the house, this also destined.
Lend me the stone strength of the past and I will lend you
The wings of the future, for I have them.
How dear you will be to me when I too grow old, old comrade.

 

To The Stone-Cutters

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

 

Tor House

If you should look for this place after a handful
of lifetimes:
Perhaps of my planted forest a few
May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the coast
cypress, haggard
With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils.
Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my fingers
had the art
To make stone love stone, you will find some remnant.
But if you should look in your idleness after ten
thousand years:
It is the granite knoll on the granite
And lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the mouth
of the Carmel
River-valley, these four will remain
In the change of names. You will know it by the wild
sea-fragrance of wind
Though the ocean may have climbed or retired a little;
You will know it by the valley inland that our sun
and our moon were born from
Before the poles changed; and Orion in December
Evenings was strung in the throat of the valley like
a lamp-lighted bridge.
Come in the morning you will see white gulls
Weaving a dance over blue water, the wane of the moon
Their dance-companion, a ghost walking
By daylight, but wider and whiter than any bird in
the world.
My ghost you needn't look for; it is probably
Here, but a dark one, deep in the granite, not
dancing on wind
With the mad wings and the day moon.

 

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.

. . Poems Jeffers Robinson
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