Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Robinson Jeffers: Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity,       
heavily thickening to empire and protest, 
only a bubble in the molten mass 
pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens; 
  
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make
      fruit;
the fruit rots to make earth, 
out of the mother, and through the spring exultances, 
ripeness and decadence, and home to the mother. 
  
You making haste, haste on decay; not blameworthy;  
life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly a mortal
      splendor; 
meteors are not needed less than mountains; 
shine, perishing republic. 
  
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance 
from the thickening center; corruption 
never has been compulsory, when the cities lie 
at the monster's feet there are left the mountains. 
  
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man,
a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is a trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught—    
they say — God, when he walked the earth.

John Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962) was an American poet known for his work about the central California coast. Much of Jeffers’s poetry was written in narrative and epic form. However, he is also known for his shorter verse and is considered an icon of the environmental movement. Influential and highly regarded in some circles, despite or because of his philosophy of “inhumanism”, Jeffers believed that transcending conflict required human concerns to be de-emphasized in favor of the boundless whole. This led him to oppose U.S. participation in World War II, a stance that was controversial after the U.S. entered the war.

Public Domain. The poem was first published in 1925 in the collection Roan Stallion, Tamar, and Other Poems.

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