Vox Populi

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Robinson Jeffers: 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.

Public Domain

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Much of Jeffers’ 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. [source: Wikipedia]

Robinson Jeffers (Photo: Edward Weston)

6 comments on “Robinson Jeffers: The Treasure

  1. Robbi Nester
    February 24, 2023

    Wonderful piece.


    • Vox Populi
      February 24, 2023

      Thanks, Robbi. I love Jeffers for his vision and originality.


  2. Sean Sexton
    February 24, 2023

    So great this poem!
    How I love when grass arises in poetic discourse. I cannot explain why I’ve read and heard so little of R.J. As Its always gratifying to do so. So many poets, sometimes the essential gets left out. He is great!


    • Vox Populi
      February 24, 2023

      Thanks, Sean. Yes, RJ was popular and highly regarded in the 1930s, representing a new vision of America, but he fell out of favor with the public during WWII when he declared his pacifism. His reputation has never been re-established. A pity.



      • Sexton Sean
        February 24, 2023

        Would you say William Stafford escaped the condemnation he suffered? Have you read WS’s “Down In My Heart?” It was my wakening to the status of the CO…

        Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS


        • Vox Populi
          February 24, 2023

          I have not read Stafford’s CO, but I knew him slightly and loved his poetry, and he was, without a doubt, the most wise and gentle man I’ve ever known.

          His work didn’t become widely recognized until the 1960s when being a pacifist was acceptable, so he did not suffer the fall from popular acclaim that RJ did.




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This entry was posted on February 24, 2023 by in Environmentalism, Opinion Leaders, Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , .

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