Thinking about Robinson Jeffers Again

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I’ve been thinking of Robinson Jeffers.  Recently, I came across a short documentary of his writing and family life in Carmel, CA.  He made recordings of several of his poems which are available, such as “Night,”  “The Day is a Poem,” “Wise Men in their Bad Hours,” “Hurt Hawks,” “Night Without Sleep,” “The Place with No Story,” and “Oh Lovely Rock.” Here is one of my favorite poems:

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.

The simple grandeur of this poem.  The poet’s appreciation of the cycle of life and death, the wheeling wings representing the endangered California vulture, the vehemence of nature, and the symbolism of God’s beautiful violence.  This poem reveals the brutal sublimity of mortal life…and the ethereal remains of having lived.

 

 

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