Great Poetry Circle

Great Poetry Circle

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Jeffers' poem

Great PoetryPosted by Graham Thompson Wed, December 03, 2014 11:13:40

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.

Robinson Jeffers (10 January 1887 – 20 January 1962)

Notes on his life:

He was an American poet known for his work about the nature and landscape of the central Californian coast. He wrote all kinds of poetry, narrative and even epic form, but is also known for his short verse, and was considered an icon of the environmental movement. Once influential and highly regarded, Jeffers thought tried to transcend conflict, and reduce the importance of our petty human concerns, instead placing them within a much larger natural wholeness. This led him to oppose US participation in WW2, and this, of course, destroyed his reputation.

Jeffers was born in the steel town of Allegheny, Pittsburgh, the son of a Presbyterian minister and biblical scholar, Reverend Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers. His family was supportive of his interest in poetry. He traveled through Europe during his youth and attended school in Switzerland. He was a child prodigy, interested in Greek and Latin language and literature. At sixteen he entered Occidental College, a famous elite academy at Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, which was originally founded by Presbyterians and produced many Rhodes Scholars. At school, he was an avid outdoorsman, and active in the school's literary society.

After he graduated from Occidental, Jeffers went to the University of Southern California to study at first literature, and then medicine. He met Una Call Kuster in 1906; she was three years older than he was, a graduate student, and the wife of a Los Angeles attorney. In 1910 he enrolled as a forestry student at the University of Washington in Seattle, a course of study that he abandoned after less than one year, at which time he returned to Los Angeles. He and Una, who was still married, had begun an affair that became a scandal, reaching the front page of the Los Angeles Times in 1912. After Una spent some time in Europe to quiet things down, the two were married in 1913, and moved to Carmel, California, where Jeffers constructed Tor House and Hawk Tower. The building of these edifices on a wild rocky precipice took him most of his life, and building work appeared often as a subject in his poems. They were still not complete at his death in 1961, 11 years after the death of his wife Una from cancer. His poetry is mostly forgotten today, probably because of his pacifist stance and his decision to live outside of society.