John Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Most of Jeffers' poetry was written in classic narrative and epic form, but today he is also known for his short verse, and considered an icon of the environmental movement.
Jeffers was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), the son of a Presbyterian minister and biblical scholar, Reverend Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers, and Annie Robinson Tuttle. His brother was Hamilton Jeffers, who became a well-known astronomer, working at Lick Observatory. His family was supportive of his interest in poetry. He traveled through Europe during his youth and ... more »
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Robinson Jeffers Poems
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
I The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder, The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
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
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;
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,
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
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,
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--
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.
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
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
Rock And Hawk
Here is a symbol in which Many high tragic thoughts Watch their own eyes.
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.
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.
Quotationsmore quotations »
''civilization is a transient sickness.''Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), U.S. poet. New Mexican Mountain (l. 12). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Cl...
''How shall the dead taste the deep treasure they have?''Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), U.S. poet. Promise of Peace (l. 14). . . Modern American Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (8th rev. ed., 1962) Harcourt...
''The love of freedom has been the quality of Western man.''Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), U.S. poet. Shine, Republic (l. 2). . . Faber Book of Political Verse, The. Tom Paulin, ed. (1986) Faber and Faber; F...
''He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.''Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), U.S. poet. Hurt Hawks (l. 9). . . Oxford Book of American Verse, The. F. O. Matthiessen, ed. (1950) Oxford Universit...
''This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.''Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), U.S. poet. Love the Wild Swan (l. 9). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair...
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
I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-
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
These old bones will still work; ...