BixbyBridgeBWBanner CypressBanner DuskFromDevilsPeakBanner PicoBlancoBanner VentanaFlatBanner

Advice to Pilgrims

In 1944, Jeffers’ Cassandra proclaimed “religion, vendors, and political men” the greatest of liars, though he noted that poets are hardly bastions of honesty. Advice to Pilgrims, apparently written before Cassandra, briefly addresses the machinery of dishonesty. It could hardly be more concise. Jeffers begins by admitting that the senses and the mind both deceive us, yet he maintains that we may “trust them a little; the senses more than the mind, …” Regarding the mind, he assesses intuition as capable of extremes of honesty and dishonesty.

In the Hill at New Grange

In the Hill at New Grange is the longest of the poems in Descent to the Dead. It looks as though Jeffers might have conceived it as a narrative project at some point, though it takes the form of a conversation.

In the Hill at New Grange has been included in Robert Hass’ anthology Rock and Hawk (1987) and also Tim Hunt’s Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (2001).

The Giant's Ring

The Giant’s Ring grapples deeply with the various delusions of immortality, declaring that the secular immortalities of name and achievement are just as vacuous as the old spiritualist immortality of soul.

… Homer and Shakespeare are names,
Not of men but verses, …[1]

The Giant’s Ring was included in Robert Hass’ anthology Rock and Hawk.

Antrim

Antrim is perhaps the most fitting example of how Robinson Jeffers’ view of old Ireland differed from that of William Butler Yeats. This poet sees no romance in any side. For him, green and orange are butchers equally, and fit well into Jeffers’ view of mankind. The poem closes powerfully:

The Low Sky

The Low Sky is an odd little lyric of four somber triplets, with all but the first ending in dark vowels: tomb, tomb, ground. Though simple, it is an effective tone-setter, reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe. But this is more than music. The stifling yet pacifying “low-lidded soft sky” is a compelling image, whether haunting or calming.

The mind dissolves without a sound,
The flesh drops into the ground.[1]

Cawdor

Cawdor is a 20th Century California retelling of a Greek classic, which gives it critical gravitas, to be sure. On the other hand, Cawdor seems conceptually modest, perhaps a result of the poor critical reception of the megalomaniacal Women at Point Sur. This conservative turn may be meritorious in that it shows Jeffers turning to the art of storytelling in lieu of more grandiose prophetic or philosophical ambitions.

Dear Judas

Dear Judas was a controversial flop, but this was to be expected inasmuch as it depicted Jesus as an aspiring savior who ultimately succumbed to a megalomaniacal God complex, his love for mankind a sort of lust for possession beyond the reach of mere power mongering. Clearly, the subject of Jesus gave Jeffers a stage on which he could put love on trial. Meanwhile, the poem saw Judas as the most devout of Christians.

The Broken Balance

This poem is a rewriting of The Trumpet (January 1928). Much of the first, second, and final sections of The Broken Balance were taken directly from The Trumpet, though some of those three sections feature significant changes. It may be an improvement on the previous poem, or it may not. In either case it is not the same poem.

The more significant changes to the retained sections are as follows.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer