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Gray Weather

The subjective influence of a gray day utterly changes the reality of the mind. Jeffers describes this not by describing the experience as subjective, but by describing the influence of the weather as objective fact.

@ 1935 Robinson Jeffers
Jeffers Literary Properties
Stanford University Press
Reading © 2017 Kaweah

Image: Honeyhouse Films

Night

@ 1925 Robinson Jeffers
Jeffers Literary Properties
Stanford University Press
Reading © 2017 Kaweah

Desire as Will

The fire that consumes Tamar’s world is more than a sacrificial fire offered up to “magic horror away.” It is a fire of primal yearning. When Tamar says, “I have my desire,” that narcissistic lust is what aches to set her family’s house ablaze, and correspondingly, in Apology for Bad Dreams, it is a fire—represented by the flammability of the California coast—that ignites Jeffers’ world over and over again. The poem returns to the notion of return, and then it returns again (SP 143–4):

… Beautiful country burn again, …

Jeffers in an Existential Nutshell

One of Jeffers' most characteristic passages occurs in his narrative "Mara" (CP 3:45):

... He smelled the wet delight of the dawn-wind
Dropping down the deep canyon to the dark sea, and saw the
       pearl-tender rose-flood
Lining high distant ridges, while still deep night
Slept in the canyon-trough, a thousand feet down
Under the shoulder of his horse; he felt a fountain of hysterical sadness
Flow up behind his breast-bone through the net of nerves:
      "This is so beautiful:
We are so damned. ..."

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, …”

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).

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