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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.

Metric of Stone

The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. (Habakkuk 2:11)

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)

Wish List: Selected Narratives

I've been thinking for a while about ideal anthologies. Sometimes it seems that mixing long and short poems tends to make an anthology hard to browse, and the reader can have difficulty setting a pace. One solution is to divide an anthology into separate volumes of long and short poems. Here's one possible listing of longer poems, adding up to about 514 pages of verse (using Tim Hunt's page layout).

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