Descent to the Dead (1931)

Poems Written in Ireland and Great Britain (1929)

By 1929, the Jeffers family could afford to travel. This was not because Jeffers had earned much money from his famous poetry [laughs], but rather because his unprofitable success had attracted financial patronage.

In early summer, Robin, Una, and the twins set out on a six-month trip to the British Isles. The trip would produce a number of outstanding shorter poems, published under the apropos title Descent to the Dead, that would impart a significant influence on Irish verse, largely because of their treatment of Irish legend with unprecedented realism; however, these influential poems would not be published in a major collection for years to come.

Robinson Jeffers had to have been preoccupied with human mortality during the family trip to the old world. To describe his focus on the topic as a “crystalline interest” would be to understate the case. Though Jeffers did Irish literature a favor by departing from the nativist romanticism of Yeats in his dark view of old Ireland, yet it was a narrow view just the same. One can call it focus on a theme if one chooses, yet one can see that theme followed Jeffers home in the poem, The Bed By the Window, possibly inspired by thoughts of home while abroad. [1]

 

The Poems:

 


[1] See CP 5:85. Also see Selected Letters, page 156–58.

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