The corruptions of war and peace, the public and wholesale crimes that
make war, the greed and lies of the peace
And victor's vengeance: how at a distance
They soften into romance — blue mountains and blossomed marshes in the
long landscape of history — Calligula
Becomes an amusing clown, and Genghiz
A mere genius, a great author of tragedies. Our own time’s chiefs of
massacre — Stalin died yesterday —
Watch how soon blood will bleach, and gross horror
Become words in a book.
We have little animals here, slow-stepping
cousins of stoat and weasel,
Striped skunks, that can spit from under their tails
An odor so vile and stifling that neither wolf nor wild-cat dares to come
near them; they walk in confidence,
Solely armed with this loathsome poison gas.
But smelled far off — have you noticed? — it is surprisingly pleasant. It is like
the breath of ferns and wet earth
Deep in a wooded glen in the evening,
Cool water glides quietly over the moss-grown stones, quick trout dimple
the pool. — Distance makes clean.
This poem is included in the following anthologies:
Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems, Vintage Books, 1965.