Continent's End

In the short poem Continent’s End, Jeffers begins with a celebration of the Pacific Ocean and the world-sea, identifying the Pacific as the womb of life, but then probes deep within himself to find something “harder than life and more impartial, the eye that watched before there was an ocean.” It is not that Jeffers claims—as a man—to have something too profound for the sea to possess (such as consciousness); rather, he closes, “both our tones flow from the older fountain.” Jeffers recognizes that we are in one sense children of the sea, yet he sees that we are also siblings of the sea.

The tone of this poem is rugged. It combines the power of the sea with the “insolent quietness of stone,” giving it a majestic quality that would characterize Jeffers’ poetry in the years to come. The regular flow of it contributes to a mood of cosmic flux. It flows, yet it stops at regular intervals. Perhaps this is intended to represent a surf pattern. Jeffers observes that his “song’s measure is like” the sea’s “ancient rhythm.” The line length is consistent. Every second line ends in a full stop, and there are no mid-line stops. This was the form of an even more well-received poem that Jeffers did not publish until later, Shine, Perishing Republic, and quite similar to the form of a contemporary surf-lyric, Point Joe. Though this form was for Jeffers a new development circa 1922, yet Jeffers would soon move on to a less regular “measure.” Jeffers’ pre-1923 poems did not exhibit the fluctuating rhythm that Tamar would introduce, yet the rhythm, language, and tone of Continent’s End renders it distinctly Jeffers.

The phrase “you have grown bitter” makes it seem as though the ocean is annoyed by human hubris. I think this makes man too central and too important. This is a flaw that I have a hard time overlooking, and a flaw that would revisit Jeffers's work throughout his career.

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Continent's End has been posted online by the Robinson Jeffers Association.

Continent's End is included in the following anthologies:

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