Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Robinson Jeffers, fully John Robinson Jeffers

American Poet, Dramatist and Icon of the Environmental Movement

"Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts... It is a beautiful work of nature, like an eagle or a high sunrise."

"We must uncenter our minds from ourselves; We must unhmanize our views a little, and become confident As the rock and ocean that we were made from."

"What is this thing called life? I believe that the earth and the stars too, and the whole glittering universe, and rocks on the mountains have life, only we do not call it so--I speak of the life... makes pleasure and pain, wonder, love, adoration, hatred and terror: how do these things grow from a chemical reaction? I think they were here already, I think the rocks and the earth and the other planets, and the stars and the galaxies have their various consciousness, all things are conscious; but the nerves of an animal, the nerves and brain bring it to focus; the nerves and brain are like a burning-glass to concentrate the heat and make it catch fire...but those and all things have their own awareness, as the cells of a man have; they feel and feed and influence each other, each unto all, like the cells of a man's body making one being, they make one being, one consciousness, one life, one God."

"Nature knows that people are a tide that swells and in time will ebb, and all their works dissolve ... As for us: We must uncenter our minds from ourselves. We must unhumanize our views a little and become confident as the rock and ocean that we are made from."

"The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars, life is your child, but there is in me older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye that watched before there was an ocean."

"Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken."

"To feel greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural Beauty, is the sole business of poetry. The rest's diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,the love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason."

"Cruelty is a part of nature, at least of human nature, but it is the one thing that seems unnatural to us."

"O that our souls could scale a height like this, a mighty mountain swept o'er by the bleak keen winds of heaven; and, standing on that peak above the blinding clouds of prejudice, would we could see all truly as it is; the calm eternal truth would keep us meek."

"I believe that the Universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole. (This is physics, I believe, as well as religion.) The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars, none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole. This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love and there is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation, in turning one's affections outward toward this one God, rather than inwards on one's self, or on humanity, or on human imaginations and abstractions — the world of spirits."

"I think it is our privilege and felicity to love God for his beauty, without claiming or expecting love from him. We are not important to him, but he to us."

"I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one's own life and environment beautiful, as far as one's power reaches.This includes moral beauty, one of the qualities of humanity, though it seems not to appear elsewhere in the universe. But I would have each person realize that his contribution is not important, its success not really a matter for exultation nor its failure for mourning; the beauty of things is sufficient without him."

"Then what is the answer? — Not to be deluded by dreams. To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence, and their tyrants come, many times before. When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose the least ugly faction; these evils are essential. To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not wish for evil; and not be duped by dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will not be fulfilled."

"Know that however ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history... for contemplation or in fact... Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions,or drown in despair when his days darken."

"I think, here is your emblem to hang in the future sky; not the cross, not the hive, but this; bright power, dark peace;Fierce consciousness joined with final disinterestedness; Life with calm death; the falcon’s realist eyes and act married to the massive mysticism of stone, which failure cannot cast down nor success make proud."

"The gang serves lies, the passionate man plays his part; the cold passion for truth hunts in no pack."

"Science and mathematics run parallel to reality, they symbolize it, they squint at it, they never touch it: consider what an explosion would rock the bones of men into little white fragments and unsky the world if any mind for a moment touch truth."

"The strong lean upon death as on a rock."

"As for me, I would rather be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man."

"Before there was any water there were tides of fire, both our tones flow from the older fountain."

"Civilization is a transient sickness."

"Dear God, who are the whole splendor of things and the sacred stars, but also the cruelty and greed, the treacheries and vileness, insanities and filth and anguish: now that this thing comes near us again I am finding it hard To praise you with a whole heart."

"Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan."

"Humanity is the start of the race; I say Humanity is the mould to break away from, the crust to break through, the coal to break into fire, the atom to be split."

"Corruption never has been compulsory; when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains."

"God is a lion that comes in the night. God is a hawk gliding among the stars--If all the stars and the earth, and the living flesh of the night that flows in between them, and whatever is beyond them Were that one bird. He has a bloody beak and harsh talons, he pounces and tears."

"I have seen these ways of God: I know of no reason For fire and change and torture and the old returnings."

"Happy people die whole, they are all dissolved in a moment, they have had what they wanted."

"I hate my verses, every line, every word. Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky. Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch One color, one glinting flash, of the splendor of things."

"Pleasure is the carrot dangled to lead the ass to market or the precipice."

"I will have shepherds for my philosophers, Tall dreary men lying on the hills all night Watching the stars, let their dogs watch the sheep. And I'll have lunatics For my poets, strolling from farm to farm, wild liars distorting The country news into supernaturalism "

"Justice and mercy are human dreams, they do not concern the birds nor the fish nor eternal God."

"If millions are born millions must die."

"Life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains."

"Oh heavy change. The world deteriorates like a rotting apple, worms and a skin."

"The heads of strong old age are beautiful beyond all grace of youth."

"The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack."

"The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those that ask mercy, not often to the arrogant."

"That public men publish falsehoods Is nothing new. That America must accept Like the historical republics corruption and empire Has been known for years. Be angry at the sun for setting If these things anger you."

"The world's in a bad way, my man, And bound to be worse before it mends; Better lie up in the mountain here Four or five centuries, While the stars go over the lonely ocean."

"We have to live like people in a web of knives, we mustn't reach out our hands or we get them gashed."

"We might remember ... not to fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed."

"Well: the day is a poem but too much like one of Jeffers's, crusted with blood and barbaric omens Painful to excess, inhuman as a hawk's cry."

"You making haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic."

"While this America settles in the mold of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire, I And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens, I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth."

"A little too abstract, a little too wise, it is time for us to kiss the earth again, it is time to let the leaves rain from the skies, let the rich life run to the roots again."

"A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic."

"Against the outcrop boulders of a raised beach we built our house when I and my love were young."

"All the arts lose virtue against the essential reality of creatures going about their business among the equally earnest elements of nature."

"And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master. There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught?they say?God, when he walked on earth."