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

"And you, America, that passion made you. You were not born to prosperity, you were born to love freedom. You did not say "en masse," you said "independence." But we cannot have all the luxuries and freedom also."

"As for me, I would rather be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man. But we are what we are, and we might remember not to hate any person, for all are vicious; And not to be astonished at any evil, all are deserved; And not to fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed."

"Be great, carve deep your heel-marks. The states of the next age will no doubt remember you, and edge their love of freedom with contempt of luxury."

"Before the first man here were the stones, the ocean, the cypresses, and the pallid region in the stone-rough dome of fog where the moon falls on the west.. Here is reality. The other is a spectral episode; after the inquisitive animal's amusements are quiet: the dark glory."

"And life, the flicker of men and moths and the wolf on the hill, though furious for continuance, passionately feeding, passionately remaking itself upon its mates, remembers deep inward the calm mother, the quietness of the womb and the egg."

"And why do you cry, my dear, why do you cry? It is all in the whirling circles of time. If millions are born millions must die."

"And when the whole human race has been like me rubbed out, they will still be here: storms, moon and ocean, dawn and birds. And I say this: their beauty has more meaning than the whole human race."

"Come peace or war, the progress of America and Europe becomes a long process of deterioration?"

"Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self? At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings."

"Erase the lines: I pray you not to love classifications: the thing is like a river, from source to sea-mouth one flowing life. We that have the honor and hardship of being human are one flesh with the beasts, and the beasts with the plants... It is all truly one life, red blood and tree-sap, animal, mineral, sidereal, one stream, one organism, one God."

"Fling rainbows over the rain and beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows on the domes of deep sea-shells, and make the necessary embrace of breeding beautiful also as a fire not even the weeds to multiply without blossom nor the birds without music."

"For the first time in my life, I could see people living amid magnificent unspoiled scenery. When the stage coach topped the hill from Monterey and we looked down through pines and sea-fogs on Carmel Bay, it was evident that we had come, without knowing it, to our inevitable place."

"Forseen for so many years: these evils, this monstrous violence, these massive agonies: no easier to bear."

"Full of sentiment, clever at mechanics, and we love our luxuries."

"Happy people die whole, they are all dissolved in a moment,"

"He is no God of love, no justice of a little city like Dante's Florence, no anthropoid God."

"Come little ones, you are worth no more than the foxes and yellow wolfkins, yet I will give you wisdom. O future children: trouble is coming; the world as of the present time sails on its rocks; but you will be born and live afterwards. Also a day will come when the earth will scratch herself and smile and rub off humanity: but you will be born before that. Time will come, no doubt, when the sun too shall die; the planets will freeze, and the air on them; frozen gases, white flasks of air will be dust: which no wind ever will stir: this very dust in dim starlight glistening is dead wind, the white corpse of wind. Also the galaxy will die; the glitter of the Milky Way, our universe, all the stars that have names are dead. Vast is the night. How you have grown, dear night, walking your empty halls, how tall!"

"He is out of the trap then. He will remain part of the music, but will hear it as the player hears it. He will be superior to death and fortune, unmoved by success or failure. Pity can make him weep still, or pain convulse him, but not to the center, and he can conquer them."

"He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse."

"Headland beyond stormy headland plunging like dolphins through the gray sea-smoke into pale sea, look west at the hill of water: it is half the planet: this dome, this half-globe, this bulging eyeball of water."

"Here is the poem, dearest: you will never read it nor hear it. You were more beautiful than a hawk flying; you were faithful and a lion heart like this rough hero Hungerfield. But the ashes have fallen and the flame has gone up; nothing human remains. You are earth and air; you are in the beauty of the ocean and the great streaming triumphs of sundown; you are alive and well in the tender young grass rejoicing when soft rain falls all night, and little rosy-fleeced clouds float on the dawn. I shall be with you presently."

"I decided not to tell lies in verse. Not to feign any emotions that I did not feel."

"I have heard the summer dust crying to be born."

"I learned that ruling poor men's hands is nothing. Ruling men's money's a wedge in the world. But after I'd split it open a crack I looked in and saw the trick inside it, the filthy nothing, the fooled and rotten faces of rich and successful men."

"I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots"

"I tell you solemnly that I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak and become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes? what a sublime end of one's body, what an enskyment; what a life after death."

"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 is to us. I think that one may contribute to the beauty of things by making one?s own life and environment beautiful, so 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."

"Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke into pale sea ? look west at the hill of water: it is half the planet: this dome, this half-globe, this bulging eyeball of water, arched over to Asia, Australia and white Antarctica: those are the eyelids that never close; this is the staring unsleeping eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars."

"I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed, owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising before it was quite unsheathed from reality."

"Here is a symbol in which many high tragic thoughts watch their own eyes."

"How shall the dead taste the deep treasure they have?"

"Here is your emblem to hang in the future sky. Not the cross, not the hive, bt 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."

"I was continually writing verses in those days. Nobody, not even I myself, thought they were good verses; but Aurora's editor accepted many of them and it gave me pleasure to see my rhymes in print. They did rhyme, if that is any value, and were usually metrical, but why was I so eager to publish what hardly anyone would read and no one would remember? I suppose the desire for publication is a normal part of the instinct for writing... the writer sits at home, and the mere fact of being printed provides his verses with a kind of audience... So, having his vanity partially satisfied, he can go ahead and try better work."

"If civilization goes down, that would be an event to contemplate. It will not be in our time, alas, my dear, it will not be in our time."

"insufferable master. There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught ? they say God, when he walked on earth."

"It would be better for men to be few and live far apart, where none could infect another; then slowly the sanity of field and mountain and the cold ocean and glittering stars might enter their minds."

"If you should look for this place after a handful of lifetimes: perhaps of my planted forest a few may stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the coast cypress, haggard with storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils. Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my fingers had the art to make stone love stone, you will find some remnant. But if you should look in your idleness after ten thousand years: it is the granite knoll on the granite and lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the mouth of the Carmel River Valley; these four will remain in the changes of names. You will know it by the wild sea-fragrance of the wind."

"I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk."

"It seems to me that the whole human race spends too much emotion on itself. The happiest and freest man is the scientist investigating nature, or the artist admiring it; the person who is interested in things that are not human. Or if he is interested in human things, let him regard them objectively, as a small part of the great music. Certainly humanity has claims on all of us; we can best fulfill them by keeping our emotional sanity; and this by seeing beyond and around the human race."

"It is only a little planet but how beautiful it is."

"Is it hard for men to stand by themselves. They must hang on Marx or Christ, or mere Progress? Clearly it is hard. When these lonely have traveled through long thoughts to redeeming despair they are tired and cover their eyes. They flock into fold."

"I've changed my ways a little, I cannot now run with you in the evenings along the shore, except in a kind of dream, and you, if you dream a moment, you see me there."

"Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan."

"Know that however ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful."

"Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy and the dogs that talk revolution, drunk with talk, liars and believers. I believe in my tusks. Long live freedom and damn the ideologies."

"Life is grown sweeter and lonelier, and death is no evil."

"Man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun die blind and blacken to the heart: yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found the honey of peace in old poems."

"Lucretius sings his great theory of natural origins and of wise conduct; Plato smiling carves dreams, bright cells of incorruptible wax to hive the Greek honey."

"Making commandments: this is the God who does not care and will never cease. Look at the seas there flashing against this rock in the darkness ? look at the tide-stream stars ? and the fall of nations ? and dawn wandering with wet white feet down the Carmel Valley to meet the sea. These are real and we see their beauty. The great explosion is probably only a metaphor ? I know not ? of faceless violence, the root of all things."

"Man, introverted man, having crossed in passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter century has begot giants; but being taken up like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts cannot manage his hybrids. Being used to deal with edgeless dreams, now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward: they have thirsty points though. His mind forebodes his own destruction."