Robinson Jeffers

Here you will find the Long Poem De Rerum Virtute of poet Robinson Jeffers

De Rerum Virtute


Here is the skull of a man: a man?s thoughts and emotions 
Have moved under the thin bone vault like clouds 
Under the blue one: love and desire and pain, 
Thunderclouds of wrath and white gales of fear 
Have hung inside here: and sometimes the curious desire of knowing 
Values and purpose and the causes of things 
Has coasted like a little observer air-plane over the images 
That filled this mind: it never discovered much, 
And now all?s empty, a bone bubble, a blown-out eggshell. 


That?s what it?s like: for the egg too has a mind, 
Doing what our able chemists will never do, 
Building the body of a hatchling, choosing among the proteins: 
These for the young wing-muscles, these for the great 
Crystalline eyes, these for the flighty nerves and brain: 
Choosing and forming: a limited but superhuman intelligence, 
Prophetic of the future and aware of the past: 
The hawk?s egg will make a hawk, and the serpent?s 
A gliding serpent: but each with a little difference 
From its ancestors?and slowly, if it works, the race 
Forms a new race: that also is a part of the plan 
Within the egg. I believe the first living cell 
Had echoes of the future in it, and felt 
Direction and the great animals, the deep green forest 
And whale?s-track sea; I believe this globed earth 
Not all by chance and fortune brings forth her broods, 
But feels and chooses. And the Galaxy, the firewheel 
On which we are pinned, the whirlwind of stars in which our sun is one dust-grain, one electron, this giant atom of the universe 
Is not blind force, but fulfils its life and intends its courses. ?All things are full of God. 
Winter and summer, day and night, war and peace are God.? 


Thus the thing stands; the labor and the games go on? 
What for? What for? ?Am I a God that I should know? 
Men live in peace and happiness; men live in horror 
And die howling. Do you think the blithe sun 
Is ignorant that black waste and beggarly blindness trail him like hounds, 
And will have him at last? He will be strangled 
Among his dead satellites, remembering magnificence. 


I stand on the cliff at Sovranes creek-mouth. 
Westward beyond the raging water and the bent shoulder of the world 
The bitter futile war in Korea proceeds, like an idiot 
Prophesying. It is too hot in mind 
For anyone, except God perhaps, to see beauty in it. Indeed it is hard to see beauty 
In any of the acts of man: but that means the acts of a sick microbe 
On a satellite of a dust-grain twirled in a whirlwind 
In the world of stars .... 
Something perhaps may come of him; in any event 
He can?t last long. ?Well: I am short of patience 
Since my wife died ... and this era of spite and hate-filled half-worlds 
Gets to the bone. I believe that man too is beautiful, 
But it is hard to see, and wrapped up in falsehoods. Michael Angelo and the Greek sculptors? 
How they flattered the race! Homer and Shakespeare? 
How they flattered the race! 


One light is left us: the beauty of things, not men; 
The immense beauty of the world, not the human world. 
Look?and without imagination, desire nor dream?directly 
At the mountains and sea. Are they not beautiful? 
These plunging promontories and flame-shaped peaks 
Stopping the sombre stupendous glory, the storm-fed ocean? Look at the Lobos Rocks off the shore, 
With foam flying at their flanks, and the long sea-lions 
Couching on them. Look at the gulls on the cliff wind, 
And the soaring hawk under the cloud-stream? 
But in the sage-brush desert, all one sun-stricken 
Color of dust, or in the reeking tropical rain-forest, 
Or in the intolerant north and high thrones of ice?is the earth not beautiful? 
Nor the great skies over the earth? 
The beauty of things means virtue and value in them. 
It is in the beholder?s eye, not the world? Certainly. 
It is the human mind?s translation of the transhuman 
Intrinsic glory. It means that the world is sound, 
Whatever the sick microbe does. But he too is part of it.