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Friday, March 18, 2005

Be Angry at the Sun - Robinson Jeffers vs Bush

Beginning should not a problem. Yet beginning is a problem. The ego thing.

I know. Here’s a poem sent to me by my friend Ralph in Squaw Valley, with whom I took a RIB (rigid hulled inflatable boat) down the California coast in November. It was two days after the election. We were in beautiful, rare surroundings in perfect weather. Off Pt. Lobos I mentioned Robinson Jeffers, or maybe Ralph did. Anyway, he recited one of Jeffers’ poems, his head poking out of the boat’s sunroof, as we watched fog and kelp beds and ocean swells blend and heave.

Be Angry At The Sun

Robinson Jeffers

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. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

A bleak vision which pretty much summed our mood up. Nuff said.

It did bring back memories of haunting the Special Collections of the library at UC Santa Cruz as a junior, back in 1972-3, reading Brother Antoninus’ (William Everson) unpublished thesis on Jeffers.

I was looking into the sources of the California literary myth for a paper in a class taught by Jim Houston. I also had taken Everson’s Birth of a Poet class in an enormous teepee, snickering, as we all did, at this 67-yr-old in buckskin bearclas lavaliere mic his fourth wife too sexy for me! How Santa Cruz. But the old guy pulled it off, day after day. Brave and embarrassing—like a blogger.

Jeffers read like a cross between a mountain man and a classical Greek. The long narrative forms he liked, novels in stanzas, feels dated, the scenes are sometimes way over the top, or just obvious, but boy, is there some strong stuff—Tamar, condors and grizzlies, harsh violent images and sometimes spare, sometimes thundering language.

Out of fashion, until you read something like Be Angry at the Sun. Like Yeats, you toss out the drivel and mysticism and save the pure hard nuggets.

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