Nature Blog Network

Friday, January 18, 2008


It should come as no surprise that a musician loves poetry. Songs are but poems set to rhythm with an audio accompaniment. One of my secrets is that I engage in poetry often, though I never reveal my verses, unless in a song. John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts asks his readers what poems they like and remember. He offers us To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell. Coincidently, Emmett Duffy at the Natural Patriot started blogging Friday Poetry. He brings us a chinese poet, Wang Wei, and an excerpt from the poem Song of Peach Tree Spring. And, of course, there is the Digital Cuttlefish.

I could bring you some invertebrate poetry (though my offering does contain invert references), but I would like to highlight one poet whose verses send a tingling down my spines, whose words evoke a visual landscape in my mind. Robinson Jeffers was a man in love with the natural world. I learned of him while taking a humanities course at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, CA, near Jeffers home in the idyllic village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. If any of my readers are living in or planning a visit to the Monterey area, I VERY HIGHLY STRONGLY suggest you visit Tor House (painting to the left from the linked website). Jeffers home that is now a museum to his legacy. He was a very interesting guy. Quit medical school to study forestry, visited the then undeveloped Carmel Point and Big Sur coastline, settled in his wife to make it their home and wrote plays and poetry the rest of his days - generally enjoying life with an ease hard to come by these days for most of us. Many of the trees there were planted by Jeffers. He apprenticed himself to a contractor to learn how to build his house, which is absolutely beautiful - modeled after a tudor barn. He also built Hawk Tower for his wife to retreat to and as special place for his children with a view over the California cliffs of the Pacific. Below is example of the visual landscape Jeffers offers us. When reading, I suggest you close your eyes at the end of each stanza and reflect on the verses, as I often do...

Continent's End by Robinson Jeffers

At the equinox when the earth was veiled in a late rain,
wreathed with wet poppies, waiting spring,
The ocean swelled for a far storm and beat its boundary,
the ground-swell shook the beds of granite.

I gazing at the boundaries of granite and spray, the
established sea-marks, felt behind me
Mountain and plain, the immense breadth of the continent,
before me the mass and doubled stretch of water.

I said: You yoke the Aleutian seal-rocks with the lava
and coral sowings that flower the south,
Over your flood the life that sought the sunrise faces
ours that has followed the evening star.

The long migrations meet across you and it is nothing
to you, you have forgotten us, mother.
You were much younger when we crawled out of the womb
and lay in the sun's eye on the tideline.

It was long and long ago; we have grown proud since then
and you have grown bitter; life retains
Your mobile soft unquiet strength; and envies hardness,
the insolent quietness of stone.

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.

That watched you fill your beds out of the condensation
of thin vapor and watched you change them,
That saw you soft and violent wear your boundaries down,
eat rock, shift places with the continents.

Mother, though my song's measure is like your surf-beat's
ancient rhythm I never learned it of you.
Before there was any water there were tides of fire, both
our tones flow from the older fountain.

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