Sunday, November 13, 2016

Shine, Perishing Republic


While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily
      thickening to empire,
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.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness
        and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste 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.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance
      from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's
        feet there are left the mountains.

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.

--Robinson Jeffers

This unusually great poem was in my mother's handbook of modern verse, circa 1924.
She was fond of Jeffers and his love of nature and his fear of man. It seems like the bitterest
of aspic, the toughest of thistle, the poison that finished off the Roman emperors. But Jeffers was a devoted father, loving husband and friend of humankind and his poetry shows that he was one of the deepest thinkers of his age and now our own. I read this poem aloud to an audience in 1965 and it was thought to be a current poem by a Beat poet. Today it reads like a critique of the election results.