Poetry Monday: “The Answer” by Robinson Jeffers
From the Poetry Foundation: Once shunned for his unpopular political views and harsh critiques of mankind’s egotism, Robinson Jeffers has regained popularity in recent years as environmentalism’s most forceful poet-advocate. His uncompromising work celebrates the enduring beauty of sea, sky and stone and the freedom and ferocity of wild animals in contrast to human pettiness, meddling and greed.
Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history… for contemplation or in fact…
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.
From THE COLLECTED POETRY OF ROBINSON JEFFERS, edited by Tim Hunt.