Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers / Edition 1

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In 1938 Random House published The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, a volume that would remain in print for more than fifty years. For decades it drew enough poets, students, and general readers to keep Jeffers—in spite of the almost total academic neglect that followed his fame in the 1920s and 1930s—a force in American poetry.

Now scholars are at last beginning to recognize that he created a significant alternative to the High Modernism of Pound, Eliot, and Stevens. Similarly, contemporary poets who have returned to the narrative poem acknowledge Jeffers to be a major poet, while those exploring California and the American West as literary regions have found in him a foundational figure. Moreover, Jeffers stands as a crucial precursor to contemporary attempts to rethink our practical, ethical, and spiritual obligations to the natural world and the environment.

These developments underscore the need for a new selected edition that would, like the 1938 volume, include the long narratives that were to Jeffers his major work, along with the more easily anthologized shorter poems. This new selected edition differs from its predecessor in several ways. When Jeffers shaped the 1938 Selected Poetry, he drew from his most productive period (1917-37), but his career was not over yet. In the quarter century that followed, four more volumes of his poetry were published. This new selected edition draws from these later volumes, and it includes a sampling of the poems Jeffers left unpublished, along with several prose pieces in which he reflects on his poetry and poetics.

This edition also adopts the texts of the recently completed The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (five volumes, Stanford, 1988-2000). When the poems were originally published, copy editors and typesetters adjusted Jeffers's punctuation, often obscuring the rhythm and pacing of what he actually wrote, and at points even obscuring meaning and nuance. This new selected edition, then, is a much broader, more accurate representation of Jeffers's career than the previous Selected Poetry.

Reviews of volumes in

The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers

"A masterful job of contemporary scholarly editing, this book begins an edition intended to clarify a 'Jeffers canon,' establishing for times to come the verse legacy of a poet who looked on all things with the eyes of eternity."—San Francisco Chronicle

"This edition will be standard . . . a tribute and justice to a poet whose independent strength has survived to challenge personal and public canons."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Jeffers is the last of the major poets of his generation—Frost, Stevens, Williams, Pound, Moore, Eliot—to get his collected poems. Now that the job is at hand, it is done very well. . . . Tim Hunt has been painstaking in his editorial preparation and judicious in his presentation. . . . A great poet is ready for his due."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Few American poets are treated as well by publishers as Jeffers is by Stanford University Press. . . . These poems represent a distinctive voice in the American canon, and it is good to have them so wonderfully set forth."—Christian Century

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ultimately Jeffers poems are regenerative, inspired, dynamic, and transcendent, creating an evocative and richly rewarding, even visionary, immersion in the natural world that for all its verbosity makes the world tangible and restorative. As editor Tim Hunt observes, Jeffers's work demands more than just simple contemplation of nature, but rather 'identifying with it and recognizing one's final and inevitable participation in it.'"—Jeffery Beam, Oyster Boy Review

"[I]t is hard to see how anyone can read Jeffers's best poetry and not perceive greatness. His narrative verse rivals Wordsworth's or Byron's. It is electrifying; the skin prickles. . . . We will lose something of value if we let Jeffers slip away. He expresses California's peculiar ambience with unsurpassed vividness."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Tim Hunt, one of the nation's leading Jeffers scholars, has done a masterful job of sorting and choosing from a huge amount of material."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Most welcome . . . a volume for the core of American literature collections."—Booklist

"The little prose Jeffers wrote is of the highest quality and the best of it is fortunately included in the back of The Selected Poetry."—New York Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the 1920s, on the strength of Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other Poems, Jeffers's critical reputation rivaled those of Frost and Eliotwhile the relatively frank sexual material to be found in his long, rough-hewn, often Callifornia-based narratives didn't hurt his popular reputation, as Washington State University professor Hunt notes in his introduction. After hitting the cover of Time in 1935, Jeffers (1887-1962) made a selection from his work three years later for Random House, one that has been listed as "out of stock indefinitely" for the last few years. A much more modest Random selected edition published a few years after Jeffers's death remains in print in paper, but this huge selection, culled from the monumental five-volume collected edition Hunt has edited for Stanford, is much more comprehensive, and can claim improved textual accuracy. Hunt's edition strips the punctuation added by contemporary printers (which "often obscures the rhythm and pacing of what Jeffers actually wrote, and at points even obscures meaning and nuance") and includes a carefully weighed choice of long and short works, as well as unpublished work. Jeffers's serious and sometimes morally indignant parables have most recently been taken up by Dana Gioia and others as a bulwark against Pound-and-Eliot-line modernism. This new selection will get readers closer than ever to the poems as Jeffers himself saw them, reacquainting them with "the night-wind veering, the smell of the spilt wine," and allowing readers to place him on their own. (Apr. 26) Forecast: While this selection is clearly intended to replace the Random edition, some readers may still prefer the poet's own selection (which could be provoked back into print), though this set will now have the edge on syllabi and in libraries. Further Jeffers projects from Stanford include Volume Five of The Collected Poetry, which will complete the project, slated for August, and Stones of the Sur, a book of lush Carmel coast photos by Morley Baer matched with appropriate Jeffers poems, which arrives from the press in June ($60 160p ISBN 0-8047-3942-0). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
To accompany his five-volume collected poetry of the American poet, to be completed this year, Hunt (English, Washington State U.) offers a one-volume selection. Primarily a narrative poet, Jeffers (1887-1962) reached the height of his popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. His own punctuation is restored from the changes original editors made, which often interrupted the rhythm and obscured the meaning. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804741088
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 776
  • Sales rank: 577,908
  • Product dimensions: 6.88 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Hunt is Professor of English at Washington State University. He is the editor of The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Christ was your lord and captain all your life,
He fails the world but you he did not fail,
He led you through all forms of grief and strife
Intact, a man full-armed, he let prevail
Nor outward malice nor the worse-fanged snake
That coils in one's own brain against your calm,
That great rich jewel well guarded for his sake
With coronal age and death like quieting balm.
I Father having followed other guides
And oftener to my hurt no leader at all,
Through years nailed up like dripping panther hides
For trophies on a savage temple wall
Hardly anticipate that reverend stage
Of life, the snow-wreathed honor of extreme age.


Peace is the heir of dead desire,
Whether abundance killed the cormorant
In a happy hour, or sleep or death
Drowned him deep in dreamy waters,
Peace is the ashes of that fire,
The heir of that king, the inn of that journey.
This last and best and goal: we dead
Hold it so tight you are envious of us
And fear under sunk lids contempt.
Death-day greetings are the sweetest.
Let trumpets roar when a man dies
And rockets fly up, he has found his fortune.
Yet hungering long and pitiably
That way, you shall not reach a finger
To pluck it unripe and before dark
Creep to cover: life broke ten whipstocks
Over my back, broke faith, stole hope,
Before I denounced the covenant of courage.


The storm-dances of gulls, the barking game of seals,
Over and under the ocean ...
Divinely superfluous beauty
Rules the games, presides over destinies, makes trees grow
And hills tower, waves fall.
The incredible beauty of joy
Stars with fire the joining of lips, O let our loves too
Be joined, there is not a maiden
Burns and thirsts for love
More than my blood for you, by the shore of seals while the wings
Weave like a web in the air
Divinely superfluous beauty.


Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.


Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.


I am heaping the bones of the old mother
To build us a hold against the host of the air;
Granite the blood-heat of her youth
Held molten in hot darkness against the heart
Hardened to temper under the feet
Of the ocean cavalry that are maned with snow
And march from the remotest west.
This is the primitive rock, here in the wet
Quarry under the shadow of waves
Whose hollows mouthed the dawn; little house each stone
Baptized from that abysmal font
The sea and the secret earth gave bonds to affirm you.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
To His Father 15
Suicide's Stone 16
Divinely Superfluous Beauty 17
The Excesses of God 17
To the Stone-Cutters 18
To the House 18
Salmon Fishing 19
Natural Music 19
Wise Men in Their Bad Hours 20
To the Rock That Will Be a Cornerstone of the House 21
The Cycle 22
Shine, Perishing Republic 23
Continent's End 24
Tamar 26
Point Joe 98
Gale in April 99
The Treasure 100
Birds 103
Fog 104
Boats in a Fog 105
People and a Heron 106
Night 107
Autumn Evening 110
Joy 110
Phenomena 111
from The Tower Beyond Tragedy (final scene) 112
Roan Stallion 115
Post Mortem 137
Clouds at Evening 139
Pelicans 140
Apology for Bad Dreams 141
Love-Children 145
Credo 147
Prelude 148
Birth-Dues 159
The Broken Balance 160
Hurt Hawks 165
Bixby's Landing 167
An Artist 168
The Machine 171
Meditation on Saviors 172
A Redeemer 178
Tor House 181
Cawdor 182
Hooded Night 297
Evening Ebb 298
Hands 298
The Loving Shepherdess 299
from Descent to the Dead: Shane O'Neill's Cairn 361
from Descent to the Dead: Ossian's Grave 362
from Descent to the Dead: The Broadstone 365
from Descent to the Dead: In the Hill at Newgrange 366
from Descent to the Dead: Ghosts in England 370
from Descent to the Dead: Inscription for a Gravestone 372
from Descent to the Dead: Subjected Earth 373
Notes to "Descent to the Dead" 375
The Bed by the Window 376
Winged Rock 376
The Place for No Story 379
New Mexican Mountain 380
November Surf 381
Margrave 382
Fire on the Hills 394
A Little Scraping 397
Triad 398
Still the Mind Smiles 399
Give Your Heart to the Hawks 400
Return 499
Love the Wild Swan 500
The Cruel Falcon 501
Distant Rainfall 501
Rock and Hawk 502
Shine, Republic 503
Sign-Post 504
Flight of Swans 505
from At the Birth of an Age (vision of the self-hanged God) 506
Gray Weather 508
Red Mountain 509
Rearmament 513
The Purse-Seine 514
The Wind-Struck Music 516
Memoir 518
Nova 520
The Answer 522
The Beaks of Eagles 523
All the Little Hoof-Prints 524
Contemplation of the Sword 527
Oh Lovely Rock 529
October Week-End 531
Steelhead, Wild Pig, The Fungus 532
Night without Sleep 541
Self-Criticism in February 543
Shiva 544
Now Returned Home 545
Theory of Truth 547
Faith 553
Come Little Birds 554
The House-Dog's Grave 559
Prescription of Painful Ends 561
The Day Is a Poem 562
The Bloody Sire 563
The Stars Go over the Lonely Ocean 564
For Una 565
Drunken Charlie 568
Pearl Harbor 577
Advice to Pilgrims 579
Cassandra 579
Historical Choice 580
Calm and Full the Ocean 581
The Blood-Guilt 582
Invasion 583
Original Sin 585
Orca 587
The Inquisitors 589
Quia Absurdum 591
The Inhumanist (Part II of The Double Axe) 592
Animals 651
The Beauty of Things 652
Hungerfield 653
Carmel Point 676
De Rerum Virtute 677
The Deer Lay Down Their Bones 680
The Shears 685
Patronymic 686
Birds and Fishes 687
Let Them Alone 688
"The unformed volcanic earth" 689
The Ocean's Tribute 694
On an Anthology of Chinese Poems 695
"The mathematicians and physics men" 696
Vulture 697
Granddaughter 698
The Epic Stars 699
"Goethe, they say, was a great poet" 700
Hand 701
Oysters 702
"It nearly cancels my fear of death" 704
Preface, Tamar (1923) 707
Introduction, Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other Poems (1935) 710
Foreword, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (1938) 713
Preface, The Double Axe and Other Poems (original version, 1947) 719
Poetry, Gongorism, and a Thousand Years (1948) 723
Aesthetics (1910) 731
The Palace (1914) 733
May 5, 1915 (1915) 735
Oblation/Testament (1918) 737
The Shore of Dreams (1919?) 738
The Hills Beyond the River (1919) 739
Doors to Peace (mid-1920s) 740
Forecast (1925) 742
Not a Laurel on the Place (1926) 743
Ninth Anniversary (1928) 744
Oct. 27 Lunar Eclipse - 98% (On the Calendar) (1939) 745
Tragedy Has Obligations (1943) 746
Rhythm and Rhyme (1949) 747
Index of Titles 749
Index of First Lines 752
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012


    How deep, In touch with mother earth. His insight into the spirit world, deminsions so sensitive. Wonderful kindred spirit

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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