Week 379: November Surf, by Robinson Jeffers

This is an uneasy poem for those of us who like to think of ourselves as humane liberals. We may be aware that a lot of the earth’s problems are caused by overpopulation, but we don’t want anyone to actually die – just go a bit easy on the procreation thing, eh guys? Robinson Jeffers made no pretence of being a humane liberal and seems to be foreseeing, with some relish, a more decisive solution to our problems, though the exact nature of the storm that the future is preparing for us is not specified. Take your pick…

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then suddenly
The old granite forgets half a year’s filth:
The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then. . . . But all seasons
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long coast
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more numerous,
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

Robinson Jeffers


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