Robinson Jeffers

(10 January 1887 – 20 January 1962 / Allegheny, Pennsylvania)

Fire On The Hills


The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Thursday, April 07, 2011

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Comments about this poem (Fire On The Hills by Robinson Jeffers )

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  • Robinson Jeffers (11/3/2009 12:42:00 PM)

    The last line of this poem should read:

    'The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.' (Report) Reply

  • George Fillingham (7/2/2008 8:24:00 PM)

    This poem speaks volumes toward the natural way fire replenishes as it destroys. Jeffers understand the beauty of the bounding deer and the fire, actions and reactions to the way of nature, but he also feels a pang of guilt toward the glutted Eagles who have come down from both 'heaven' and the mountain's height to feast on the suddenly exposed creatures that make up part of the eagle's diet. Far less fatalistic than, say, 'Shine, Perishing Republic' (if indeed fatalism can be attached to that poem) , but no less objective and empirically clean by naturalistic standards, meaning those who observe nature rather than the literary period. Jeffers reveals his compassion without sacrificing his 'thy will be done' sort of comprehension of the greater universe. This is one poem of Jeffers that ought to be anthologized more often. (Report) Reply

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