Robinson Jeffers

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

The Great Sunset


A flight of six heavy-motored bombing-planes
Went over the beautiful inhuman ridges a straight course northward;
the incident stuck itself in my memory
More than a flight of band-tail pigeons might have done
Because those wings of man and potential war seemed really intrusive
above the remote canyon.
They changed it; I cannot say they profaned it, but the memory
All day remained like a false note in familiar music, and suggested
no doubt
The counter-fantasy that came to my eyes in the evening, on the
ocean cliff.

I came from the canyon twilight
Exactly at sunset to the open shore, and felt like a sudden extension
of consciousness the wild free light
And biting north-wind. The cloud-sky had lifted from the western
horizon and left a long yellow panel
Between the slate-edge ocean and the eyelid cloud; the smoky
ball of the sun rolled on the sea-line
And formless bits of vapor flew across, but when the sun was
down
The panel of clear sky brightened, the rags of moving cloud took
memorable shapes, dark on the light,
Whether I was dreaming or not, they became spears and war-axes,
horses and sabres, gaunt battle-elephants
With towered backs; they became catapults and siege-guns, high-tilted
howitzers, long tractors, armored and turreted;
They became battleships and destroyers, and great fleets of warplanes
... all the proud instruments
Of man imposing his will upon weaker men: they were like a
Roman triumph, but themselves the captives,
A triumph in reverse: all the tools of victory
Whiffed away on the north-wind into a cloud like a conflagration,
swept from the earth, no man
From this time on to exploit nor subdue any other man. I thought,
'What a pity our kindest dreams
Are complete liars,' and turned from the glowing west toward
the cold twilight. 'To be truth-bound, the neutral
Detested by all the dreaming factions, is my errand here.'

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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