Roan Stallion - Poem by Robinson Jeffers
The dog barked; then the woman stood in the doorway, and hearing
iron strike stone down the steep road
Covered her head with a black shawl and entered the light rain;
she stood at the turn of the road.
A nobly formed woman; erect and strong as a new tower; the
features stolid and dark
But sculptured into a strong grace; straight nose with a high bridge,
firm and wide eyes, full chin,
Red lips; she was only a fourth part Indian; a Scottish sailor had
planted her in young native earth,
Spanish and Indian, twenty-one years before. He had named her
California when she was born;
That was her name; and had gone north.
She heard the hooves and
wheels come nearer, up the steep road.
The buckskin mare, leaning against the breastpiece, plodded into
sight round the wet bank.
The pale face of the driver followed; the burnt-out eyes; they had
fortune in them. He sat twisted
On the seat of the old buggy, leading a second horse by a long
halter, a roan, a big one,
That stepped daintily; by the swell of the neck, a stallion. 'What
have you got, Johnny?' 'Maskerel's stallion.
Mine now. I won him last night, I had very good luck.' He was
quite drunk, 'They bring their mares up here now.
I keep this fellow. I got money besides, but I'll not show you.'
'Did you buy something, Johnny,
For our Christine? Christmas comes in two days, Johnny.' 'By
God, forgot,' he answered laughing.
'Don't tell Christine it's Christmas; after while I get her something,
maybe.' But California:
'I shared your luck when you lost: you lost me once, Johnny, remember?
Tom Dell had me two nights
Here in the house: other times we've gone hungry: now that
you've won, Christine will have her Christmas.
We share your luck, Johnny. You give me money, I go down to
Buy presents for Christine, come back in the evening. Next day
Christmas.' 'You have wet ride,' he answered
Giggling. 'Here money. Five dollar; ten; twelve dollar. You
buy two bottles of rye whiskey for Johnny.'
A11 right. I go to-morrow.'
He was an outcast Hollander; not
old, but shriveled with bad living.
The child Christine inherited from his race blue eyes, from his
life a wizened forehead; she watched
From the house-door her father lurch out of the buggy and lead
with due respect the stallion
To the new corral, the strong one; leaving the wearily breathing
buckskin mare to his wife to unharness.
Storm in the night; the rain on the thin shakes of the roof like
the ocean on rock streamed battering; once thunder
Walked down the narrow canyon into Carmel valley and wore
away westward; Christine was wakeful
With fears and wonders; her father lay too deep for storm to
Dawn comes late in the year's dark,
Later into the crack of a canyon under redwoods; and California
slipped from bed
An hour before it; the buckskin would be tired; there was a little
barley, and why should Johnny
Feed all the barley to his stallion? That is what he would do. She
tip-toed out of the room.
Leaving her clothes, he'd waken if she waited to put them on,
and passed from the door of the house
Into the dark of the rain; the big black drops were cold through
the thin shift, but the wet earth
Pleasant under her naked feet. There was a pleasant smell in the
stable; and moving softly,
Touching things gently with the supple bend of the unclothed
body, was pleasant. She found a box,
Filled it with sweet dry barley and took it down to the old
corral. The little mare sighed deeply
At the rail in the wet darkness; and California returning between
two redwoods up to the house
Heard the happy jaws grinding the grain. Johnny could mind
the pigs and chickens. Christine called to her
When she entered the house, but slept again under her hand. She
laid the wet night-dress on a chair-back
And stole into the bedroom to get her clothes. A plank creaked,
and he wakened. She stood motionless
Hearing him stir in the bed. When he was quiet she stooped after
her shoes, and he said softly,
'What are you doing? Come back to bed.' 'It's late, I'm going
to Monterey, I must hitch up.'
'You come to bed first. I been away three days. I give you money,
I take back the money
And what you do in town then?' she sighed sharply and came to
He reaching his hands from it
Felt the cool curve and firmness of her flank, and half rising
caught her by the long wet hair.
She endured, and to hasten the act she feigned desire; she had not
for long, except in dream, felt it.
Yesterday's drunkenness made him sluggish and exacting; she
saw, turning her head sadly,
The windows were bright gray with dawn; he embraced her still,
stopping to talk about the stallion.
At length she was permitted to put on her clothes. Clear daylight
over the steep hills;
Gray-shining cloud over the tops of the redwoods; the winter
stream sang loud; the wheels of the buggy
Slipped m deep slime, ground on washed stones at the road-edge.
Down the hill the wrinkled river smothered the ford.
You must keep to the bed of stones: she knew the way by willow
and alder: the buckskin halted mid-stream,
Shuddering, the water her own color washing up to the traces;
but California, drawing up
Her feet out of the whirl onto the seat of the buggy swung the
whip over the yellow water
And drove to the road.
All morning the clouds were racing northward
like a river. At noon they thickened.
When California faced the southwind home from Monterey it
was heavy with level rainfall.
She looked seaward from the foot of the valley; red rays cried
sunset from a trumpet of streaming
Cloud over Lobos, the southwest Occident of the solstice. Twilight
came soon, but the tired mare
Feared the road more than the whip. Mile after mile of slow
Then, quite suddenly, darkness.
'Christine will be asleep. It is Christmas Eve. The ford. That hour
of daylight wasted this morning!'
She could see nothing; she let the reins lie on the dashboard and
knew at length by the cramp of the wheels
And the pitch down, they had reached it. Noise of wheels on
stones, plashing of hooves in water; a world
Of sounds; no sight; the gentle thunder of water; the mare snorting,
dipping her head, one knew,
To look for footing, in the blackness, under the stream. The
hushing and creaking of the sea-wind
In the passion of invisible willows.
The mare stood still; the woman
shouted to her; spared whip,
For a false leap would lose the track of the ford. She stood.
'The baby's things,' thought California,
'Under the seat: the water will come over the floor'; and rising
in the midst of the water
She tilted the seat; fetched up the doll, the painted wooden chickens,
the woolly bear, the book
Of many pictures, the box of sweets: she brought them all from
under the seat and stored them, trembling,
Under her clothes, about the breasts, under the arms; the corners
of the cardboard boxes
Cut into the soft flesh; but with a piece of rope for a girdle and
wound about the shoulders
All was made fast. The mare stood still as if asleep in the midst
of the water. Then California
Reached out a hand over the stream and fingered her rump; the
solid wet convexity of it
Shook like the beat of a great heart. 'What are you waiting
for?' But the feel of the animal surface
Had wakened a dream, obscured real danger with a dream of
danger. 'What for? For the water-stallion
To break out of the stream, that is what the rump strains for,
him to come up flinging foam sidewise,
Fore-hooves in air, crush me and the rig and curl over his
woman.' She flung out with the whip then,
The mare plunged forward. The buggy drifted sidelong: was
she off ground? Swimming? No: by the splashes.
The driver, a mere prehensile instinct, clung to the side-irons
of the seat and felt the force
But not the coldness of the water, curling over her knees, breaking
up to the waist
Over her body. They'd turned. The mare had turned up stream
and was wallowing back into shoal water.
Then California dropped her forehead to her knees, having seen
nothing, feeling a danger,
And felt the brute weight of a branch of alder, the pendulous
light leaves brush her bent neck
Like a child's fingers. The mare burst out of water and stopped
on the slope to the ford. The woman climbed down
Between the wheels and went to her head. 'Poor Dora,' she
called her by her name, 'there, Dora. Quietly,'
And led her around, there was room to turn on the margin, the
head to the gentle thunder of the water.
She crawled on hands and knees, felt for the ruts, and shifted
the wheels into them. 'You can see, Dora.
I can't. But this time you'll go through it.' She climbed into the
seat and shouted angrily. The mare
Stopped, her two forefeet in the water. She touched with the
whip. The mare plodded ahead and halted.
Then California thought of prayer: 'Dear little Jesus,
Dear baby Jesus born to-night, your head was shining
Like silver candles. I've got a baby too, only a girl. You had light
wherever you walked.
Dear baby Jesus give me light.' Light streamed: rose, gold, rich
purple, hiding the ford like a curtain.
The gentle thunder of water was a noise of wing-feathers, the
fans of paradise lifting softly.
The child afloat on radiance had a baby face, but the angels had
birds' heads, hawks' heads,
Bending over the baby, weaving a web of wings about him. He
held in the small fat hand
A little snake with golden eyes, and California could see clearly
on the under radiance
The mare's pricked ears, a sharp black fork against the shining
light-fall. But it dropped; the light of heaven
Frightened poor Dora. She backed; swung up the water,
And nearly oversetting the buggy turned and scrambled backward;
the iron wheel-tires rang on boulders.
Then California weeping climbed between the wheels. Her wet
clothes and the toys packed under
Dragged her down with their weight; she stripped off cloak and
dress and laid the baby's things in the buggy;
Brought Johnny's whiskey out from under the seat; wrapped all
in the dress, bottles and toys, and tied them
Into a bundle that would sling over her back. She unharnessed
the mare, hurting her fingers
Against the swollen straps and the wet buckles. She tied the pack
over her shoulders, the cords
Crossing her breasts, and mounted. She drew up her shift about
her waist and knotted it, naked thighs
Clutching the sides of the mare, bare flesh to the wet withers, and
caught the mane with her right hand,
The looped-up bridle-reins in the other. 'Dora, the baby gives
you light.' The blinding radiance
Hovered the ford. 'Sweet baby Jesus give us light.' Cataracts of
light and Latin singing
Fell through the willows; the mare snorted and reared: the roar
and thunder of the invisible water;
The night shaking open like a flag, shot with the flashes; the
baby face hovering; the water
Beating over her shoes and stockings up to the bare thighs; and
over them, like a beast
Lapping her belly; the wriggle and pitch of the mare swimming;
the drift, the sucking water; the blinding
Light above and behind with not a gleam before, in the throat
of darkness; the shock of the fore-hooves
Striking bottom, the struggle and surging lift of the haunches.
She felt the water streaming off her
From the shoulders down; heard the great strain and sob of the
mare's breathing, heard the horseshoes grind on gravel.
When California came home the dog at the door snuffed at her
without barking; Christine and Johnny
Both were asleep; she did not sleep for hours, but kindled fire
and knelt patiently over it,
Shaping and drying the dear-bought gifts for Christmas morning.
She hated (she thought) the proud-necked stallion.
He'd lean the big twin masses of his breast on the rail, his redbrown
eyes flash the white crescents,
She admired him then, she hated him for his uselessness, serving
But Johnny's vanity. Horses were too cheap to breed. She thought,
if he could range in freedom,
Shaking the red-roan mane for a flag on the bare hills.
brought up a mare in April;
Then California, though she wanted to watch, stayed with Christine
indoors. When the child fretted
The mother told her once more about the miracle of the ford;
her prayer to the little Jesus
The Christmas Eve when she was bringing the gifts home; the
appearance, the lights, the Latin singing,
The thunder of wing-feathers and water, the shining child, the
cataracts of splendor down the darkness.
'A little baby,' Christine asked, 'the God is a baby?' 'The child
of God. That was his birthday.
His mother was named Mary: we pray to her too: God came to
her. He was not the child of a man
Like you or me. God was his father: she was the stallion's wife-
what did I say God's wife,'
She said with a cry, lifting Christine aside, pacing the planks of
the floor. 'She is called more blessed
Than any woman. She was so good, she was more loved.' 'Did
God live near her house?' 'He lives
Up high, over the stars; he ranges on the bare blue hill of the
sky.' In her mind a picture
Flashed, of the red-roan mane shaken out for a flag on the bare
hills, and she said quickly, 'He's more
Like a great man holding the sun in his hand.' Her mind giving
her words the lie, 'But no one
Knows, only the shining and the power. The power, the terror,
the burning fire covered her over . . .'
'Was she burnt up, mother?' 'She was so good and lovely, she
was the mother of the little Jesus.
If you are good nothing will hurt you.' 'What did she think?'
'She loved, she was not afraid of the hooves
Hands that had made the hills and sun and moon, and the sea
and the great redwoods, the terrible strength,
She gave herself without thinking.' 'You only saw the baby,
mother?' 'Yes, and the angels about him,
The great wild shining over the black river.' Three times she
had walked to the door, three times returned,
And now the hand that had thrice hung on the knob, full of
prevented action, twisted the cloth
Of the child's dress that she had been mending. 'Oh, oh, I've
torn it.' She struck at the child and then embraced her
Fiercely, the small blonde sickly body.
Johnny came in, his face
reddened as if he had stood
Near fire, his eyes triumphing. 'Finished,' he said, and looked
with malice at Christine. 'I go
Down valley with Jim Carrier; owes me five dollar, fifteen I
charge him, he brought ten in his pocket.
Has grapes on the ranch, maybe I take a barrel red wine instead
of money. Be back to-morrow.
To-morrow night I tell you-Eh, Jim,' he laughed over his
shoulder, 'I say to-morrow evening
I show her how the red fellow act, the big fellow. When I come
home.' She answered nothing, but stood
In front of the door, holding the little hand of her daughter, in the
path of sun between the redwoods,
While Johnny tied the buckskin mare behind Carrier's buggy,
and bringing saddle and bridle tossed them
Under the seat. Jim Carrier's mare, the bay, stood with drooped
head and started slowly, the men
Laughing and shouting at her; their voices could be heard down
the steep road, after the noise
Of the iron-hooped wheels died from the stone. Then one might
hear the hush of the wind in the tall redwoods,
The tinkle of the April brook, deep in its hollow.
the start of the race; I say
Humanity is the mould to break away from, the crust to break
through, the coal to break into fire,
The atom to be split.
Tragedy that breaks man's face and a white
fire flies out of it; vision that fools him
Out of his limits, desire that fools him out of his limits, unnatural
crime, inhuman science,
Slit eyes in the mask; wild loves that leap over the walls of nature,
the wild fcnce-vaulter science,
Useless intelligence of far stars, dim knowledge of the spinning
demons that make an atom,
These break, these pierce, these deify, praising their God shrilly
with fierce voices: not in a man's shape
He approves the praise, he that walks lightning-naked on die
Pacific, that laces the suns with planets,
The heart of the atom with electrons: what is humanity in this
cosmos? For him, the last
Least taint of a trace in the dregs of the solution; for itself, the
mould to break away from, the coal
To break into fire, the atom to be split.
After the child slept, after
the leopard-footed evening
Had glided oceanward, California turned the lamp to its least
flame and glided from the house.
She moved sighing, like a loose fire, backward and forward on
the smooth ground by the door.
She heard the night-wind that draws down the valley like the
draught in a flue under clear weather
Whisper and toss in the tall redwoods; she heard the tinkle of
the April brook deep in its hollow.
Cooled by the night the odors that the horses had left behind
were in her nostrils; the night
Whitened up the bare hill; a drift of coyotes by the river cried
bitterly against moonrise;
Then California ran to the old corral, the empty one where they
kept the buckskin mare,
And leaned, and bruised her breasts on the rail, feeling the sky
whiten. When the moon stood over the hill
She stole to the house. The child breathed quietly. Herself: to
sleep? She had seen Christ in the night at Christmas.
The hills were shining open to the enormous night of the April
moon: empty and empty,
The vast round backs of the bare hills? If one should ride up
high might not the Father himself
Be seen brooding His night, cross-legged, chin in hand, squatting
on the last dome? More likely
Leaping the hills, shaking the red-roan mane for a flag on the
bare hills. She blew out the lamp.
Every fiber of flesh trembled with faintness when she came to
the door; strength lacked, to wander
Afoot into the shining of the hill, high enough, high enough . . .
the hateful face of a man had taken
The strength that might have served her, the corral was empty.
The dog followed her, she caught him by the collar,
Dragged him in fierce silence back to the door of the house,
latched him inside.
It was like daylight
Outdoors and she hastened without faltering down the footpath,
through the dark fringe of twisted oak-brush,
To the open place in a bay of the hill. The dark strength of the
stallion had heard her coming; she heard him
Blow the shining air out of his nostrils, she saw him in the white
lake of moonlight
Move like a lion along the timbers of the fence, shaking the
Of the great mane; his fragrance came to her; she leaned on the
He drew away from it, the hooves making soft thunder in the
Wild love had trodden it, his wrestling with the stranger, the
shame of the day
Had stamped it into mire and powder when the heavy fetlocks
Strained the soft flanks. 'Oh, if I could bear you!
If I had the strength. O great God that came down to Mary,
gently you came. But I will ride him
Up into the hill, if he throws me, if he tramples me, is it not
To endure death?' She climbed the fence, pressing her body
against the rail, shaking like fever,
And dropped inside to the soft ground. He neither threatened
her with his teeth nor fled from her coming,
And lifting her hand gently to the upflung head she caught
the strap of the headstall,
That hung under the quivering chin. She unlooped the halter
from the high strength of the neck
And the arch the storm-cloud mane hung with live darkness. He
stood; she crushed her breasts
On the hard shoulder, an arm over the withers, the other under
the mass of his throat, and murmuring
Like a mountain dove, 'If I could bear you.' No way, no help,
a gulf in nature. She murmured, 'Come,
We will run on the hill. O beautiful, O beautiful,' and led him
To the gate and flung the bars on the ground. He threw his head
To snuff at the bars; and while he stood, she catching mane and
withers with all sudden contracture
And strength of her lithe body, leaped, clung hard, and was
mounted. He had been ridden before; he did not
Fight the weight but ran like a stone falling;
Broke down the slope into the moon-glass of the stream, and
flattened to his neck
She felt the branches of a buckeye tree fly over her, saw the
wall of the oak-scrub
End her world: but he turned there, the matted branches
Scraped her right knee, the great slant shoulders
Laboring the hill-slope, up, up, the clear hill. Desire had died
At the first rush, the falling like death, but now it revived,
She feeling between her thighs the labor of the great engine, the
running muscles, the hard swiftness,
She riding the savage and exultant strength of the world. Having
topped the thicket he turned eastward,
Running less wildly; and now at length he felt the halter when
she drew on it; she guided him upward;
He stopped and grazed on the great arch and pride of the hill,
the silent calvary. A dwarfish oakwood
Climbed the other slope out of the dark of the unknown canyon
beyond; the last wind-beaten bush of it
Crawled up to the height, and California slipping from her mount
tethered him to it. She stood then,
Shaking. Enormous films of moonlight
Trailed down from the height. Space, anxious whiteness, vastness.
Distant beyond conception the shining ocean
Lay light like a haze along the ledge and doubtful world's end.
Little vapors gleaming, and little
Darknesses on the far chart underfoot symbolized wood and
valley; but the air was the element, the moon-
Saturate arcs and spires of the air.
Here is solitude, here on the
calvary, nothing conscious
But the possible God and the cropped grass, no witness, no eye
but that misformed one, the moon's past fullness.
Two figures on the shining hill, woman and stallion, she kneeling
to him, brokenly adoring.
He cropping the grass, shifting his hooves, or lifting the long
head to gaze over the world,
Tranquil and powerful. She prayed aloud, 'O God, I am not
good enough, O fear, O strength, I am draggled.
Johnny and other men have had me, and O clean power! Here
am I,' she said, falling before him,
And crawled to his hooves. She lay a long while, as if asleep, in
reach of the fore-hooves, weeping. He avoided
Her head and the prone body. He backed at first; but later
plucked the grass that grew by her shoulder.
The small dark head under his nostrils: a small round stone, that
smelt human, black hair growing from it:
The skull shut the light in: it was not possible for any eyes
To know what throbbed and shone under the sutures of the
skull, or a shell full of lightning
Had scared the roan strength, and he'd have broken tether,
screaming, and run for the valley.
The atom bounds-breaking,
Nucleus to sun, electrons to planets, with recognition
Not praying, self-equaling, the whole to the whole, the microcosm
Not entering nor accepting entrance, more equally, more utterly,
more incredibly conjugate
With the other extreme and greatness; passionately perceptive of
identity. . . .
The fire threw up figures
And symbols meanwhile, racial myths formed and dissolved in
it, the phantom rulers of humanity
That without being are yet more real than what they are born of,
and without shape, shape that which makes them:
The nerves and the flesh go by shadowlike, the limbs and the lives
shadowlike, these shadows remain, these shadows
To whom temples, to whom churches, to whom labors and wars,
visions and dreams are dedicate:
Out of the fire in the small round stone that black moss covered,
a crucified man writhed up in anguish;
A woman covered by a huge beast in whose mane the stars were
netted, sun and moon were his eyeballs,
Smiled under the unendurable violation, her throat swollen with
the storm and blood-flecks gleaming
On the stretched lips; a womanno, a dark water, split by jets
of lightning, and after a season
What floated up out of the furrowed water, a boat, a fish, a fire-globe?
It had wings, the creature,
And flew against the fountain of lightning, fell burnt out of the
cloud back to the bottomless water . . .
Figures and symbols, castlings of the fire, played in her brain;
but the white fire was the essence,
The burning in the small round shell of bone that black hair
covered, that lay by the hooves on the hilltop.
She rose at length, she unknotted the halter; she walked and led
the stallion; two figures, woman and stallion,
Came down the silent emptiness of the dome of the hill, under
the cataract of the moonlight.
The next night there was moon through cloud. Johnny had returned
half drunk toward evening, and California
Who had known him for years with neither love nor loathing
to-night hating him had let the child Christine
Play in the light of the lamp for hours after her bedtime; who
fell asleep at length on the floor
Beside the dog; then Johnny: 'Put her to bed.' She gathered the
child against her breasts, she laid her
In the next room, and covered her with a blanket. The window
was white, the moon had risen. The mother
Lay down by the child, but after a moment Johnny stood in
the doorway. 'Come drink.' He had brought home
Two jugs of wine slung from the saddle, part payment for the
stallion's service; a pitcher of it
Was on the table, and California sadly came and emptied her
glass. Whiskey, she thought,
Would have erased him till to-morrow; the thin red wine. . . .
'We have a good evening,' he laughed, pouring it.
'One glass yet then I show you what the red fellow did.' She
moving toward the house-door his eyes
Followed her, the glass filled and the red juice ran over the table.
When it struck the floor-planks
He heard and looked. 'Who stuck the pig?' he muttered stupidly,
'here's blood, here's blood,' and trailed his fingers
In the red lake under the lamplight. While he was looking down
the door creaked, she had slipped outdoors,
And he, his mouth curving like a faun's imagined the chase under
the solemn redwoods, the panting
And unresistant victim caught in a dark corner. He emptied the
glass and went outdoors
Into the dappled lanes of moonlight. No sound but the April
brook's. 'Hey Bruno,' he called, 'find her.
Bruno, go find her.' The dog after a little understood and quested,
the man following.
When California crouching by an oak-bush above the house
heard them come near she darted
To the open slope and ran down hill. The dog barked at her
heels, pleased with the game, and Johnny
Followed in silence. She ran down to the new corral, she saw
Move like a lion along the timbers of the fence, the dark arched
neck shaking the nightfall
Of the great mane; she threw herself prone and writhed under
the bars, his hooves backing away from her
Made muffled thunder in the soft soil. She stood in the midst of
the corral, panting, but Johnny
Paused at the fence. The dog ran under it, and seeing the stallion
move, the woman standing quiet,
Danced after the beast, with white-tooth feints and dashes. When
Johnny saw the formidable dark strength
Recoil from the dog, he climbed up over the fence.
The child Christine waked when her mother left her
And lay half dreaming, in the half-waking dream she saw the
ocean come up out of the west
And cover the world, she looked up through clear water at the
tops of the redwoods. She heard the door creak
And the house empty; her heart shook her body, sitting up on the
bed, and she heard the dog
And crept toward light, where it gleamed under the crack of the
door. She opened the door, the room was empty,
The table-top was a red lake under the lamplight. The color of
it was terrible to her;
She had seen the red juice drip from a coyote's muzzle her father
had shot one day in the hills
And carried him home over the saddle: she looked at the rifle on
the wall-rack: it was not moved:
She ran to the door, the dog was barking and the moon was
shining: she knew wine by the odor
But the color frightened her, the empty house frightened her,
she followed down hill in the white lane of moonlight
The friendly noise of the dog. She saw in the big horse's corral,
on the level shoulder of the hill,
Black on white, the dark strength of the beast, the dancing fury
of the dog, and the two others.
One fled, one followed; the big one charged, rearing; one fell
under his fore-hooves. She heard her mother
Scream: without thought she ran to the house, she dragged a
chair past the red pool and climbed to the rifle,
Got it down from the wall and lugged it somehow through the
door and down the hillside, under the hard weight
Sobbing. Her mother stood by the rails of the corral, she gave
it to her. On the far side
The dog flashed at the plunging stallion; in the midst of the space
the man, slow-moving, like a hurt worm
Crawling, dragged his body by inches toward the fence-line. Then
California, resting the rifle
On the top rail, without doubting, without hesitance,
Aimed for the leaping body of the dog, and when it stood, fired.
It snapped, rolled over, lay quiet.
'O mother you've hit Bruno!' 'I couldn't see the sights in the
moonlight!' she answered quietly. She stood
And watched, resting the rifle-butt on the ground. The stallion
wheeled, freed from his torment, the man
Lurched up to his knees, wailing a thin and bitter bird's cry, and
the roan thunder
Struck; hooves left nothing alive but teeth tore up the remnant.
'O mother, shoot, shoot!' Yet California
Stood carefully watching, till the beast having fed all his fury
stretched neck to utmost, head high,
And wrinkled back the upper lip from the teeth, yawning obscene
disgust over not a man
A smear on the moon-like earth: then California moved by some
obscure human fidelity
Lifted the rifle. Each separate nerve-cell of her brain flaming the
stars fell from their places
Crying in her mind: she fired three times before the haunches
crumpled sidewise, the forelegs stiffening,
And the beautiful strength settled to earth: she turned then on
her little daughter the mask of a woman
Who has killed God. The night-wind veering, the smell of the
spilt wine drifted down hill from the house.
Comments about Roan Stallion by Robinson Jeffers
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