weblog/wEssays     home

An American Poem   (December 26, 2005)

I received a special Christmas gift, a 1959 Random House edition of The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Do yourself a favor right now and read this short poem, which expresses the uniquely American intensity he brought to his disdain for "civilization" and cities, and his Taoist-like sensitivity to the natural world of his chosen home, Big Sur:
Natural Music

The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers,
(Winter has given them gold for silver
To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their banks)
From different throats intone one language.
So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without
Divisions of desire and terror
To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hungry-smitten
Those voices also would be found
Clean as a child's; or like some girl's breathing who dances alone
By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers.

Like any great poem, there is much here to ponder and appreciate, images and thoughts which fling off sparks in your mind, especially upon re-reading. "Hungry-smitten cities," truly; and so of a piece with my own disdain for our depraved comsumerist ideology. "Sick nations" needs no elucidation; insert the countries of your choice. Nature's voice, "clean as a child's"--what a wonderful auditory evocation--extended, at the last, to a young girl's dreams of love. One would be hard-pressed to find a more exacting, moving expression of so many powerful naturalistic themes. Perhaps in Chuang Tsu, but that's another entry.

* * *

copyright © 2005 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

I would be honored if you linked this wEssay to your site, or printed a copy for your own use.

* * *
  weblog/wEssays     home