Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

By Robert Brophy | Go to book overview

1
Robinson Jeffers:
Poet of Carmel-Sur

Robert Brophy

…the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of
the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions
or drown in despair when his days darken.

(“The Answer,” CP 2: 536)

ROBINSON JEFFERS pursued a career-long quest for the wisdom that brings peace, as he sustained an unrelenting love affair with the indifferent but overwhelmingly beautiful god of the universe. His story has little of the dramatic in it, much of meditation, integrity, and dedication. From his vantage on the “Continent's End” (his poem which gave title to a collection of California poets edited by J. H. Jackson in 1925), he pondered the race's headlong rush toward apocalypse, and he looked outward to a cosmic, divine, and cyclic life that is ever renewed.

John Robinson Jeffers was born into a family of culture and modest wealth on January 10, 1887. His father, William Hamilton Jeffers, was a scholar and teacher, Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis and of Biblical and Ecclesiastical History at Western Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A man of strong patriarchal authority and austerity, he was, as his son would be after him, master of many languages and well read in the classics and nineteenth-century philosophy. Robinson's mother, Annie Robinson, a beautiful and talented young woman, an orphan raised by cousins, had fallen in love with the visiting curate Jeffers, who was more than twenty years her senior. Robinson, their first of two sons, was clearly caught throughout his early life between two extremes—the distant, older, stern, taskmaster father and the emotional, youthful, viva-

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