Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

By Robert Brophy | Go to book overview

4
Telling the Past and Living the
Present: “Thurso's Landing”
and the Epic Tradition

Terry Beers

It seems to me that great poetry gathers and expresses the whole of
things, as prose neuer can. Its business is to contain a whole world
at once, the physical and the sensuous, the intellectual, the spiritual,
the imaginative, all in one passionate solution.

ROBINSON JEFFERS, Themes

IN 1932, at a time when Robinson Jeffers enjoyed considerable popular and critical success,1 he published one of the most significant works of his career, Thurso's Landing and Other Poems. The title poem of this volume marked a new creative direction in Jeffers's verse, one noticed at the time by many reviewers. Granville Hicks, writing for Nation, found it '“Perhaps the most human poem he has written'” (qtd. in Vardamis 87). Jeffers evidently agreed, and he ventured, for him, some extraordinary claims for it:

It is about as long as Cawdor and it seems to me to be the best
thing I have yet written. The scene is a canyon of the coast south
of Monterey, widened by an episode into the Arizona desert. The
time is perhaps more distinctly near the present than usual in my
verses; the persons seem to me to be a little more conscious of
what they do (qtd. in Alberts 72).

Jeffers may or may not have regarded “Thurso's Landing” as the best thing he had written.2 But by remarking upon the comparative self-consciousness of the characters in his latest poem, for the first time Jeffers himself explicitly raised important issues about the motivations of his characters and, by implication, how these affect the telling of his narratives.

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