Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

By Robert Brophy | Go to book overview

8
Desire, Death, and Domesticity
in Jeffers's Pastorals of
Apocalypse

Kirk Glaser

IN EARLY LYRICS such as “To the House,” “To the Rock That Will Be a Cornerstone of the House,” and “Continent's End,” Robinson Jeffers builds and writes his way into the land, into a created landscape in which his home and his presence there are naturalized, as he simultaneously dreams of a pantheistic nature in which human beings are displaced from their traditional fantasies of centrality, self-importance, and permanence. His God-infused nature, though, is not an intimate place where the poet or quester meets a loving and beneficent deity. Jeffers struggles to make his vision of God conform to a nature that destroys all it creates. He imagines an elemental, often masculinized nature representing ultimate ends that subsumes a feminized, biological, and regenerative nature. At the most extreme, as in a poem such as “Post Mortem,” flesh and passion, associated with feminine procreation, are set against the transcendent idea and vision of a masculine poet/ prophet.

Focusing on the destructive aspects of nature and God, Jeffers repeatedly writes into the landscapes of his poems an apocalyptic vision of oblivion that serves as his source of prophetic and mystical inspiration and insight. While he turns to the processes of nature and not an explicitly Christian schema for this vision, he nonetheless presents in many poems natural forces of destruction as revelation in ways that parallel, as they revise, Christian and romantic representations of apocalypse. The pastoral landscapes that provide Jeffers with his apocalyptic vision are shaped by his powerful and at times bizarre amalgam of images of death, sexuality, gender, and domesticity. These pastorals of apocalypse provide insight into Jeffers's revisions of romantic conceptions of

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