Thursday, February 28, 2008

From "Contemplation of the Sword"

Dear God, who are the whole splendor of things and the sacred
stars, but also the cruelty and greed, the treacheries
And vileness, insanities and filth and anguish: now that this
thing comes near us again I am finding it hard
To praise you with a whole heart.
I know what pain is, but pain can shine. I know what death is,
I have sometimes
Longed for it. But cruelty and slavery and degredation,
pestilence, filth, the pitifulness
Of men like hurt little birds and animals . . . if you were
Waves beating rock, the wind and the iron-cored earth,
With what a heart I could praise your beauty.
You will not repent, nor cancel life, nor free man from anguish
For many ages to come. You are the one that tortures himself to
discover himself: I am
One that watches you and discovers you, and praises you in little
parables, idyl or tragedy, beautiful
Intolerable God.
The sword: that is:
I have two sons whom I love. They are twins, they were born
in nineteen sixteen, which seemed to us a dark year
Of a great war, and they are now of the age
That war prefers. The first-born is like his mother, he is so
That persons I hardly know have stopped me on the street to
speak of the grave beauty of the boy's face.
The second-born has strength for his beauty; when he strips
for swimming the hero shoulders and wrestler loins
Make him seem clothed. The sword: that is: loathsome disfigurements,
blindness, mutilation, locked lips of boys
Too proud to scream.
Reason will not decide at last: the sword will decide.

-Robinson Jeffers

I would send you to more of his, but the best of it is not online and the best of it can be very long, and what is printed online is at sites I do not entirely trust for either accuracy or security. Poetry is, in a final, feeble way, dangerous again!