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Jeffers, Robinson. (1887 - 1962).

L i f e

- educated in both Europe and America, studied medicine and forestry

- personally indebted to his wife: spiritually ‘co-authored’ his poems, and served as a mediator between him x the world

- shy and extremely self-protective: spent a reclusive and outwardly uneventful life on the Pacific coast in Carmel (California) > the beautifully rugged region furnished much of the settings and the spirit of his major poetry

W o r k

- wrote sensational, philosophical, tragic x but: austerely and stony stoical poetry

- created at once a religious, psychological, historical, and scientific vision of America and the cosmos

- his ‘inhumanism’ moulded by the disillusionment by the WW I: ‘the human race will cease..., but the great splendours of nature will go on’

- remained stoically detached from the passions of mankind, stood aloof, felt the necessity of struggling out of the ‘tidewash’ of human passions and illusions to face the ‘enormous inhuman beauty of things’

- condemned his fellows for their self-destructive self-preoccupations (urbanisation, WW, etc.) resulting in self-degradation: found comfort in the thought of the extinction of the human race, when nature will have purified itself of man

C o n t e n t :

- preoccupied with lonely individuals of higher sort (x the collective degradation) standing out in a painful self-transcendence, and looking directly on the inhuman reality = looking directly at God

- concerned with the landscape and the wild animals, raged at the careless destruction of the irrecoverable natural beauty, and deplored the triumph of civilisation over the wild nature x the modernist mourning over the loss of civilisation

- used a frequent theme of incest = symbolised the species causing its own suffering by turning away from the grandeur of the non-human nature and focusing its energies and passions on itself

=> used the Whitmanesque prophetic tone x but: berated rather than celebrated the American democracy, and deeply criticised the historical trends of his own nation

F o r m :

- remained a poetic conservative: rejected controversy, new movements, and attempts of finding new forms

- saw the modern world as a falling away from the American past

(a) short meditative lyrics in free verse, typically set on the dramatic Pacific coastline

(b) long narrative poems in blank verse

Tamar (1924), Roan Stallion (1925), The Women at Point Sur (1927), Dear Judas (1929), Thurso's Landing (1932), Give Your Heart to the Hawks (1933), and Solstice (1935)


(Photo: Carl Van Vechten. 1937. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    (John) Robinson Jeffers. (1887 - 1962). American.
  • Work

    Poet. Author of "Carmel Point" poems.
  • Genre

    Naturalism. Stoicism.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


"I hate my verses, every line, every word. / Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try / One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird / That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky".

From "Love the Wild Swan".


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