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Robinson Jeffers 







Robinson Jeffers 



A great nation 
deserves great art. 



The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting 
excellence in the arts — both new and established — bringing the arts to all Americans, 
and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an 
independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest 
annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner 
cities, and military bases. 

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary 
organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It has embarked 
on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audiences. 

Published by 

National Endowment for the Arts 
1 1 00 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20506-0001 
(202) 682-5400 

Works Cited 

Robinson JefFers, "Rock and Hawk," from The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Copyright 1935 and 
© 1963 by Donnan JefFers and Garth Jeffers. Used by permission of Random House, Inc. 

Excerpts cited from letters are from The Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers with Selected Letters of Una 
Jeffers, edited by James Karman (forthcoming, Stanford University Press). 

Jeffers, Robinson. The Double Axe and Other Poems. New York: Random House, 1948. 

. The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Vols. 1-5. Ed. Tim Hunt. Stanford, CA: Stanford 

University Press, 1988-2001. 

. The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers. Ed. Albert Gelpi. Stanford, CA 

Stanford University Press, 2003. 

Jeffers, Una. "How Carmel Won Hearts of the Jeffers Family," The CarmelPine Cone (April 19, 1940): 9. 


David Kipen, NEA Director of Literature, National Reading Initiatives 

Sarah Bainter Cunningham, PhD, NEA Director of Arts Education 

Writer: James Karman, Emeritus Professor of English and Religious Studies, California State 
University, Chico 

Editor: Erika Koss for the National Endowment for the Arts 

Graphic Design: Fletcher Design/Washington, DC 

Special thanks to Steve Young of the Poetry Foundation, and to Alex Vardamis, Elliot Ruchowitz- 
Roberts, and Joan Hendrickson of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation. 

Image Credits 

Cover Portrait: John Sherffius for The Big Read. Page iv: © Greg Probst/Corbis. 

Page 1: Dana Gioia, image by Vance Jacobs; John Barr, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation. 

Inside back cover: Photo by Nat Farbman/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images. 

July 2008 

Table of Contents 

Introduction 1 

Suggested Teaching Schedule 2 

Lesson One: Poetry of Place 4 

Lesson Two: Historical Criticism 5 

Lesson Three: Biographical Criticism 

and the Speaker of a Poem 6 

Lesson Four: Word Choice and the Value of a Dictionary 7 


Lesson Five: Poetry and Ideas 8 

Lesson Six: Eco-Criticism l ) 

Lesson Seven: Rhythm 10 

Lesson Light: Symbols 1 1 

Lesson Nine: Allusions 12 

Lesson Ten: What Makes a Great Poet? 1 3 

Essay Topics 1 \ 

Glossary 1 5 

I [andoui One Jeffers's [nhumanism l(-> 

1 [andout Two: Idlers and the ( Central ( California ( Coast 17 

Handout Ihice: Rock and 1 lawk 1 8 

I caching Resources 19 

XC II Standards 20 


Here is a symbol in which 
Many high tragic thoughts 
Watch their own eyes. 

This gray rock, standing tall 

On the headland, where the sea-wind 

Lets no tree grow, 

Earthquake-proved, and signatured 
By ages of storms: on its peak 
A falcon has perched. 

I think, here is your emblem 
To hang in the future sky; 
Not the cross, not the hive, 

But this; bright power, dark peace; 
Fierce consciousness joined with final 

Life with calm death; the falcon's 
Realist eyes and act 

Mysticism of stone, 

Which failure cannot cast dow 

Nor success make proud. 




National Endowment for the Arts 

•VfAto. . 




Welcome to The Big Read, an initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts. 
Designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American culture, The Big Read 
hopes to unite communities through great literature, as well as inspire students to 
become lifelong readers. 

The National Endowment for the Arts joins the Poetry Foundation to create a new 
program to celebrate great American poets and the historic sites associated with 
their lives and works. By honoring these writers and literary landmarks, we hope 
both to bring poetry to a broader audience and to help preserve and promote local 
cultural heritage and history. 

This Teacher's Guide contains ten lessons to introduce students to the poetry 
of Robinson Jeffers. Jeffers's poems are emotionally direct, magnificently musical, 
and philosophically profound. No one has ever written more powerfully about the 
natural beauty of the American West. Determined to write a truthful poetry purged 
of ephemeral things, Jeffers cultivated a style at once lyrical and tough-minded. 

Each lesson has five components: a focus topic, discussion activities, writing 
exercises, vocabulary words, and homework assignments. In addition, we have 
suggested essay topics, as well as handouts with more background information 
about the poems, the historical period, and the author. All lessons dovetail with the 
state language arts standards required in the poetry genre. 

Finally, The Big Read Reader's Guide deepens your exploration with booklists, 
timelines, and historical information. We hope these educational materials allow 
you to have fun with your students while introducing them to the work of a great 
American poet. 

From the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, we wish you an exciting and productive 
school year. 

d^Su^ H^ 6k , 

Dana Gioia 


National Endowment for the Arts 

John Ban- 
Poetry Foundation 

National Endowment tor tin 


Day One 

FOCUS: Poetry of Place 

Activities: Discuss the influence of place — Central 
California — on the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Use 
a map of California to locate specific places in these 
poems. Write an essay or poem about your setting 
or home. 

Homework: Read the introduction to Jeffers from the 
Reader's Guide (p. 3) and Jeffers's biography (pp. 4-6). 
Read three poems by Jeffers: "Night Without Sleep," 
"The Answer," and "The Day Is a Poem." Write a 
paragraph describing the mood of one of the poems. 

Day Two 

FOCUS: Historical Criticism 

Activities: Discuss the historical context of Jeffers's life 
and poetry. Look at his attitude toward World War II 
through three of his poems. Write a response. 

Homework: Read "Jeffers and California" (pp. 8-9) 
and "Tor House and Hawk Tower" (pp. 1 0-1 I) from 
the Reader's Guide. Read two poems by Jeffers: "The 
Stone Axe" and "Oh Lovely Rock." 

Jeffers's poems remain protected by copyright, but may 
be printed from the Poetry Foundation's Web site: Go to the Poetry Tool and 
search by the poet's name, or each poem's title. All the 
poems cited in this guide are available on this Web site. 


Day Three 

FOCUS: Biographical Criticism and the Speaker 
of a Poem 

Activities: Discuss the ways in which understanding 
Jeffers's life enriches the reader's appreciation. Discuss 
the speaker of "The Stone Axe," which is not Jeffers. 
Write an essay. 

Homework: Read "Inscription for a Gravestone" and 
"The Deer Lay Down Their Bones." 


Day Four 

FOCUS: Word Choice and the Value of the Dictionary 

Activities: Consider the value of understanding a 
word's varied meanings. Look up words from today's 
poems. Write an essay that describes Jeffers's tone, 
syntax, and diction. 

Homework: Read Handout One, "Jeffers's Inhumanism." 
Read Jeffers's poems "Credo" and "The Place for No 


Day Five 

FOCUS: Poetry and Ideas 

Activities: Discuss Jeffers's philosophy of life, which 
he called "Inhumanism." Discuss the application of a 
1 934 Jeffers letter to today's poems. Write a personal 

Homework: Read Handout Two, "Jeffers and the 
Central California Coast" Read Jeffers's poems "The 
Purse-Seine" and "The Coast-Road." 


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Day Six 

FOCUS: Eco-Criticism 

Activities: Discuss Eco-Criticism, and Jeffers's 
celebration of the Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur coast. 
Research the construction of California's Highway 
One. Write a response. 

Homework: Read "Continent's End" and 



Day Seven 

FOCUS: Rhythm 

Activities: Discuss Jeffers's use of rhythm. Consider 
the tempo at which poems should be read aloud. 
Write an essay. 

Homework: Read Jeffers's poems "Hurt Hawks" and 
"Rock and Hawk." Then read Handout Three, "Rock 
and Hawk." 


Day Eight 

FOCUS: Symbols 

Activities: Analyze two major symbols in Jeffers's 
poetry: stones and hawks. Write V\ essay that 
discusses the "almost religious feeling" Jeffers had 
toward hawks 

Homework: Read "To the House." "Hooded Night. - 
and "Shine, Republic." and list the references they 


Day Nine 

FOCUS: Allusions 

Activities: Examine important allusions in Jeffers's 
poetry that draw on religion, Egyptian history, and 
American history. Write an essay which explains how 
three allusions contribute to the meaning of "Shine. 

Homework: Read Jeffers's poems "To the Stone- 
Cutters" and "Love the Wild Swan." Read "Jeffers and 
Culture" (p. 14) in the Reader's Guide. 


Day Ten 

FOCUS: What Makes a Great Poet' 

Activities: Explore the qualities of a great poet 
Discuss what Jeffers's poetry can teach about the 
concerns of his generation. Write a short essay that 
explains one central theme or major feature of his 


Homework: Write a paragraph about Jeffers's legacy 
in the twenty-first century. 

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Poetry of 


From "Hands" 

Sign-manual, n. 

1. A personal signature, 
especially that of a sovereign 
or king 

2. A hand gesture for conveying 
a command or message 

From "Carmel Point" 

Deface, v. 

To mar, spoil, or disfigure 

Milch cow, n. 

A cow kept for milk 

Pristine, adj. 

From the earliest period or 

state; exuding original purity 

Begin each days lesson by reading the poems aloud in class. 

For some poets, the place where they live is an essential element of their 
work. In William Wordsworth's poetry, for instance, we encounter the 
beautiful Lake District of England, and in Robert Frost's we experience the 
New England countryside. Such poets look closely at the living landscape 
around them, seeking to capture the sights, sounds, and human drama 
found there. 

To understand the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, one must know where he 
lived. In 1941, in a rare public lecture, Jeffers described the rocky coast 
where he lived as "not only the scene of my narrative verse but also the chief 
actor in it." Assuming that many people in the Washington, DC, audience 
had never seen Carmel, California, or its surrounding area, Jeffers offered 
some descriptive details. "The mountains," he said, "rise sheer from the 
ocean; they are cut by deep gorges and are heavy with brush and forest. 
Remember, this is Central, not Southern California. There are no orange- 
groves here, and no oil-wells, and Los Angeles is far away. These mountains 
pasture a few cattle and many deer; hawk and vulture, eagle and heron fly 
here, as well as the sea-birds and shore-birds; and there are clouds and sea- 
fog in summer, and fine storms in winter." 

Discussion Activities 

Read "Carmel Point," "Bixby's Landing," and "Hands" aloud with your class. Using 
a map of California, locate Carmel, Bixby Landing, and Tassajara Creek, and study 
the Monterey County coastline. Have students draw an illustration of the general 
landscape, using the poems as their inspiration. Students will then research some 
images and see if they are similar to the illustrations. Did the poems clearly 
capture what students found in the images? 

What does Jeffers see in these three settings? In "Hands" and "Bixby's Landing," 
what do the hand prints and the cable car have in common? What message might 
they communicate? 

Writing Exercise 

Ask students to think about the place where they live. Identify its most 
prominent features. What words describe its distinctive mood? Using Jeffers for 
inspiration, have students write an essay or poem about their home. To extend 
the exercise, have them add an interesting character to the setting. 

EJ Homework 

In the Reader's Guide, read the introduction to Jeffers on page 3 and his 
biography on pages 4-6. Read three poems by Jeffers: "Night Without Sleep,' 
"The Answer," and "The Day Is a Poem." Make a list of all the historical 
references in these poems. 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Two 




From "Night Without Sleep' 

Cataract, n. 

1. A descent of water over a 
steep surface; a waterfall 

2. Any furious rush of water 

Thwart, adj. 

Lying crosswise or across 

Torrent, n. 

A rushing, violent stream 

Knowing as much as possible about when a poet lived can be as important 
as knowing where he or she lived. To fully appreciate a play by Sophocles, 
a grasp of ancient Greek history is helpful. In the same way, the more 
one knows about Medieval Italy or Elizabethan England, the better for 
an understanding of Dante or Shakespeare. This approach to literature is 
called historical criticism. Readers who favor it study literary works and their 
authors within their social, cultural, and intellectual settings. 

Robinson Jeffers was born in 1887 and died in 1962. During this period, 
scientific discoveries, technological inventions, and artistic revolutions 
touched every aspect of life in America. After their marriage in August 
1913, Robinson and Una Jeffers hoped to live in England tor a while. Before 
they could finalize their plans, World War I began in Europe, and they 
were forced to remain in America. The monumental loss of life during 
both World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) affected the 
art and literature of this period, leading — as was the case at times with 
Jeffers's work — to expressions of bitterness, nihilism, and pessimism. In the 
Readers Guide, Dana Gioia explains that Jeffers "saw the pollution of the 
environment, the destruction of other species, the squandering of natural 
resources, the recurrent urge to war, and the violent squalor of cities as the 
inevitable result of a species out of harmony with its own world. 

Discussion Activities 

Read the quote from Jeffers cited on the inside back cover of this Teacher's 
Guide. The subtitle to Jeffers's "The Day Is a Poem" is "September 19. 1939," the 
morning of a pivotal Hitler speech at Danzig. Ask students to consider the poem's 
final lines — "The day is a poem: but too much / Like one of Jeffers's. crusted with 
blood and barbaric omens, / Painful to excess, inhuman as a hawk's cry." Ask 
students to consider how poetry can respond to profound historical events. 

"Night Without Sleep" and "The Answer" were written by Jeffers just before 
World War II. What do the poems reveal about his response to that gathering 

Writing Exercise 

In the midst of a whirlwind, where does Jeffers find calm' Select one of the 
poems from this lesson and write an essay about Jeffers's response to danger Do 
you agree or disagree with his strategy? 

U] Homework 

Have students read two essays from the Reader's Guide: "Jeffers and California' 
(pp. 8-9) and "Tor House and Hawk Tower" (pp 10-11). then two poems by 
Jeffers. "The Stone Axe" and "Oh Lovely Rock." Who is the speaker in each of 
these poems ; How do you know' 

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and the 
Speaker of 
a Poem 


From "Oh Lovely Rock " 

Precipice, n. 

A sheer, steep cliff 

Felt, v. 

To mat or press together 

Attrition, n. 

A wearing down or away 
by friction 

When we read Walt Whitman s Leaves of Grass, we know we are 
encountering the poet himself. Likewise, when Emily Dickinson says of 
a poem, "This is my letter to the world," we can surmise she is expressing 
her own thoughts. In such instances, one key to understanding an authors 
work lies in understanding the author's life. Many of Jeffers's poems 
contain autobiographical elements as well. In "Night Without Sleep" Jeffers 
presumably shares his own experience, and in "The Day Is a Poem" he 
refers to himself directly. 

Biographical criticism considers the ways age, race, gender, family, education, 
and economic status inform poetry. A critic might also examine how the 
poem reflects personality characteristics, life experiences, and psychological 
dynamics. These critics need to be careful, however, because poets often 
invent characters, adopt personas, and speak through narrative voices not 
their own. 

Discussion Activities 

The speaker of "The Stone Axe" is not Jeffers. The speaker of "Oh Lovely Rock," 
on the other hand, is Jeffers. Though Jeffers himself appears as the "I" in only 
one of the poems, both contain biographical information about him. Ask students 
to discuss what the poems reveal about Jeffers's beliefs, values, and personality. 
Identify the clues provided in each poem that help determine the narrative point 
of view. 

Writing Exercise 

The stone in "The Stone Axe" is small enough to be held in the hand; the rock 
in "Oh Lovely Rock" is as large as a mountainside. Despite this difference in 
size, the two entities have something in common: what? Have students write 
a one-page essay that considers this question, explaining the ways in which the 
understanding of this similarity brings a clearer view of Jeffers's life, beliefs, and 

2J Homework 

Read "Inscription for a Gravestone" and "The Deer Lay Down Their Bones." 
What words or images does Jeffers use to describe the cycle of life and death? 
What do you notice about the words and tone he uses to describe the cycle of 
life and death? 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Four 

Choice and 
the Value of 
a Dictionary 

Words are to a poet what clay is to a sculptor or paint to a painter: the basic 
material of his or her art. Poets see the shape of words, listen closely to their 
sound, feel their weight. Poets also understand the meaning of words; thev 
are sensitive to their specific denotative applications and to their unlimited 
connotative power. In the hands of a poet, words bring thoughts 
and feelings to life. 

Before a poem can be appreciated for its deeper meanings, it must first be 
read literally. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Nature, "Even- word . . . if 
traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. 
Right means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind\ 
transgression, the crossing of a line ; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow" 
Students should look up even commonly used words to understand better 
the careful, conscious choices poets make. Several words from each lessons 
assigned poems are already defined in the color margins of this Teachers 


From "Inscription for a 

Ravel, n. 

A tangle; something snarled 

Electroscope, n. 

A device used for detecting an 
electric charge 

Precipitate, n. 

A substance separated from a 
solution; a product or outcome 
of a process 

Discussion Activities 

Ask the class as a whole to identify three words from Jeffers's "Inscription for 
a Gravestone" and three words from "The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" that 
seem especially intriguing. Then divide the class into four groups. With one 
poem and one reference work assigned to each group, ask the students to look 
up the chosen words in an unabridged dictionary, an etymological dictionary, a 
thesaurus, and the Oxford English Dictionary. Have each group report its findings to 
the class as a whole. 

Ask students to consider how knowledge of the exact meaning of these words 
adds to both the literal and symbolic reading of these poems. Have them replace 
their three words with new words. Is this difficult or easy' 

Writing Exercise 

Jeffers's father was a Biblical scholar, church historian, and professor of ancient 
languages. Jeffers himself was expected to follow in his father's footsteps, .it 
least with regard to broad academic training. As a young boy. he learned French. 
German, Greek, and Latin. Jeffers's knowledge of etymology and language 
expanded his ability to play with syntax, and as a result, his dicbon — linguistic 
style as determined by word choice — is highly developed. When students read 
a Jeffers poem, do they see evidence of his education' Have students write an 
essay that describes the general tone of his voice, as well as the syntax and diction 
in his poems "Inscription for a Gravestone" and "The Deer Lay Down Their 

P3 Homework 

Read Handout One. "Jeffers's Inhumanism ." Then read Jeffers's poems "Credo" 
and "The Place for No Story." Ask students to consider their initial response to 
the world without humans that Jeffers describes. 

National Endowment for the Arts the big read • 7 


Poetry and 

"No man was ever yet a great poet," said Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "without 
being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom 
and fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, 
emotions, language." Exceptional poets can pursue their craft without 
aspiring to greatness, as Coleridge defines it here, but the greatest poets 
through the ages are distinguished by their willingness to confront life's 
biggest questions: Does God (or do the gods) exist? What is the purpose of 
life? What happens when we die? 

Jeffers called his philosophy of life "Inhumanism." On page 10 of the 
Reader's Guide, an important excerpt is cited from a 1934 Jeffers letter to 
Sister Mary Jane Power, which gives students a summary of this philosophy. 


From "The Place for No 

Scant, adj. 

Barely sufficient in amount or 


Noble, adj. 

Distinguished; exalted; magnificent 

Discussion Activities 

Have students read Jeffers's poems "Credo" and "The Place for No Story." 
With these in mind, along with information contained in Handout One from 
this guide, ask students to explain the essence of Jeffers's Inhumanism. What are 
some of the consequences, whether good or bad, of his ideas for human self- 
understanding? Is Jeffers's philosophy optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic? Discuss 
the relevance of Jeffers's letter to these two poems. 

Writing Exercise 

In the poems assigned for this lesson, Jeffers writes of a world without humans. 
Have students write a one-page essay that responds to these questions: What 
would the world gain if humans no longer existed? What would the world 
lose? Ask students to return to the poems from Lesson Two, considering how 
historical context might provide another dimension to their answer. 

EJ Homework 

Read Handout Two, "Jeffers and the Central California Coast." Read Jeffers's 
poems "The Purse-Seine" and "The Coast-Road." What role does nature in 
general, and California in particular, play in each of these poems? 


National Endowment for the Arts 



Eco-criticism is a relatively new approach to literature. Arising in a time 
of environmental crisis, eco-criticism is primarily concerned with the 
relationship between humans and the natural world. In particular, it 
pays attention to the attitudes of the authors and to the precepts of the 
cultures to which they belong. With works such as Walden; or, Life in 
the Woods (1854) by Henry David Thoreau, the aim of eco-criticism is 
both diagnostic and prescriptive. Readers who make use of this approach 
identify attitudes, ideas, and behavior that are harmful to people and the 
environment; they also identify sources of wisdom, help, and healing. 

Jeffers is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the modern environmental 
movement in America. His celebration of the beautv of the Monterey- 
Carmel-Big Sur coast was rooted in concern about population growth, air 
pollution, urban sprawl, resource depletion, animal habitat destruction, and 
other detrimental effects of modern civilization on nature. 


From "The Purse-Seine" 

Seine, n. 

A fishing net that hangs vertically in 
the water 

Luminous, adj. 
Radiating or emitting light 

Anarchy, n. 

Lawlessness; political and social 

Hysteria, n. 

An uncontrollable outburst of 
emotion or fear, characterized by 
irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc. 

Discussion Activities 

Ask students to look at the poems they have read thus far. How do they 
embrace a spirit of environmentalism and a concern about pollution? 

Using the poems assigned for this lesson, discuss the following questions 
with students: 

In "The Purse-Seine." Jeffers draws a comparison between fish caught in nets and 
people living in cities. Is the comparison valid ; 

In "The Coast-Road." jeffers refers to the construction of Highway One through 
Big Sur. Students from California may be familiar with this highway, but still may 
benefit from researching its construction. Either way. how do students feel about 
the anger of the horseman in the poem? Is his anger justified' 

^ Writing Exercise 

When Jeffers looked at the conventional relationship between humans and 
nature, what did he see? Have students write an essay that summarizes his 
insights, using specific poems to support their ideas. 

23 Homework 

Have students read Jefferss poems "Continent's End" and "Gray Weather." 
asking them to notice the rhythms of each poem. Ask three students to be ready 
to read aloud for the Discussion Activity of Lesson Seven 

National \ miownn-nt tor tin 


Lesson Seven 



A poem's meaning can be found within its structural, stylistic, and 
verbal components. One such component is rhythm, long regarded as 
a distinguishing feature of verse. Rhythm is created by the pattern of 
stressed and unstressed syllables in a poetic line. Metrical poetry follows a 
predetermined pattern (such as iambic pentameter, which has five regular 
beats in a ten-syllable Xme);free verse is open to rhythmic invention. 
When reading or reciting poetry, rhythm can also be influenced by a 
variety of other factors, including rhyme (when present), tempo, cadence, 
and inflection. 

Jeffers occasionally wrote poems that employed traditional rhythms. Most 
of his work, however, obeyed rhythmic laws of his own devising. Read 
aloud this statement by Jeffers: "My feeling is for the number of beats to 
the line; there is a quantitative element too in which the unstressed syllables 
have part; the rhythm from many sources — physics — biology — the beat of 
blood, the tidal environments of life to which life is formed — also a desire 
for singing emphasis that prose does not have." 


From "Continent's End" 

Ground-swell, n. 

A broad, deep rolling of the sea due 
to a distant storm or gale 

Migration, n. 

The act of moving from one country 
or region to another 

Insolent, adj. 
Rude; contemptuous 

Discussion Activities 

Ask students to discuss how Jeffers's statement on rhythm helps them 
understand his poems "Continent's End" and "Gray Weather." 

Ask the three previously chosen students to take turns reading either 
"Continent's End" or "Gray Weather" out loud — one student should read fast, 
one at normal speed, and one slowly. Which tempo sounds right? Why? 

To further explore this, use the NEA's Poetry Out Loud Web site 
( as a resource and stage a recitation 
contest in your classroom. 

Writing Exercise 

In the last lines of "Continent's End," Jeffers identifies the ultimate source of his 
sense of rhythm. What is it? Look at your own writing. What is the ultimate 
source of your own rhythms? What do people commonly feel, hear, or see that 
might contribute to a shared sense of rhythmic repetition? Have students write a 
brief essay that compares Jeffers's rhythm to other sources. 

EJ Homework 

Read two poems by Jeffers: "Hurt Hawks" and "Rock and Hawk." Then read 
Handout Three, "Rock and Hawk," in this guide. Look up the word "hawk" in 
a dictionary of symbols, or use several websites to find information about hawk 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Eight 



Fluency with a language involves mastering the literal definitions of words 
and acquiring a sense of their symbolic associations. Poets are especially 
adept at this. They use words to convey many meanings at once. Symbols 
are interpretative keys to a text. Poets often use symbols that present ideas 
and point toward new meanings. Most frequently, a specific object will 
be used to refer to (or symbolize) a more abstract concept. The repeated 
appearance of an object suggests a non-literal or figurative meaning 
attached to the object — above and beyond face value. Symbols are 
sometimes found right in a poems title. 

Personal symbolism arises from a poets own life; cultural symbolism draws 
on associations known to a group (which can be as small as a family or as 
large as a civilization); archetypal symbolism is universal and timeless. 

Handout Three in this guide gives an in-depth look at Jefferss interest in 
rocks and hawks, specifically in light of Hawk Tower — a structure he built 
for his wife, Una. Use this class period to analyze Jefferss use of two of his 
major symbols: stones and hawks. 


From "Hurt Hawks" 

Intrepid, adj. 

Fearless; courageous; bold 

Intemperate, adj. 
Unrestrained; unbridled; severe 

Implacable, adj. 

Not to be appeased or pacified; 


Discussion Activities 

Divide the class into groups, asking them to share the results of their research on 
hawk symbolism. What relevance does this have for students' understanding of 
"Hurt Hawks" and "Rock and Hawk"? Ask them to connect this with Handout 
Three, and with other poems they have read byjeffers such as "Oh Lovely Rock" 
and "Carmel Point." 

Writing Exercise 

Jeffers once referred to the hawk as his "totem bird" and said that he had an 
"almost religious feeling" about hawks. What evidence do students see of this in 
the assigned poems? Explain in a one-page essay, citing specific passages in the 
text that develop extended meanings through the symbolism of the hawk and /or 
other symbols. 

Q Homework 

Read "To the House." "Hooded Night." and "Shine. Republic " List the references 
they contain to religious rituals, historical events, important places, and famous 

National 1 lulowmmt tor tlu 


Lesson Nine 


Most poets have an audience in mind when they write — an audience that 
will understand and appreciate their work. In endeavoring to communicate 
with that audience, poets sometimes use overt or subtle references — 
allusions — to tap shared cultural memories, or to enlarge the scope of their 
work. When, for instance, poets allude to a person, image, or event in 
Homer s Iliad or the Bible, they presume readers will be familiar with those 
texts. In the same way, poets amplify the scope of their work by connecting 
images and ideas to outside sources. By using such words as "Trojan horse," 
"Jezebel," or "Gettysburg," poets direct attention to wider, yet still familiar, 
circles of meaning. 

Jeffers's verse dramas such as The Tower Beyond Tragedy, Dear Judas, At the 
Beginning of an Age, Medea, and The Cretan Woman drew upon ancient 
Greece, the Bible, and medieval Europe for inspiration. But even his shorter 
lyric poems interrogate the Western tradition as a whole and illuminate 
modern life, often using allusions from literature, history, science, and 


From "To the House" 

Hold, n. 

A fortified place; a stronghold 

Host, n. 

A multitude or great number; 
an army 

Temper, n 

Hardness or strength imparted by 
treatment with heat, cold, or water 

Discussion Activities 

In "To the House," a poem written during the construction of Tor House, 
Jeffers refers to baptism, a traditional Christian ritual. He also compares the 
Pacific Ocean (both the expanse of water and the vast basin which holds it) to 
a baptismal font. Have students discuss the meaning of these allusions: Are they 
familiar? What do they mean? What function do they serve in this poem? 

In "Hooded Night," Jeffers refers to ancient Egypt and its pyramids. How, in a 
simple and economical way, do these allusions help him make his point? Jeffers 
also compares "the Versailles peace" to the "final unridiculous peace" of the 
Carmel coast. At the time the poem was written (in the 1920s), most people 
would have known what Jeffers had in mind. Can that be said for readers of 
today? Have students research what happened at Versailles. 

Writing Exercise 

"Shine, Republic" situates American history within the context of Western 
civilization as a whole. Have students choose three allusions (from among 
the Roman Republic, the Greek victory at Marathon, America's battle for 
independence at Concord, George Washington, Martin Luther, Tacitus, Aeschylus 
[Eschylus], or Julius Caesar), and explain their contribution to the meaning of 
the poem in a short essay. If students were writing a poem about the value of 
freedom in America, what allusions would they use? 

E3 Homework 

Read Jeffers's poems "To the Stone-Cutters" and "Love the Wild Swan." Also 
read "Jeffers and Culture" (p. 14) in the Reader's Guide. 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Ten 


What Makes 
a Great Poet? 

Poets articulate and explore the mystery of daily life in the context of 
the human struggle for meaning, purpose, and value. The writers voice, 
style, and symbols inform the themes of the work. A great poem is a work 
of art that affects many generations of readers, changes lives, challenges 
assumptions, and breaks new ground. 

Robinson Jeffers once said: "Poetry has been regarded as a refuge from life, 
where dreams may heal the wounds of reality; and as an ornament of life; 
and as a diversion, mere troubadour amusement; and poetry has been in 
fact refuge and ornament and diversion, but poetry in its higher condition 
is none of these; not a refuge but an intensification, not an ornament but 
essential, not a diversion but an incitement . . . 


From "To the Stone-Cutters' 

Oblivion, n. 

The state of being forgotten 

Scale, v. 

To lose layers; to wear away 

Blithe, adj. 

Without thought or regard; 


Discussion Activities 

In "To the Stone-Cutters" and "Love the Wild Swan," Jeffers expresses both 
humility and pride in regard to his work. Discuss the thoughts about poetry that 
inspire these emotions. 

Read the Jeffers quote above to the class. Can students think of examples of 
other poems (or lyrics of popular songs) that provide refuge, ornament, or 
diversion? Do they agree with Jeffers that poetry can offer more than that? What 
does he mean by such words as "intensification." "essential." and "incitement"? 
Are these, in fact, characteristics of great poetry? Can students provide examples 
of poems that possess these characteristics? Based on his own criteria, is Jeffers a 
great poet? 

Writing Exercise 

These ten lessons have highlighted only some of Jeffers's poems and beliefs. Have 
students write a short essay that explains one central theme or major feature of 
his work. Discuss the theme or feature in detail, referring to specific quotations 
from more than two poems to support the argument. Which poem illustrates 
the theme or feature most effectively? Why ; 

^} Homework 

Jeffers directs our attention to the nobility and beauty of nature. Have students 
write a paragraph describing Jeffers's legacy in the twenty-fust century 

National Endowment for th< the big read • 13 

The writing exercises in this guide provide possible essay topics, as do the eight Discussion 
Questions in the Readers Guide. Advanced students can come up with their own essay topics, as 
long as they are interesting and specific. Other ideas for essays are provided below. 

For essays, students should organize their ideas around a thesis — that is, an argument or 
interpretation — about the poem or poems in question. This statement or thesis should be focused, 
with clear reasons to support its conclusion. The thesis and supporting evidence should be backed 
by references to the text. 

1 . If a newspaper editor asked you to write an 
article called "Robinson Jeffers: A Poet for 
Our Time," what would you say? Combine 
quotations from Jeffers's poems with your own 
analysis in a persuasive essay that explains how 
and why Jeffers speaks to us today. 

2. Philosophers and poets wrestle with life's 
biggest questions: Does God (or do the gods) 
exist? What is the purpose of human life? 
What happens when we die? With the poems 
you have read as a resource, write an essay in 
which you discuss Jeffers's responses to these 
three questions. What, specifically, did he say 
about these issues? 

3. As a poet concerned with environmental 
issues, Jeffers looked closely at humankind's 
relation to the natural world. What was the 
essence of his message? Discuss the problems 
he identified and the solutions he proposed. 
Optional exercise: Research the impact that 
Jeffers and his contemporaries — Ansel Adams 
and Edward Weston — had on environmental 
issues affecting California's central coastline. 

4. With the central coast of California as the 
primary setting for his work, Jeffers is highly 
regarded as a regional poet Because of 

his concern for issues important to people 
everywhere, Jeffers is also appreciated for 
his universality. Write an essay in which you 
discuss these two aspects of Jeffers's work. 
Select and discuss three poems: one that 
emphasizes his regionalism, one that reveals his 
universality, and one that expresses both. 

5. What is the central message and specific 
context of the poem "Hands"? Compose an 
essay that explains how this message suits the 
imagery. Discuss the reappearance of these 
ideas in other works by Jeffers. Optional 
exercise: Research the Native American tribes 
from California, and offer a historical reading of 
this poem. 


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A glossary of some of the poetic terms used in the lessons is listed below." 

Allusion: A brief, sometimes indirect reference in a 
text to a person, place, or thing. 

Biographical Criticism: The practice of analyzing a 
literary work by using knowledge of the author's 
life to gain insight. 

Diction: Word choice or vocabulary that refers 
to the class of words that an author decides is 
appropriate to use in a particular work. 

Eco<riticism: This relatively new approach to 
literature is primarily concerned with the 
relationship between humans and the natural 

Free verse: From the French vers libre. Free verse 
describes poetry that organizes its lines without 
meter. It may be rhymed, but it usually is not. 

Historical Criticism: The practice of analyzing a 
literary work by investigating the social, cultural, 
and intellectual context that produced it. 

Meter: A systematic rhythmic pattern of stresses 
in verse. 

Open form: Verse that has no set formal 
scheme — no meter, rhyme, or even set stanzaic 
pattern. Open form is always in free verse. 

Persona: Latin for "mask."A fictitious speaker 
created by the poet. 

Rhythm: The pattern of stresses and pauses in a 

Stanza: A unit of two or more lines of verse 
with space breaks before and after, the stanza is 
poetry's equivalent to a paragraph in prose. 

Stress (or accent): A greater amount of force 
given to one syllable in speaking than is given to 

Symbol: A person, place, or thing in a narrative 
or poem that suggest meanings beyond its literal 

Theme: The central thought of the poem. A 
short work may have a single obvious theme, but 
longer works can contain multiple themes. 

Tone: The attitude toward a subject conveyed in 
a literary work. Tone may be playful, sarcastic, 
ironic, sad, solemn, or any other possible attitude. 

*Most literary definitions, both here and in the lessons, are taken from An Introduction to Poetry (I Ith edition), edited b> ' 
Dana Gioia. or Handbook of Literary Terms, edited by X J Kennedy. Dana Gioia. and MarV Bauertem (2005) 

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Jeffers's Inhumanism 

The word "humanism" refers to a broad set of 
ideas and values that emphasize the importance, 
dignity, and beauty of humankind. Leonardo 
da Vinci's famous drawing of a man with 
outstretched limbs inscribed within a circle and a 
square captures the essence of the term. So does 
a statement by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a 
contemporary of Da Vinci. In all the world, he 
said, "there is nothing to be seen more wonderful 
than man." In the Western tradition, the belief that 
humans are the center of creation is affirmed by 
the Bible, which says humans were made in God's 
image, that people were given dominion over all 
other creatures, and that God provided a path to 
salvation by coming to Earth in human form. 

Robinson Jeffers questioned all this. As 
extraordinary as humans might be, from his 
perspective they are not qualitatively superior to 
other beings, they are not essential to the universe, 
and they are not the special concern of a man-like 
God. Jeffers's philosophy of life, which he called 
"Inhumanism," provides a key to understanding 
many of his poems. 

Jeffers believed in the primacy of the natural 
world. In a universe as vast and old as ours, with 
its "innumerable swirls of innumerable stars," 
our planet is no more than "a particle of dust by 
a sand-grain sun, lost in a nameless cove of the 
shores of a continent." Nevertheless, when the scale 
of measurement is altered, Earth itself is immense, 
with a history spanning billions of years and with 
oceans and continents covering thousands of miles. 

Looked at more closely, the diverse environments 
of earth brim with flora and fauna. On a flower- 
covered hillside, a single bee collecting pollen 
belongs to a web of life that connects all to all, 
including humans. 

According to Jeffers, however, most people are 
blind to the outer, larger world — especially 
people dependent upon the conveniences of 
modern civilization, such as manufactured 
foods, engineered landscapes, and technological 
inventions. Much of his work was designed to 
alert readers to the mental and spiritual danger 
of human self-centeredness, to awaken them to 
an order of beauty and truth beyond the human 
realm. As he explains in a preface to The Double 
Axe (1948), Inhumanism involves "a shifting of 
emphasis from man to not-man; the rejection 
of human solipsism and recognition of the 
transhuman magnificence." Thinking of the many 
rewards such a shift provides, Jeffers says: 

It seems time that our race began to think as an 
adult does, rather than like an egocentric baby 
or insane person. This manner of thought and 
feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist, 
though two or three people have said so and 
may again. It involves no falsehoods, and is a 
means of maintaining sanity in slippery times; it 
has objective truth and human value. It offers a 
reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead 
of love, hate and envy. It neutralizes fanaticism 
and wild hopes; but it provides magnificence for 
the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to 
admire greatness and rejoice in beauty. 

| 6 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 


Jeffers and the Central California Coast 

When Robinson and Una fefrers firsi arrived 
in Carmel, they lived in a log cabin near the 
sea. As new K weds, they enjoyed quiet days 
together. "There was housework and continual 
woodchopping," Una recollects in an essay written 
tor a local newspaper, hut most of their time was 
spent reading, writing, and studying the landscape. 
"We bought simple textbooks on flowers, shells, 
buds, and stars and used them," Una says. "We 
explored the village street by street, followed the 
traces or the moccasin trail through the forest, and 
dreamed around the crumbling walls about the 
old mission. When we walked up from the shore 
at sunset scarfs of smoke drifting up from hidden 
chimneys foretold our own happy supper and 
evening by the fire." 

Soon, they decided to venture farther afield. 
Boarding a stagecoach at dawn one day, they rode 
with the mail down the coast to the Big Sur post 
office and general store. "It was night before we 
arrived," Robinson Jeffers says of the experience 
in his preface to Jeffers Country (1971), "and every 
mile of the forty had been enchanted. We, and our 
dog, were the only passengers on the mail-stage; we 
were young and in love, perhaps that contributed to 
the enchantment. And the coast had displayed all 
its winter magic for us: drifts of silver rain through 
great gorges, clouds dragging on the summits, 
storm on the rock shore, sacred calm under the 

Along the way, they listened as the stage driver told 
stories about the wild countryside and the people 
who lived there. They stopped at Point Lobos and 

watched the sea lions. At Soberanes Creek, they 
s.iw cypress trees blown over in a recent storm. A 
ruined lumbermill stood on Notleys Landing. In 
Mill Creek Canyon, they passed under a suspended 
cable once used in a defunct limekiln operation. 
When they stopped at a lonely farmhouse to 
change horses, they heard abotit an old man dying 
a slow death inside. Further along, they came to a 
place where a wagon had flipped over some time 
before. Its cargo, the bodies of people drowned 
in a shipwreck, had spilled down a steep slope; 
no one knew if all had been recovered. When 
they reached the Sur River, they passed an albino 
redwood. Finally, they reached the end of the road, 
where they spent the night in a cabin set among 
the redwoods. Their dog "lay at the bed-foot and 
snarled all night long, terrified by the noises of the 
water and the forest odors." 

Eventually, Point Lobos would serve as the setting 
for Tamar (1924), Jeffers's breakthrough poem; the 
suspended cable became a key element of Thurso's 
Landing (1932); and a dying old man figured 
prominently in The Women at Point Sur (1927). 
Each story grew "like a plant from some particular 
canyon or promontory, some particular relationship 
of rock and water, wood, grass and mountain." But 
all that was in the future. All Jeffers knew, as he fell 
asleep in the cabin that night, was that he had been 
changed by the journey. The Monterey-Carmel-Big 
Sur coast was a part of him, and he belonged to it. 
When he awoke the next day, he understood his 
vocation: to speak for the landscape and to capture 
its mysterious beauty in verse. 

National Endowment for the Arts 



Rock and Hawk 

A vast legacy of symbolism stands behind both 
"rock" and "hawk" as independent entities, but it is 
their conjunction that interests Jeffers in his poem, 
"Rock and Hawk." "Here is a symbol," Jeffers says, 
of the two together. For him, the hawk represents 
"bright power," "fierce consciousness," and the 
readiness to act. The gray boulder, on the other 
hand, represents "dark peace," mysticism, and utter 
quietude. Together the two create what students 
of symbolism call a coincidentia oppositorum, 
a coincidence of opposites — such as male and 
female, light and dark, hot and cold. 

One of the most famous symbols of such 
conjunctions is that of the Chinese yin-yang: two 
forms, one dark and one light, enclosed within 
a circle. A wavy line between the forms suggests 
a flowing reciprocity, as if the two emerge from 
and dissolve into each other. The dark half (yiri) 
contains a dot of light in its center, and the light 
half (yang) contains a dot of dark; each, therefore, 
holds a portion of the other. 

In Jeffers's poem, the rock is the yin element. 
It stands for Earth, matter, physical reality: the 
bodily dimension of existence. It also signifies 
endurance, stability, and persistence through time. 
The hawk represents the yang element. It stands 
for sky, air, ethereal reality: the spiritual dimension 
of existence. The hawk also signifies force, speed, 
and the necessity of change. As for consciousness, 
one of Jeffers's concerns in this poem, the rock 
symbolizes "knowing" (a profound understanding 
of fundamental truth), while the hawk symbolizes 
"seeing" (an immediate grasp of the way things 
are). Both, Jeffers suggests, are essential to 

The poem "Rock and Hawk" might also contain 
autobiographical symbolism. Throughout his 
work, Jeffers acknowledges his own stone-like 
personality. In one poem he refers to stones as "old 
comrades;" in another, he calls them his "older 
brothers." Jeffers identified with the hardness 
and quietness of stones; he appreciated their 
imperturbability. Also throughout his work, Jeffers 
refers to the hawk-like qualities of his wife, Una. 
He admired her bright intellect, fierce loyalties, 
and active engagement with the world. "My nature 
is cold and undiscriminating," he once said. "She 
excited and focused it, gave it eyes and nerves 
and sympathies — She is more like a woman in 
a Scotch ballad, passionate, untamed and rather 
heroic — or like a falcon — than like any ordinary 

Together, Robinson and Una formed a balanced 
whole, a fruitful conjunction of opposites. Alone 
each contained a portion of the other, like the light 
and dark dots in the yin-yang symbol. For Jeffers, 
as an artist, this meant that part of his personality 
was hawk-like. In one poem, he refers to a falcon as 
"the bird with dark plumes in my blood." 

With Jeffers's work as a stonemason in mind, one 
should also remember that "tower" can be used 
as a verb, specifically in reference to the upward 
flight of a hawk as it prepares for a strike. When 
it reaches the top of its tower, it targets its quarry, 
and then, with a sudden downward rush, lets go. 
"Hawk Tower," in this regard, is not simply a static 
name for an edifice built by Jeffers. It is a climb 
toward heaven with wing-beats made of stone. 

I 8 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 

The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers 

Web Site 

There are four paperback collections containing selected 
poetry of Robinson Jeffers, two published by Stanford 
University Press. The Wild God of the World: An Anthology 
of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Albert Gelpi, also contains the 
long poem "Cawdor" (2003). Tim Hunt edited a longer 
anthology, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, in 2001. 
The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, also edited by Hunt, is 
a five-volume collection published between 1988 and 2002. 

Anthologies with Selected Poems of Jeffers, 
Including Introductions and Biographies 

Gioia, Dana, Chryss Yost, and Jack Hicks, eds. California 
Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present. Berkeley, CA: 
Heyday Books, 2004. 

Gioia, Dana, David Mason, Meg Schoerke, eds. Twentieth- 
Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. New 
York: McGraw Hill. 2004. 

Visit the Poetry Tool at for a 
for a biography and bibliography of Jeffers, along with many 
of his poems. 


Tor House and Hawk Tower in Carmel, California 

The Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, affiliated 
with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a 
nonprofit organization of volunteer members established 
in 1978 to acquire, maintain, and provide for public access 
to Tor House, Hawk Tower, and the surrounding gardens. 
The Foundation sponsors events and publishes material 
designed to preserve and extend the cultural and literary 
legacy of Robinson Jeffers, poet of California. Tours can be 
scheduled in advance. 

Selected Books about Jeffers and His Poetry 

Gioia, Dana. Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and 
Amencan Culture. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1 99 1 

Greenan, Edith. Of Una Jeffers: A Memoir. Ed. James Karman. 
Ashland. OR: Story Line Press. 1 998 

Karman, James. Robinson Jeffers: Poet of California. Rev. ed. 
Ashland. OR: Story Line Press. 200 1 . 

Karman, James, ed. Stones of the Sur. Poetry by Robinson 
Jeffers, Photographs by Moriey baer. Stanford, CA: Stanford 
University Press. 2001. 

Zaller, Robert, ed. Centennial Essays for Robinson Jeffers. 
Newark. DE: University of Delaware Press. 1991. 

National Endowment tor the 


National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Standards' 

1 . Students read a wide range of print and 
non-print texts to build an understanding of 
texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of 
the United States and the world; to acquire 
new information; to respond to the needs 
and demands of society and the workplace; 
and for personal fulfillment. Among these 
texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and 
contemporary works. 

2. Students read a wide range of literature from 
many periods in many genres to build an 
understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., 
philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human 

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies 
to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and 
appreciate texts. They draw on their prior 
experience, their interactions with other 
readers and writers, their knowledge of 
word meaning and of other texts, their 
word identification strategies, and their 
understanding of textual features (e.g., sound- 
letter correspondence, sentence structure, 
context, graphics). 

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, 
and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, 
vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a 
variety of audiences and for different purposes. 

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as 
they write and use different writing process 
elements appropriately to communicate with 
different audiences for a variety of purposes. 



Students apply knowledge of language 
structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling 
and punctuation), media techniques, figurative 
language, and genre to create, critique, and 
discuss print and non-print texts. 

Students conduct research on issues and 
interests by generating ideas and questions, and 
by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and 
synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., 
print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to 
communicate their discoveries in ways that suit 
their purpose and audience. 

Students use a variety of technological and 
information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, 
computer networks, video) to gather and 
synthesize information and to create and 
communicate knowledge. 

Students develop an understanding of and 
respect for diversity in language use, patterns, 
and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, 
geographic regions, and social roles. 

10. Students whose first language is not English 
make use of their first language to develop 
competency in the English language arts and to 
develop understanding of content across the 

1 1 . Students participate as knowledgeable, 
reflective, creative, and critical members of a 
variety of literacy communities. 

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual 
language to accomplish their own purposes 
(e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and 
the exchange of information). 

* This guide was developed with NCTE Standards and State Language Arts Standards in mind. Use these standards to guide and develop 
your application of the curriculum. 

20 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 

"Poetry should represent the whole 

mind; if part of the mind is occupied 

unhappily, so much the worse. And no 

use postponing poetry to a time when 

these storms may have passed, for I 

think we have but seen a beginning of 

them; the calm to look for is the calm 

at the whirlwind's heart." 



'One light is left us: the beauty 

of things, not men; 
The immense beauty of the world, 

not the human world. 
Look — and without imagination, desire 

nor dream — directly 
At the mountains and sea. Are they 

not beautiful?" 


from his poem "De Rerum Virtute" 

The Big Read is an initiative of the National 
Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading 
to the center of American culture. Jejfers educational 
materials are made possible through the generous 
support of the Poetry Foundation. 

A great nation deserves great art.