Contemplation Of The Sword

Robinson Jeffers 1887 (Allegheny) – 1962 (Carmel-by-the-Sea)

Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide.
The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel,
  formerly used to kill men, but here
In the sense of a symbol. The sword: that is: the storms
  and counter-storms of general destruction; killing
  of men,
Destruction of all goods and materials; massacre, more or
  less intentional, of children and women;
Destruction poured down from wings, the air made accomplice,
  the innocent air
Perverted into assasin and poisoner.

The sword: that is: treachery and cowardice, incredible
  baseness, incredible courage, loyalties, insanities.
The sword: weeping and despair, mass-enslavement,
  mass-tourture, frustration of all hopes
That starred man's forhead. Tyranny for freedom, horror for
  happiness, famine for bread, carrion for children.
Reason will not decide at last, the sword will decide.

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
  only
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
  beautiful
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.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robinson Jeffers

John Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. more…

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