Original Sin

By Robinson Jeffers 1887–1962 Robinson Jeffers
The man-brained and man-handed ground-ape, physically   
The most repulsive of all hot-blooded animals
Up to that time of the world: they had dug a pitfall
And caught a mammoth, but how could their sticks and stones   
Reach the life in that hide? They danced around the pit, shrieking
With ape excitement, flinging sharp flints in vain, and the stench of their bodies
Stained the white air of dawn; but presently one of them
Remembered the yellow dancer, wood-eating fire
That guards the cave-mouth: he ran and fetched him, and others   
Gathered sticks at the wood’s edge; they made a blaze
And pushed it into the pit, and they fed it high, around the mired sides   
Of their huge prey. They watched the long hairy trunk
Waver over the stifle trumpeting pain,
And they were happy.

                              Meanwhile the intense color and nobility of sunrise,
Rose and gold and amber, flowed up the sky. Wet rocks were shining, a little wind
Stirred the leaves of the forest and the marsh flag-flowers; the soft valley between the low hills
Became as beautiful as the sky; while in its midst, hour after hour, the happy hunters
Roasted their living meat slowly to death.

                                                               These are the people.   
This is the human dawn. As for me, I would rather

Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man.   
But we are what we are, and we might remember   
Not to hate any person, for all are vicious;
And not be astonished at any evil, all are deserved;   
And not fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.

Robinson Jeffers, "Original Sin" from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt.  Copyright © 1938 by Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and ©  Jeffers Literary Properties.  With the permission of Stanford University Press, www.sup.org.

Source: The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 1988)

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Poet Robinson Jeffers 1887–1962

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Religion, Social Commentaries, Christianity

 Robinson  Jeffers

Biography

Robinson Jeffers was born in 1887 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The son of Presbyterian minister and Biblical scholar, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers, as a boy Jeffers was thoroughly trained in the Bible and classical languages. The Jeffers family frequently traveled to Europe, and Robinson attended boarding schools in Germany and Switzerland. In 1902, Jeffers enrolled in Western University of Pennsylvania; when his family moved to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Social Commentaries, Christianity

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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