Oh Lovely Rock

By Robinson Jeffers 1887–1962 Robinson Jeffers
We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, up the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices.

                                                                  We lay on gravel and kept a little camp-fire for warmth.
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son’s face and his companion’s, and the vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire’s breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light-gray diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no fern nor lichen, pure naked rock...as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange...I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.

Robinson Jeffers, “Oh Lovely Rock” from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1988).© 1938, Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and copyright © Jeffers Literary Properties. Used by permission Stanford University Press.

Source: The Collected 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 Nature, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Landscapes & Pastorals

 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 Nature, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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