Although Jeffers occasionally published in literary journals, most of his poems appeared first in book-length collections. The dates for the poems presented on this website come from those appearances in books. Those interested in delving more deeply into the textual history of the poems should consult Volume 5 of The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), which includes detailed manuscript and publication history of every poem.
The following poems are organized chronologically by their first appearance in a book by Jeffers and are reproduced with permission of Stanford University Press on this RJA site or at PoetryFoundation.org (PF). Excerpts of prose writings by Jeffers also are available on this site.
The broken pillar of the wing jags from
the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death,
there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong,
incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer
will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you
have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying,
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing
that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned
in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded
river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
from The Women at Point Sur (1925-26)
from The Double Axe (1942-47)
Original Sin (PF)
from Last Poems (1953-62)