The Big Read Blog (Archive)

"Beautiful Beyond Belief"

Washington, DC

DSC24197, Carmel, California, USA by jimg944 via flickr

Artists like Georgia O?Keefe and Paul Cézanne are well known for creating evocative portraits of their natural surroundings. Robinson Jeffers on the other hand painted the landscapes he loved with poetry, instilling in readers the beauty and power of the American West.

A native of Pennsylvania, Jeffers moved to California as a teenager, eventually settling in the northern coastal town of Carmel. The rugged, wild terrain became a major subject in Jeffers?s poems, and his lyrical verse conveys both his awe of nature and the horror with which he viewed its destruction by modern life.

In ?Carmel Point,? he describes the beauty etched into the area's ancient granite, which remains as "safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff." In this poem, he takes heart that humanity?s intrusion is ?a tide that swells and in time will ebb,? allowing the land to eventually return to its unspoiled state.

He is less optimistic in ?The Coast-Road,? which laments the impending intrusion of civilization brought on by a new thoroughfare. Though development might destroy the lowlands, Jeffers is hopeful that the upper mountain slopes will remain out of man's reach. ?Where is our consolation? / Beautiful beyond belief / The heights glimmer in the sliding cloud, the great bronze gorge-cut sides of the mountain tower up invincibly, / Not the least hurt by this ribbon of road carved on their sea-foot.?

Today, at least one slice of Carmel remains as beautiful as ever: Jeffers's home. The poet's estate includes Tor House and Hawk Tower, both of which are open to the public. They serve as a monument not just to Jeffers, but to the land which he so loved.

For more about Jeffers and his poetry, please visit The Big Read site.

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