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Robinson Jeffers

Original Sin, Part II

I thought seriously about posting this poem for today’s entry:

ORIGINAL SIN

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.

as I remember being quite impressed with it when I first read it shortly after returning from Vietnam.

Though I’ve reverted to my original belief that man is born inherently good and society corrupts him, it still strikes a powerful note.

It reminds me of Golding’s Lord of the Flies, another work that seems to reaffirm the Old Testament version of man that requires redemption, though it’ s not clear what kind of redemption that would be for Jeffers.

I realized, however, that on a bright spring day like today, that this

was a more appropriate post.