Jeffers’ “The Beauty of Things”

Considering his misanthropic views, it’s hard for me to view Jeffers as a Romantic poet, but in a poem like “The Beauty of Things” he certainly seems to share ideas with Emily Dickinson and earlier Romantics like Keats and Shelley:


To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

On the most obvious level, he shares a love of nature with earlier Romantics, but a more startling idea, particularly considering many of his longer poems, is his argument that the “sole business of poetry” is “to feel/ Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural /Beauty.”

I’m not sure how “Shine Perishing Republic” or “Original Sin” would meet this criteria, but it has certainly been a guiding principle in much of my life.

Perhaps one of Jeffers’ greatest accomplishments was merely to find a way to make a Romantic viewpoint seem viable in a modern world.

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