Kees’ “Lands End”

I thought this poem by Weldon Kees was interesting, perhaps because of how different his treatment of the subject matter is from a Robinson Jeffers poem (see Jeffers’ November Surf) that I just finished commenting on.


A day all blue and white, and we
Came out of woods to sand
And snow-capped waves. The sea
Rose with us as we walked, the land
Built dunes, a lighthouse, and a sky of gulls.

Here where I built my life ten years ago,
The day breaks gray and cold;
And brown surf, muddying the shore,
Deposits fish-heads, sewage, rusted tin.
Children and men break bottles on the stones.
Beyond the lighthouse, black against the sky,
Two gulls are circling where the woods begin.

I like both poems, but despite the fact that he was considerably younger than Jeffers, Kees’ poem seems dated to me, reminding me a lot of Eliot’s “Wasteland.” There’s certainly no sense of environmentalism in Kees’ poem. Rather, he sees the desolation merely as a reflection of his own inner state.

As noted in my comments on “November Surf,” I’d be much more likely to react with outrage to the pollution desecrating the beach than with a sense of inner despair, but, then, I’m much more likely to be outraged than I am to be overcome with a sense of despair — which, of course, is not to say that I haven’t occasionally seen the PNW’s dark skies as a reflection of my own mood.

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