Carmel Point

by Robinson Jeffers


Original Language English

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses--
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads--
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. --As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem by Robinson Jeffers has always affected me on several levels. First, the poet paints for us a serene, one might say timeless, image of the cliffs overlooking Carmel Point: fields and rock outcrops, a few horses and cows. But then time, and humanity, do begin to impose themselves in the form of houses whose presence "deface" the perfect scene.

Then an insight: The land in its pristine beauty will last; the intruding houses will not.

"...It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve..."


This could be a disturbing thought, the fleeting nature of human presence; but, no,observing the world through the poet's eyes, it is an immense relief! Because the natural world possesses a patience beyond the time frames understood by humans, that natural harmony waits and rests, safe from the unthinking disruptions of people.

(A corollary: If we want the products human activity and culture to last longer, then they must be in harmony with the larger reality of the natural world that is always, unavoidably their underlying foundation.)

...Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff...


The lesson for us? We are passing phenomena upon an immense canvas of interbeing. Far better to dwell in that larger reality, that patient and lasting reality. But to do so we must take a heroic step outside of ourselves and our obsessive self-fixation as humans and, instead, see the larger community of being we inhabit. That's when we can see the world around us clearly and be at home.

--As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.


A good day for a leisurely walk... Who knows what patient marvels await recognition right beneath our feet?



Recommended Books: Robinson Jeffers

The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers Cawdor and Medea Excesses of God: Robinson Jeffers As a Religious Figure The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers: Vol. 3, 1939-1962





Carmel Point