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The Answer

March 30, 2013

Poetry

Robinson Jeffers

I’m travelling over the Easter break so instead of the usual weekly post I’m leaving you ‘The Answer’ by one of my favorite poets, Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962).

The Answer

Then what is the answer?—Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence, and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history…for contemplation or in fact…
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.

Source: The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 1988)

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”It would be better for men to be few and live far apart, where none could infect another; then slowly the sanity of field and mountain and the cold ocean and glittering stars might enter their minds.”  Robinson Jeffers

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About Malcolm Greenhill

Malcolm Greenhill is President of Sterling Futures, a fee-based financial advisory firm, based in San Francisco. I write about wealth related issues in the broadest sense of the word. When I am not writing, reading, working and spending time with family, I try to spend as much time as possible backpacking in the wilderness.

View all posts by Malcolm Greenhill

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9 Comments on “The Answer”

  1. John (Zoli) Varady Says:

    The Answer is indeed one of Jeffers’ greatest if less anthologized poems. The Sierra Club chose the phrase ‘Not Man Apart’ as the title of its superb 1964 format series book of photos of the Big Sur interspersed with lines from Jeffers. I chose the last stanza as my Facebook favorite expression. Thanks Malcolm.

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Zoli, I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to Robinson Jeffers and for the wonderful tour of his house you gave the Greenhill family the other week. To have such a passionate guide to the life of such a passionate man was an unforgettable experience.

      Reply

  2. Morgan Mussell Says:

    Great choice. If you ever get a chance to visit Carmel, CA, (or maybe you have) you’ll enjoy visiting Tor House. Taking the guided tour several years ago was great, learning how dedicated Jeffers was to his stonemason’s craft. I posted a little bit about it here:http://wp.me/pYql4-1u7

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Thank you. That was a great post of yours. We were fortunate to have John (Zoli) Varady, one of the worlds leading lay authorities on Robinson Jeffers give us a personal tour a few weeks ago. It was everything you said in your post and more.

      Reply

  3. swabby429 Says:

    This needs to be read by the decision makers in our world capitals. It speaks volumes so elegantly.

    Reply

  4. Hanne T. Fisker Says:

    Emanating raw sharp beauty and truth, the arrow flying through consciousness reaching it’s destination of integrity effortlessly.

    Reply

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