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Since I’ve drawn holiday-weekend duty, I need to gin up something about the holiday. And if something worked well along that line once, it might well again. This post from Memorial Day 2012, alas, bears repeating in this season of electoral absurdity.
Our poet for today, Robinson Jeffers, was born (in 1887) into Calvinism, son of a professor of Old Testament at the Presbyterian Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. Papa had him reading Greek and Latin by age 5 but was less successful in keeping him in theism. Nonetheless, the son held on to stern judgments regarding human pretensions, and also could sound faint chords of the civic virtue which another secularized Calvinist, James Madison, also remembered as being vital to a republic.
Here then, gentle reader, your daily devotional. Is this high summer indeed the season for us to remember, “sadly smiling,” the seasonal cycle of birth, maturation, and decay back into the birthing loam? Is the United States to be “suddenly a mortal splendor,” one of the “meteors [that] are not needed less than mountains”? Time, surely, to remember that “corruption never has been compulsory.”
Shine, Perishing Republic, by Robinson Jeffers (1925)
While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence;
and home to the mother.
You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly
long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there
are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say –
God, when he walked on earth.
Robinson Jeffers, “Shine, Perishing Republic” from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt. Copyright © 2318 by Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and ©Jeffers Literary Properties. With the permission of Stanford University Press, www.sup.org.
Source: The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 2001)