Not Man Apart

A great poem by a man who worked with his hands as a builder, as well as with his imagination - a wonderful combination.

Posted by Frank P at December 28, 2009 7:07 PM

that boy sure could write.

i read him for years - my 20's and 30's.

wanted for a long time to do a script based on the double ax.

(wioth today;s speciual effects it could be done.)

until i decided that i couldn't stomach his philosphy.

his philosophy was/is abominable.

transhumanism was/is anti-humanist and anti-modern.

he equated fdr and hitler.

that's just wrong. wrong and bad.


there are things worth fighting for.

dying for.

killing to protect.

like a free future.

jeffers felt the earth would be more beauteus without humanity.

[see the poem: their beauty has more meaning.]


his writing ability - like ludwig van b's composing ability and bonnard's painting ability, michelangelo's sculpting ability and so on - disproves it.

i think - if i recall correctly - that he wrote his epitaph. inscritption:


I admired the beauty
While I was human, now I am part of the beauty.
I wander in the air,
Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean;
Touch you and Asia
At the same moment; have a hand in the sunrises
And the glow of this grass.

Beautiful stuff.

but it served misanthropy. not just pacifism but misanthropy.

i think he was an atheist and believed NOT in any eternal spirit.

so, believing were are merely intelligent beasts aboard a gorgeous globe spinning somewhere in the middle of nowhere, he thought culture was largey a bad deal. and human society a drag.

some cultures are. not all.

not a culture which could produce a jeffers.

Posted by reliapundit at December 28, 2009 7:54 PM

I dunno, Reliapundit; seems to me his definition of God is the Whole Shooting Match, in which we are transient, and who knows; perhaps better off in a later transmutation. - back in the drift unconscious - or whatever. We shall 'see', or not - as the case may be.

Let's be honest, most of us are pretty much unconscious anyway and can only see as far our navels and make pretty wild guesses about what the shit spinning around us really means, if indeed it 'means' anything. As we try to figure it out, I'm sure most of us have assembled similar thoughts to Jeffers, but unfortunately are just not possessed of the craft to record these glimpses of the awesome and sobering truth.

You don't have to abandon your own interpretations and hopes to appreciate the expressed delineations of a brutally honest mind. His poem reminds me of another by WH Mallock (paraphrasing Lucretious); there a couple of typos in this published version, but it's near enough:

Posted by Frank P at December 29, 2009 6:41 AM

frank p;

at a certain point- when i abandoned postmodernism and the left - i saw that his transhumanism had morphed into an ideology condemning churchill and fdr as the moral equivalents of hitler, and he lost me.


no matter how we envision god, that cannot be the case - except to a moral relativist or a completely amoral person.

many eco-nutsies share his inhumanist views and pine for an earth devoid of humanity.

it's one reason i reject them, too.

jeffers' extraordinary writing remains - it should inspire all who aspire to write beautifully.

all the best!

Posted by reliapundit at December 29, 2009 9:32 AM



my two fav's for the last 20 years:

happy new year!

Posted by reliapundit at December 29, 2009 9:35 AM

In general, great poetry survives its poets. That's the warp and the woof of it.

It's not the weaver but what comes off the loom. I'm not even sure it is, in the case of great art, the weaver that directs his hands.

We make of a poem what we will and we make of a poet what we would like to make of what we see or know of his life.

Eliot, anti-Semite and detestable for it, but Four Quartets exists apart.

Pound, mad and fascist and a paranoid schizophrenic that babbled off into incomprehensibility, but the First Canto stands.

One may use a great poem in the service of many different ideologies and therein lies the greatness of the poem. It can be applied to the things of man but it always stands apart from them and to the side of time.

Posted by vanderleun at December 29, 2009 10:29 AM

Thanks for posting this one, Gerald. Jeffers has always been my favorite poet, partly because he caught the beauty and spirit of the central California coast (my home) so well.

Reliapundit is correct. Jeffers' personal philosophy was hugely misanthropic; it's no accident that Edward Abbey and other eco-loons embraced him as a proto-Green. Then again, one might say that only someone who'd tried to love humanity with all their heart, and had been heartbroken by its behavior during a brutal century, could hate it with such vehemence.

His noxious ideology aside, ol' Rob was still one hell of a poet, and his verses are among the most beautiful penned by any American. "It's not the weaver but what comes off the loom" is as good a rule as any I've heard to draw the necessary distinction between an imperfect creator, and a perfect creation.

Posted by Aquila at December 29, 2009 10:44 AM

To one of Aquila's points, if you find yourself in or near Carmel, California, take a tour of Jeffers' Tor House. Much of the man and his work can be better understood after looking at the house and tower that he helped build.

Posted by Chrees at January 3, 2010 6:23 PM

I remember the book "Not Man Apart", which I read in the early to mid-seventies. It had a great effect on me, as I had just lived in California, as a musician, from 1970 thru 1972, and missed it, once I returned to New York, my home.

I am a photographer and writer today, with a published book, in large part because of that book.

Perhaps Jeffers did have a questionable personal philosophy, but as we seem to agree, his writing was extraordinary. It is part of the fascination of our existence that such perfect creative understanding can manifest through or from such a seemingly imperfect source... "Man" - but truly "not man apart..."

Posted by rashid at September 2, 2010 5:59 PM

"Time, that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling, and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel
Pardons him for writing well."

--W.H. Auden

Posted by Little Miss Attila at September 2, 2010 8:29 PM

A true poem stands by itself once it has left its creator's pen. In many cases we must hope that it is a fairer trace of the poet's heart than the rest of the poet's life.

And, as an aside, that picture reminds me: if color photography had been suppressed until Ansel Adams passed, the world would be richer.


Posted by Ric Locke at September 2, 2010 11:02 PM

Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy
And the dogs that talk revolution,
Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies

Posted by JD at September 3, 2010 6:37 AM

i stand by my earlier comments:

jeffers was a great writer but morally defective.

he placed his greatest faith and his great talents in the service of a false moral equivalence.

Posted by reliapundit at September 3, 2010 9:11 AM

The fine instruments created by Antonio Stradivarius have
produced music that will continue to inspire future generations.

Perhaps he was divinely inspired, but 'God' couldn't have produced
a Stradivarius without Antonio. (or for that matter, the WPA, and
dare I say, the autobahns?)

Posted by Robert at September 3, 2010 9:44 AM

It's that word. He had to use that word. "Organic." As a conservative minded fellow I cringe to hear it. I am conditioned:

"Organic WholeFoods, the WholeFoods of life and things, the divine beauty
of the Groceryverse. Love that, not man."

Conjures up frightening images of fleece-bedeviled Sunday Markets. "Can't we park the Porsche Cayenne any closer, honey?"

Posted by Andy at September 3, 2010 9:45 AM

Socrates swore that poets were often imbecilic even when their poetry was not, and claimed they were the worst interpreters of their own work. He too thought only a devine connection could explain this. Whatever the gifts necessary for artistry, wisdom plainly is not one of them.

What I read of Jeffers' here tells me even his misanthropic views are uncertain; he is telling us what bedevils him, not proselytizing. He is not demanding we take part in his torment, which suggests his ego is not out of control. That is unusual where talent is concerned.

Many men have repented of their opinions when they lived long enough to see their train of followers.

Posted by james wilson at September 3, 2010 9:04 PM