“Their beauty has more meaning” by Robinson Jeffers

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    Yesterday morning enormous the moon hung low on the ocean,
    Round and yellow-rose in the glow of dawn;
    The night-herons flapping home wore dawn on their wings. Today
    Black is the ocean, black and sulphur the sky,
    And white seas leap. I honestly do not know which day is more beautiful.
    I know that tomorrow or next year or in twenty years
    I shall not see these things—and it does not matter, it does not hurt;
    They will be here. And when the whole human race
    Has been like me rubbed out, they will still be here: storms, moon and ocean,
    Dawn and the birds. And I say this: their beauty has more meaning
    Than the whole human race and the race of birds.

23 thoughts on ““Their beauty has more meaning” by Robinson Jeffers

  1. The poem is beautiful, with fine associations and understated music (clearly part of the Whitmanian tradition). However, I think Jeffers was intellectually muddled: in the absence of consciousness, there’s no meaning or beauty. True, when the human race is no more, the ocean and moon will still be here, but we can’t say they’ll have meaning or beauty because only consciousness can lend those. Although I wouldn’t wish to stretch the point, it’s possible to argue that ocean and moon would effectively disappear altogether with consciousness as well. By way of illustration, consider sleep: when we’re in deep sleep the world doesn’t exist; when we awake, the world is there.

    1. Very interesting.Thank you Yakov.I personally don’t think they would disappear because there will always be someone conscious on earth.Well,I hope so.But there could be a catastrophe.But when we are asleep the bed doesn’t disappear,does it?We don’t find ourselves on the floor which also might have disappeared.So funny!

  2. Although I wouldn’t support the argument, it may be said that the bed IS only in the light of consciousness. Without consciousness, there’s no floor, no bed, neither truth nor falsity. So once we wake up, we’re in a position to affirm or deny, to make truth claims.

  3. You’re quite right. It’s an old philosophical argument which I, personally, don’t care for. Yet I simply wanted to show that it’s a cogent and plausible one. But the othe point I made, that there’s no beauty or meaning without consciousness, is an important one. You prefer to live – which is marvelous – but you can only fully live once you acknowledge the primacy and majesty of consciousness. I emphasize the point because in our age of mass media and advertising it’s about buying things, about consumerism and the dissatisfaction that necessarily follows. The fact is that if you go deeply enough, with deep meditation, you find peace and joy already there; there’s no sense of being incomplete, a success or failure. These types of labels are used as part of the strategy adopted by large corporations to manipulate the public at large, to accumulate profits and maintain power. Acknowledging the power of consciousness is the first step toward liberation (both from outside corrupting influences and one’s own neurotic habits). As a corrective to Jeffers’ beautiful poem, I would recommend the following by Emily Dickinson:

    The brain is wider than the sky
    For put them side by side
    The one the other will contain
    With ease and you beside.

    The brain is deeper than the sea
    For hold them blue to blue
    The one the other will absorb
    As sponges – buckets do.

    The brain is just the weight of God,
    For lift them – pound for pound –
    And they will differ, if they do,
    As syllable from sound.

    1. I agree with you.But people don’t necessarily have to be able to put it in terms of consciousness.I find it useful to note there are differing forms of perception.A narrow focused form for problem solving which we can get stuck in and only see what it in out personal interest.Then there is a wider more open perception where we look at the world without wanting anything.Then we receive everything.Meaning is something humans create.I agree that in itself the moon has no meaning.In Sylvia Plath’s poetry it occurs a great deal as a symbol with her meaning.Beauty too….we vary on what we call beautiful.A weed in the pavement can be beautiful to a child.Or even to me as I grew up in an industrial town.
      To see Eternity in a grain of sand

      1. I appreciate your comment and taking the time to read the poems. You mention something here which struck me and with which I entirely agree. I actually address the issue on a number of occasions, and from different angles, in some of my poems. Yes, consciousness can be biased; meaning itself is limited, and can be a form of bias. At the point, I would draw a distinction between mere meaninglessness and non-meaning from which countless meanings spring. There’s definitely something beyond consciousness (as we ordinarily understand that term). I point to or at least offer some suggestions in poems like “Everywhere”, “Meditation”, “My Wife”, “First Love”, “Amsterdam Park”, “More Beautiful Differences”, “I Dreamt Once…”, and “Rain”. By the way, I’ve always deeply respected mathematicians!!!

      2. Thank you very much.I will read those poems you have mentioned.I agree with you about consciousness.There are things beyond it and it reminds me of a song I heard in Catalan called by Google tranlate ” unnamed song” whereas I thought it should be ” song without a name” as it is like the music ” songs without words” by Mendelssohn.The name could be in a different realm of being
        Maths and poetry are very different and in some ways I think maths can have a bad effect on one!Thanks again for your comment

  4. Thank you for posting the lovely poem by Jeffers. Isn’t the poetry of images–no meaning but in things–so much more effortlessly potent and tender and quick to reach the soul than poems filled with abstractions and “messages?”

    1. I am so glad you like it,David.I admit I err sometimes but I read Keats’ letters and he says the same as you do.The abstract intellect is ok for mathematics but images & symbols change our hearts.

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