Robinson Jeffers





Ossian's Grave
PREHISTORIC MONUMENT NEAR CUSHENDALL
IN ANTRIM

Steep up in Lubitavish townland stands 
A ring of great stones like fangs, the shafts of the stones 
Grown up with thousands of years of gradual turf, 
The fangs of the stones still biting skyward; and hard 
Against the stone ring, the oblong enclosure 
Of an old grave guarded with erect slabs; gray rocks 
Backed by broken thorn-trees, over the gorge of Glenaan; 
It is called Ossian's Grave. Ossian rests high then, 
Haughtily alone. 
If there were any fame or burial or monument 
For me to envy, 
Warrior and poet they should be yours and yours.
 
For this is the pure fame, not caged in a poem, 
Fabulous, a glory untroubled with works, a name in the north 
Like a mountain in the mist, like Aura 
Heavy with heather and the dark gray rocks, or Trostan 
Dark purple in the cloud: happier than what the wings 
And imperfections of work hover like vultures 
Above the carcass.
 
                  I also make a remembered name; 
And I shall return home to the granite stones 
On my cliff over the greatest ocean 
To be blind ashes under the butts of the stones: 
As you here under the fanged limestone columns 
Are said to lie, over the narrow north straits 
Toward Scotland, and the quick-tempered Moyle. But written 
     reminders 
Will blot for too long a year the bare sunlight 
Above my rock lair, heavy black birds 
Over the field and the blood of the lost battle. 

Oh but we lived splendidly 
In the brief light of day 
Who now twist in our graves. 
You in the guard of the fanged 
Erect stones; and the man-slayer 
Shane O'Neill dreams yonder at Cushendun 
Crushed under his cairn; 
And Hugh McQuillan under his cairn 
By his lost field in the bog on Aura; 
And I a foreigner, one who has come to the country of the dead 
Before I was called, 
To eat the bitter dust of my ancestors; 
And thousands on tens of thousands in the thronged earth 
Under the rotting freestone tablets 
At the bases of broken round towers; 
And the great Connaught queen on her mountain-summit 
The high cloud hoods, it creeps through the eyes of the cairn.

We dead have our peculiar pleasures, of not 
Doing, of not feeling, of not being. 
Enough has been felt, enough done, Oh and surely 
Enough of humanity has been. We lie under stones 
Or drift through the endless northern twilights 
And draw over our pale survivors the net of our dream. 
All their lives are less 
Substantial than one of our deaths, and they cut turf 
Or stoop in the steep 
Short furrows, or drive the red carts, like weeds waving 
Under the glass of water in a locked bay, 
Which neither the wind nor the wave nor their own will 
Moves; when they seem to awake 
It is only to madden in their dog-days for memories of dreams 
That lost all meaning many centuries ago. 

Oh but we lived splendidly 
In the brief light of day, 
You with hounds on the mountain 
And princes in palaces, 
I on the western cliff 
In the rages of the sun: 
Now you lie grandly under your stones 
But I in a peasant's hut 
Eat bread bitter with the dust of dead men; 
The water I draw at the spring has been shed for tears 
Ten thousand times, 
Or wander through the endless northern twilights 
From the rath to the cairn, through fields 
Where every field-stone's been handled 
Ten thousand times, 
In a uterine country, soft 
And wet and worn out, like an old womb 
That I have returned to, being dead. 

Oh but we lived splendidly 
Who now twist in our graves. 
The mountains are alive; 
Tievebuilleagh lives, Trostan lives, 
Lurigethan lives; 
And Aura, the black-faced sheep in the belled heather; 
And the swan-haunted loughs; but also a few of us dead 
A life as inhuman and cold as those.