Robinson Jeffers





Oh, Lovely Rock

We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, 
      up the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest       
      above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian 
      firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices.

                                                                  We lay on gravel 
      and kept a little camp-fire for warmth.
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling 
      darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay 
      down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son's face and his companion's, and the 
      vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire's 
      breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light-gray 
      diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no 
      fern nor lichen, pure naked rock...as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the 
      flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange...I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and 
      childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling 
      child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies 
      of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: 
      this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: 
      and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.