Friday, October 5, 2007

To the Stone Cutters

To The Stone-Cutters

by Robinson Jeffers

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you fore-defeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly:
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth dies, the brave sun
Die blind, his heart blackening:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey peace in old poems.


BladeRunner said...

I think my favorite part of this poem is the enjambment between lines 2 and 3. "Challengers of oblivion" is also a enjoyable turn of phrase, something I'd imagine a friend of mine stating in one of his poems.

I wonder though, is a poet's goal to leave a lasting mark of himself upon this world? Did Shakespeare, or any literary figure, write his sonnets and plays in order to be remembered, or do we superimpose that thought onto him because he has been remembered?


dw said...

I thnk plenty of writers write to be remembered. Whether or not that's a worthy goal, well, Jeffers calls the stone cutters here "fore-defeated."


BladeRunner said...

I don't deny that many writers do write to be remembered. I guess I was just musing on the reasons I write, and to be remembered by history or society is not one of them. I've never written with the specific desire to be remembered (okay, I admit, once).

I guess I think of poetry as a very personal art form, and to write with the specific purpose of leaving a mark in history seems to drain some of the personal connection out of it. It becomes to grand to be intimate.

I know, of course, that poetry isn't limited to the intimate, and it can be quite epic if that's the author's intention. I guess that it's more my internal, personal bias for the form.

dw said...

The personal, intimate, emotional resonance of poems, for the writer especially, is a fine reason to write, as good as any other. And I think some of the most powerful poems leave us feeling like we're eavesdropping on the interior world of a woman talking to God or a man conversing with himself. The lyric poem is all about this feeling, among others.

I wonder, though, if we're fooling ourselves to think any use of language is utterly private. Language itself is social. So somehow, inside even my most private poems, there lurk other voices and resonances. Looking forward to our lunch on Tues.