A Memorized Answer

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008 at 9:44 am | See all Wildlife Entries.
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Krill, Antarctic Peninsula, by Bill Curtsinger. Photograph. Piece featured in Polar Attraction.

“No assemblage of words better portrays how I feel about the beauty and integrity of our universe as does this poem, The Answer, by Robinson Jeffers. I memorized it when I was a teenager. I often whisper it to myself, and only have to step into my back yard, and gaze skyward on a clear night to be reminded that, ‘the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe…’ and why we might want to ‘Love that, not man apart from that…’ Every moment I live, observe, follow, immerse in the wild, only fortifies this idea more, which has always seemed so obvious to me anyway. I suppose that all along I have subconsciously tried to provide visual elements to Jeffers’ writing with some of my photographs. I think all artists attempt to do this with an important and inspired piece of writing they relate to. It has been a formidable and somewhat futile undertaking given how perfect the picture is that Jeffers paints for me with this and other poems.” -Bill Curtsinger


The Answer *
by Robinson Jeffers
Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history… for contemplation or in fact…
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.

* “From THE COLLECTED POETRY OF ROBINSON JEFFERS, edited by Tim Hunt. Used with the permission of the publishers, Stanford University Press. Copyright 1936, renewed 1966 by Donnan and Garth Jeffers. Copyright transferred 1995 to the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University”

To read more poems or learn more about the poet Robinson Jeffers,
visit www.torhouse.org Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation


Bill Curtsinger in Antarctica. 

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