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Robinson Jeffers - Contemplation Of The Sword

Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide.
The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel, 
        formerly used to kill men, but here
In the sense of a symbol. The sword: that is: the storms 
        and counter-storms of general destruction; killing 
        of men,
Destruction of all goods and materials; massacre, more or 
        less intentional, of children and women;
Destruction poured down from wings, the air made accomplice, 
        the innocent air
Perverted into assasin and poisoner.

The sword: that is: treachery and cowardice, incredible 
        baseness, incredible courage, loyalties, insanities.
The sword: weeping and despair, mass-enslavement, 
        mass-tourture, frustration of all hopes
That starred man's forhead. Tyranny for freedom, horror for 
        happiness, famine for bread, carrion for children.
Reason will not decide at last, the sword will decide.

Dear God, who are the whole splendor of things and the sacred 
        stars, but also the cruelty and greed, the treacheries
And vileness, insanities and filth and anguish: now that this 
        thing comes near us again I am finding it hard
To praise you with a whole heart.
I know what pain is, but pain can shine. I know what death is, 
        I have sometimes
Longed for it. But cruelty and slavery and degredation, 
        pestilence, filth, the pitifulness
Of men like hurt little birds and animals . . . if you were 
Waves beating rock, the wind and the iron-cored earth,
With what a heart I could praise your beauty.
You will not repent, nor cancel life, nor free man from anguish
For many ages to come. You are the one that tortures himself to 
        discover himself: I am
One that watches you and discovers you, and praises you in little 
        parables, idyl or tragedy, beautiful
Intolerable God.
The sword: that is:
I have two sons whom I love. They are twins, they were born 
        in nineteen sixteen, which seemed to us a dark year
Of a great war, and they are now of the age
That war prefers. The first-born is like his mother, he is so 
That persons I hardly know have stopped me on the street to 
        speak of the grave beauty of the boy's face.
The second-born has strength for his beauty; when he strips 
        for swimming the hero shoulders and wrestler loins
Make him seem clothed. The sword: that is: loathsome disfigurements, 
        blindness, mutilation, locked lips of boys
Too proud to scream.
Reason will not decide at last: the sword will decide.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 5262 times | Comments and analysis of Contemplation Of The Sword by Robinson Jeffers Comments (1)

Contemplation Of The Sword - Comments and Information

Poet: Robinson Jeffers
Poem: Contemplation Of The Sword
Year: Published/Written in 1938
Poem of the Day: Feb 23 2016

Comment 1 of 1, added on May 14th, 2009 at 3:17 PM.

Mr. Jeffers recognizes the destruction of the sword;the ugliness of war and all the destructiveness; but the sword has two edges. Without the sword, we would all be subject to the whims of despots. It has been the sword that has given us, here in the United States, the freedom that has allowed each to seek his/her path; the same path that Mr. Jeffers walked in that he choose for his refuge from mankind.

Thomas McClure from United States

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