The Trumpet

The Trumpet was published in Poetry in January 1928. It is a poem about power, as can be gleaned from each of its sections:

  1. … the Romans / Rule, and Etruria is finished; … When life grows hateful, there’s power …
  2. Power’s good; if is not always good but power’s good. … the power triumphs. … There is beauty in power also. / You children must widen your minds’ eyes to take mountains … and massed power …
  3. … all these forms of power placed without preference / In the grave arrangement of the evening.
  4. The continent’s a tamed ox, … Powerful and servile; … this helpless / Cataract for power … Therefore we happy masters … celebrate our power.
  5. … your seed shall enjoy wonderful vengeances and suck / The arteries and walk in triumph on the faces.

Here we see the power of civilization arise over nature and over the individual, whether hawk or man: empire, civilization, and machine. Even the great continent is tamed by the power of man, and the patriotic pride of manifest destiny glares forth in the bonfires and fireworks of Part IV; but in the end the humble grasses triumph. Theirs, at last, is the power. This is very reminiscent of Shine, Perishing Republic, though this poem shows more craft: where Shine strove to tell, The Trumpet shows.

The Trumpet does more than While this is indeed a poem about power, it also provides one of Jeffers’ signature statements about loveliness, beauty, and power:

Loveliness will live under glass
And beauty will go savage in the secret mountains.
There is beauty in power also.

The Trumpet has never been anthologized—it has not even been collected, probably because it provided much of the material that ended up in The Broken Balance, a poem that was published in the following year. I suppose it is generally regarded as voided by the appearance of The Broken Balance, as though the latter poem represented a corrected, improved replacement; but the fact remains that The Trumpet was a published poem—not a scribbled draft on the back of a grocery list, and too distinct to be seen as a mere variation. Its sections proceed in a rational progression. The link between each part is evident.

Part III of The Trumpet, The Machine, does appear in Tim Hunt’s Selected Poems, as Hunt was of the opinion that The Machine had once been conceived as an individual poem; however, it was never published by Jeffers as such.

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