The Broken Balance

This poem is a rewriting of The Trumpet (January 1928). Much of the first, second, and final sections of The Broken Balance were taken directly from The Trumpet, though some of those three sections feature significant changes. It may be an improvement on the previous poem, or it may not. In either case it is not the same poem.

The more significant changes to the retained sections are as follows.

  • “So fierce and bitter a trumpet blast” is changed to “So fierce and final, a brazen Pealing of trumpets.”
  • “So long and final clamored out of the cloudless blue” is changed to “high up in the air, in the summer blue.”
  • “Under the house” is changed to “Under my windows.”

I can take or leave the changes. The last is the most significant, but not necessarily an improvement: it gives the conclusion a more personal view—even a selfish view, whereas “under the house” gave a since of deeply rooted, inhuman mischief.

Whereas The Trumpet depicts the rise and fall of civilization as a kind of mechanism of competing powers, The Broken Balance is more concerned with contamination—the filth and disease of civilization as an evil. This is more of a moral and mournful poem—an environmentalist poem, reminiscent of November Surf (1932). The title of the poem is taken from three potent lines that had not been in The Trumpet: [1]

Mourning the broken balance, the hopeless prostration of the earth
Under men’s hands and their minds,
The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city, …

The Broken Balance (SP 160–4) has been included only in a couple Jeffers anthologies:

  • Rock and Hawk: A Selection of Shorter Poems by Robinson Jeffers Random House, 1987, ed. Robert Hass
  • The Selected Poetry (SP) of Robinson Jeffers, Stanford, 2001; ed. Tim Hunt

[1] Selected Poetry (ed. Hunt) 163; also Not Man Apart, Sierra Club, pg. 87

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