This poem, somewhat representative of Jeffers’ core motivation and mission as a poet, presents the work of poets and stone-cutters as work that resists the vagaries of time. Jeffers expressed the importance of the endurance of poetry many times over his life. As a faithful follower of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s doctrine of poetry as an expression of the eternal, Jeffers expressed his mission as a poet to be to create work that would endure past his death, that fame is better enjoyed from the grave, and that poetry should concern itself only with things that endure.
Garth Jeffers, in his book Memories of Tor House, pointed out that this poem was written with Robert Maddock in mind. Maddock was the stone-cutter that Jeffers hired to craft the gargoyles and keystone plates of Hawk Tower. It might seem a little ironic that Maddock’s work has degraded noticeably over time. Two of his gargoyles have been replaced, and one of the keystone plates as well (the unicorn). It seems safe to say that the poet’s work has fared better.
The text of To the Stone-Cutters (SP 18) has been posted online by the Robinson Jeffers Association.
–––––––––– To the Stone-Cutters has been included in the following anthologies:
- The Oxford Book of American Poetry, 2006; ed. David Lehman
- Twentieth-Century American Poetry, 2003; eds. Gioia, Mason, & Schoerke
- The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers, 2003; ed. Albert Gelpi
- The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Stanford, 2001; ed. Tim Hunt
- The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry, 1995; ed. Jay Parini
- The New Oxford Book of American Verse, 1976; ed. Richard Ellman
- Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems, Vintage Books, 1965
- The Pocket Book of Modern Verse, 11th Printing, 1963; ed. Oscar Williams.
- The Oxford Book of American Verse, 1950; ed. F.O. Matthiessen