Dear Judas and Other Poems (1929)

After Robinson Jeffers completed the stone portion of his tower in 1924, he took a year or two off and then resumed his stonework with a dining hall extension in 1926. Progress was not quite so rapid as it had been before. The comparatively simple, single-level extension which inherited as part of its structure the walls of the cottage and the garage, remained far from complete in spring 1929. Though the pace of the stonework had slowed, Jeffers was still producing books at an annual clip.

In that same year, Jeffers published Dear Judas and Other Poems, which featured a pair of longer poems that displayed Jeffers’ nuanced interest in Christianity as nothing Jeffers had published before. He had hinted at his Christian pedigree and parentage in Shine, Perishing Republic, Apology for Bad Dreams and The Women at Point Sur, but in this volume he took direct aim at the religion of his father and his fellow countrymen.

The two narratives in this book, Dear Judas (CP vol. 2) and The Loving Shepherdess, take on opposing images of Jesus: one is the Christ, a masculine, right-wing power figure; the other is the more feminine Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, more amicable to left-wing sensibilities. The savior of Dear Judas is the protagonist of a passion play, following the Messiah theme; the savior of The Loving Shepherdess is on a kind of death march of the Good Shepherd, with her Via Dolorosa stretching from somewhere south of Big Sur to the San Joaquin River.

After Dear Judas and Other Poems, Jeffers would not publish another narrative-length poem for another three years.