Rock and Hawk

… the massive / Mysticism of stone, …[1]

This poem is essential Jeffers, though it might seem problematic to some readers. Yes, it is didactic, but there is one other potential stumbling block:

… Fierce consciousness joined with final / Disinterestedness; …

Jeffers made efforts throughout his poetic career to use the big picture to remove the pain and tragedy from the personal view, or even the view of the human world. Human consciousness and conscience, Jeffers seemed to believe throughout the 1930s, was a psychological weakness and sickness. His narratives from Thurso’s Landing and Margrave to Give Your Heart to the Hawks dealt with little else.

“Final disinterestedness” is an odd goal for the living, or for the future. It is one thing to use Inhumanism to broaden our perspective and become more compassionate to other animals, and yes, even to help us transcend our personal griefs, but ought we use “the big picture” incessantly as a pain killer, to blind our hearts to the pain of immediate existence? Does this not run the risk of becoming mere escapism—an opiate? It is one thing to transcend the homo-chauvinism of society, but should one not also accept one’s own nature? We know that Jeffers exhibited the capacity to accept his human nature, but not in this particular poem.

Furthermore, it may be healthy for humans to expand their awareness to include something other than their immediate concerns, but what does it mean for us, with all our complexity, to adopt the disinterest of stone and cold tunnel vision of hawks? Is this a realizable goal for the future, or is this just Jeffers fleeing from his own humanity like the galaxies in his poem Margrave?

[1] SP 502

Rock and Hawk has been posted online by the Academy of American Poets.


Rock and Hawk has been included in the following anthologies: