A strong effort and a significant work. The title piece is generally regarded as one of his best.
Harkening back to Boats in a Fog, the short lyric Fire on the Hills stands out for its view of beauty as being not confined to loveliness. The Bed By the Window, though a bit awkward, stands out for its light-heartedness, a precious commodity in Jeffers’s work. The short poems November Surf, New Mexican Mountain, and The Place for No Story are flawed but biographically and critically significant.
In line with the theme of Thurso’s Landing, though exaggerated to excess, the short narrative Margrave begins with an impressive interpretation of universal expansion as a flight in panic from consciousness (SP 383, 388). It features a good fishing analogy as well. It also provides one of Jeffers’ signature defenses of death (SP 393):
Death, the gay child with the gipsy eyes, to avoid you for a time I think is virtuous, to fear you is insane.
The brief narrative-cum-sermon employs an account of a narcissistic murderer consumed with paranoid fantasies and his own impending death. It is a reasonable analogy for humanity, I suppose, but it is too dark—and unlikely—to be engaged.
In Margrave, Jeffers takes time to confess that he too carries the contagion of consciousness (SP 388–9), but perhaps he does not go far enough in confessing. He could perhaps humor the argument that he violated the modest, unpretentious profile of Carmel Point with — of all imaginable violations — a tower! Think of skyscrapers: is there any better symbol for human narcissism, hubris, and triumphalism than a tower? He also planted many botanical skyscrapers: fast-growing trees, some of them non-native to the continent, none of them native to Carmel Point. If Jeffers were only to have played with this delicious irony, that would have indeed been the work of an honest poet. That aside, Margrave is noteworthy poem and deserving of reflection. The poem is honest enough on its own terms.