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The Purse-Seine Analysis

Author: Poetry of Robinson Jeffers Type: Poetry Views: 262

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1937Our sardine fishermen work at night in the darkof the moon; daylight or moonlight

They could not tell where to spread the net,unable to see the phosphorescence of theshoals of fish.

They work northward from Monterey, coastingSanta Cruz; off New Year's Point or offPigeon Point

The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-colorlight on the sea's night-purple; he points,and the helmsman

Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles thegleaming shoal and drifts out her seine-net.They close the circle

And purse the bottom of the net, then with greatlabor haul it in.I cannot tell you

How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible,then, when the crowded fish

Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wallto the other of their closing destiny thephosphorescent

Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender bodysheeted with flame, like a live rocket

A comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outsidethe narrowing

Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come upto watch, sighing in the dark; the vast wallsof night

Stand erect to the stars.Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top

On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light:how could I help but recall the seine-net

Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you howbeautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.

I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all togetherinto inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now

There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapableof free survival, insulated

From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on alldependent. The circle is closed, and the net

Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yetthey shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters

Will not come in our time nor in our children's, but weand our children

Must watch the net draw narrower, government take allpowers--or revolution, and the new government

Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls--or anarchy,the mass-disasters.These things are Progress;

Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keepsits reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow

In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria,splintered gleams, crackled laughter. But they arequite wrong.

There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knewthat cultures decay, and life's end is death.


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