'The Deer Lay Down Their Bones' by Robinson Jeffers
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I followed the narrow cliffside trail half way up the mountain
Above the deep river-canyon. There was a little cataract crossed the path,
Over tree roots and rocks, shaking the jeweled fern-fronds, bright bubbling
Pure from the mountain, but a bad smell came up. Wondering at it I clam-
bered down the steep stream
Some forty feet, and found in the midst of bush-oak and laurel,
Hung like a bird's nest on the precipice brink a small hidden clearing,
Grass and a shallow pool. But all about there were bones Iying in the grass,
clean bones and stinking bones,
Antlers and bones: I understood that the place was a refuge for wounded
deer; there are so many
Hurt ones escape the hunters and limp away to lie hidden; here they have
water for the awful thirst
And peace to die in; dense green laurel and grim cliff
Make sanctuary, and a sweet wind blows upward from the deep gorge.--I
wish my bones were with theirs.
But that's a foolish thing to confess, and a little cowardly. We know that life
Is on the whole quite equally good and bad, mostly gray neutral, and can
To the dim end, no matter what magic of grass, water and precipice, and
pain of wounds,
Makes death look dear. We have been given life and have used it--not a
great gift perhaps--but in honesty
Should use it all. Mine's empty since my love died--Empty? The flame-
haired grandchild with great blue eyes
That look like hers?--What can I do for the child? I gaze at her and wonder
what sort of man
In the fall of the world . . . I am growing old, that is the trouble. My chil-
dren and little grandchildren
Will find their way, and why should I wait ten years yet, having lived sixty-
seven, ten years more or less,
Before I crawl out on a ledge of rock and die snapping, like a wolf
Who has lost his mate?--I am bound by my own thirty-year-old decision:
who drinks the wine
Should take the dregs; even in the bitter lees and sediment
New discovery may lie. The deer in that beautiful place lay down their
bones: I must wear mine.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Deer Lay Down Their Bones: An Enthralling Poem by Robinson Jeffers
Have you ever read a poem that transports you to a different world altogether? A poem that makes you want to close your eyes and let the words seep into your soul? Robinson Jeffers' "The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" is one such poem that transcends time and space and leaves an indelible mark on the reader's mind.
"The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" was published in 1933 and is considered one of Jeffers' finest works. It is a long narrative poem that tells the story of a young woman who is lost in a forest and stumbles upon a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. She encounters a deer, a hawk, and a bear, and each of these animals has a profound impact on her life.
The poem is divided into three sections, each of which is marked by a change in tone and imagery. The first section is characterized by a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of nature. The second section is more somber and reflective, as the woman struggles to come to terms with the transience of life. The final section is a celebration of life and rebirth, as the woman is transformed by her encounters with the animals.
Style and Structure
Jeffers' writing is characterized by a lyrical and imagistic style that is both evocative and emotionally charged. He uses vivid descriptions of nature to create a sense of place and atmosphere, which in turn adds to the overall emotional impact of the poem.
The structure of the poem is also noteworthy. Jeffers uses a mix of blank verse and free verse, which gives the poem a sense of fluidity and movement. The use of enjambment also adds to the flow of the poem, as the lines spill over from one to the next, creating a sense of momentum and energy.
One of the central themes of "The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" is the relationship between humans and nature. The poem explores the idea that humans are not separate from nature, but rather a part of it. Jeffers uses the deer, hawk, and bear as symbols of the wildness and beauty of nature, and the woman's experiences with these animals serve as a metaphor for her own journey of self-discovery.
The first section of the poem is marked by a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of nature. The woman is lost in the forest, and as she wanders through the trees, she is struck by the beauty of her surroundings. Jeffers uses vivid descriptions of the forest to create a sense of place and atmosphere, which in turn adds to the overall emotional impact of the poem.
In the second section of the poem, the tone becomes more somber and reflective. The woman begins to contemplate the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Jeffers uses the image of the hawk to convey the idea that death is a natural part of the cycle of life. The hawk is described as "the shadow of death," and its presence serves as a reminder that life is fleeting and precious.
The final section of the poem is a celebration of life and rebirth. The woman has been transformed by her encounters with the animals, and she emerges from the forest with a renewed sense of purpose and vitality. Jeffers uses the image of the bear to convey the idea of rebirth and renewal. The bear is described as "the fire that burns and is not consumed," and its presence serves as a symbol of the transformative power of nature.
"The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the human experience in a profound way. Jeffers' use of nature as a metaphor for the human experience is both poignant and insightful, and his writing is characterized by a sense of beauty and wonder that is truly awe-inspiring.
One of the key takeaways from the poem is the idea that humans are not separate from nature, but rather a part of it. Jeffers' use of the deer, hawk, and bear as symbols of the wildness and beauty of nature serves as a reminder that humans are not the only creatures on this planet, and that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world.
Another key takeaway from the poem is the idea that life is fleeting and precious. Jeffers' use of the hawk as a symbol of death serves as a reminder that life is fragile and can be taken away at any moment. This idea is echoed in the final section of the poem, where the woman emerges from the forest with a renewed sense of purpose and vitality, having been transformed by her encounters with the animals.
"The Deer Lay Down Their Bones" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that speaks to the human experience in a profound and insightful way. Jeffers' use of nature as a metaphor for the human experience is both poignant and powerful, and his writing is characterized by a sense of beauty and wonder that is truly awe-inspiring.
If you haven't read this poem yet, I highly recommend that you do. It is a work of art that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Deer Lay Down Their Bones: A Poem of Nature's Power and Beauty
Robinson Jeffers' The Deer Lay Down Their Bones is a classic poem that captures the essence of nature's power and beauty. The poem is a celebration of the natural world, and it explores the relationship between humans and the environment. Jeffers' use of vivid imagery and powerful language creates a sense of awe and wonder, and the poem's themes of death, rebirth, and the cycle of life are timeless and universal.
The poem begins with a description of the natural world, with the speaker observing the "wilderness" and the "mountains." The speaker notes that the "deer lay down their bones" in the "grass," and that the "eagles" and "hawks" "circle above." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing the idea that nature is a powerful and awe-inspiring force.
The second stanza of the poem introduces the theme of death and rebirth. The speaker notes that the "bones" of the deer are "white" and "clean," and that they are "scattered" throughout the "grass." The image of the bones being scattered suggests that the deer have died and their bodies have decomposed, returning to the earth. However, the fact that the bones are "white" and "clean" suggests that there is a sense of purity and renewal in this process. The bones are not decayed or dirty, but rather they are a symbol of the cycle of life and death.
The third stanza of the poem introduces the idea of human intervention in the natural world. The speaker notes that the "hunters" have "killed" the deer, and that their "bones" are now "scattered" in the "grass." This stanza suggests that humans have disrupted the natural cycle of life and death, and that their actions have had a negative impact on the environment. The fact that the hunters have killed the deer suggests that they are not respecting the natural world, and that they are only interested in their own desires.
The fourth stanza of the poem returns to the theme of nature's power and beauty. The speaker notes that the "eagles" and "hawks" are "circling above," and that the "sun" is "setting." This stanza creates a sense of awe and wonder, and it suggests that nature is a force that is greater than humans. The fact that the sun is setting suggests that the day is coming to an end, and that there is a sense of finality in this moment.
The fifth stanza of the poem introduces the idea of rebirth and renewal. The speaker notes that the "grass" is "green" and "growing," and that the "bones" of the deer are "scattered" throughout it. This stanza suggests that even though the deer have died, their bodies have returned to the earth and are now helping to nourish new life. The fact that the grass is green and growing suggests that there is a sense of renewal and regeneration in the natural world.
The sixth and final stanza of the poem returns to the theme of human intervention in the natural world. The speaker notes that the "hunters" have "killed" the deer, and that their "bones" are now "scattered" in the "grass." However, the final line of the poem suggests that there is still hope for the natural world: "But the deer live on." This line suggests that even though humans have disrupted the natural cycle of life and death, the natural world will continue to thrive and survive.
Overall, The Deer Lay Down Their Bones is a powerful and evocative poem that celebrates the beauty and power of the natural world. Jeffers' use of vivid imagery and powerful language creates a sense of awe and wonder, and the poem's themes of death, rebirth, and the cycle of life are timeless and universal. The poem is a reminder that humans are not the only inhabitants of the earth, and that we must respect and protect the natural world if we want it to continue to thrive.
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