Pearl Harbor, By Robinson Jeffers
Here are the fireworks. The men who conspired
To embroil this republic in the wreck of Europe
have got their bargain--
And a bushel more. As for me, what can I do but
fly the national flag from the top of the
America has neither race nor religion nor its own language: nation or nothing.
Stare, little tower,
Confidently across the Pacific, the flag on your
head. I built you at the other war’s end,
And the sick peace; I based you on living rock,
granite on granite; I said, “Look, you gray
Civilization is sick: stand awhile and be quiet
and drink the sea-wind, you will survive
But now I am old, and O stones
be modest. Look, little tower:
This dust blowing is only the British Empire;
these torn leaves flying
Are only Europe; the wind is the plane-
propellers; the smoke is Tokyo. The child
with the butchered throat
Was too young to be named. Look no farther
The war that we have carefully for years
Catches us unprepared, amazed and indignant.
Our warships are shot
Like sitting ducks and our planes like nest-birds,
both our coasts ridiculously panicked,
And our leaders make orations. This is the
That hopes to impose on the whole planetary
An American peace.
(Oh, we’ll not lose our war: my
money on amazed Gulliver
And his horse-pistols.)
Meanwhile our prudent officers
Have cleared the coast-long ocean of ships and
fishingcraft, the sky of planes, the windows of
Make a great beauty. Watch the wide sea; there
is nothing human; its gulls have it. Watch the wide sky
All day clean of machines; only at dawn and
dusk one military hawk passes
High on patrol. Walk at night in the black-out,
The firefly lights that used to line the long shore
Are all struck dumb; shut are the shops,
mouse-dark the houses. Here the prehuman
dignity of night
Stands, as it was before and will be again.
darkness and silence, the two eyes that see God;
great staring eyes.
From “Articles of War,” edited by Leon Stokesbury, introduction by Paul Fussell (University of Arkansas Press: $24.95 cloth; $12.95 paper; 256 pp.). Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), who lived and worked near Carmel, was one of the few poets to oppose the U.S.’ entrance into World War II.
1977 by the Liveright Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arkansas Press.