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Pearl Harbor, By Robinson Jeffers

I

Here are the fireworks. The men who conspired

and labored

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

tower?

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

stones:

Civilization is sick: stand awhile and be quiet

and drink the sea-wind, you will survive

Civilization.”

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

ahead.

II

The war that we have carefully for years

provoked

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

people

That hopes to impose on the whole planetary

world

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

light: these

clearings

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.

O beautiful

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.


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