Robinson Jeffers

Dear Judas was written . . . with the thought of presenting the only divine figure still living in the minds of people of our race, as the hero of a tragedy. The Japanese Nô plays, in which the action is performed by ghosts revisiting the scenes of their passions, no doubt influenced my conception.

Robinson Jeffers to his bibliographer, S. S. Alberts

The Woman’s First Song, from Dear Judas (1928)

Never look down, stone trees.
I am only a poor half-crazed old woman
That come and sit in the grove after dark,
Too old and poor for any one to do me harm.
It is true that I’m one
Who has known great and bitter occasions.
Oh garden that the glory from my body haunted,
The shining that came forth from between my thighs . . .
Is gone: past the flower and the fall
I sit and sing a cracked song.
I bid you fishermen mending brown nets
On the white sand,
I bid you beware of the net, fishermen.
You can never see it,
It flies through the white air and we are all snapped in it.
No, but look round you.
You see men walking and they seem to be free,
But look at the faces, they’re caught.
There was never a man cut himself loose.
. . . That’s true but comfortless.
Nor dead in their graves are not free,
The mistletoe root-threads
In the wood of the oak of the earth
Are a net, are a net.




Dear Judas was written in 1928 and first published in 1929. See CA11 in the Bibliography for notes about the relation of the work and Jeffers’s later Bowl of Blood with the nô, and with W. B. Yeats’s adaptations of the nô.

Most of Jeffers’s work has been kept in print with the publication of Tim Hunt’s ambitious five-volume Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, four volumes of which are in print in the US (here, here, here, and here), all five in the UK (here, here, here, here, and here, and as a set here). Hunt’s edition of Jeffers’s Selected Poetry (available in the US here and in the UK here) includes excerpts from Dear Judas.



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