Poesie: Jeffers’ To an Old Square Piano

Tor is a term for a craggy outcrop or lookout.

To an Old Square Piano

(Purchased from the caretaker of an estate in Monterey)

Whose fingers wore your ivory keys
So thin – as tempest and tide flow
some pearly shell, the castaway
of indefatigable seas
on a low shingle far away –
You will not tell, we cannot know.

Only, we know that you are come,
Full of strange ghosts melodious
The old years forget the echoes of,
From the ancient house into our home;
And you will sing of old-world love,
And of ours too, and live with us.

Sweet sounds will feed you here: our woods
are vocal with the seawind’s breath;
Nor want they wing-born choristers,
Nor the ocean’s organ interludes.
– Be true beneath her hands, even hers
Who is more to me than life or death.

~ Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962)

robinson jeffers

Video:  Birds of Prey in Norse Myth

And a poem by Robinson Jeffers

Featured Image:  An illustration from a 17th-century Icelandic manuscript shows a hawk, Veðrfölnir, on top of an eagle on top of a tree, Yggdrasil.

Hurt Hawks

by Robinson Jeffers


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

The Moon’s Girls

By Robinson Jeffers

Idle tales the old folk tell,
  Tales they scarce believe themselves,
Of green fairies in the dell,
  And upon the hill grey elves,
    Of strange misty shapes at night,
    In moon-dark, in moonlight.

Idle tales, - yet many things
  Happen under stars or moon,
Dreamy, glamour, flutterings,
  Laughed at in the light of noon,
    But not laughable at night,
    In moon-dark, or moonlight.

Even to me there once appeared,
  Half-way down a narrow vale,
Many moon-maids, heavy-haired,
  Slender-formed and misty pale,
    Dancing light in the night,
    Made of shadow and moonlight.

With a spell of waving arms,
  Woven as wily wizard weaves,
Low they murmured fairy charms,
  Or wind murmured through the leaves,
    So it seemed to me that night,
    Dazzled by the white moonlight.

Gleamed the weight of midnight hair,
  On their foreheads moonlight wan,
Wondrous slender, wondrous fair,
  Then they seemed to be all gone,
    For one sees not right at night,
    In moon-dark, or moonlight.

Often I have left my rest,
  For to seek them once again,
One among them pleased me best,
  But I seek them all in vain,
    For they come not any night,
    By moon-dark, by moonlight.

~Robinson Jeffers


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