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On "November Surf"


Arthur B. Coffin

For both [Havelock] Ellis and Jeffers, insane mainkind would go down before the lasting grandeur of Nature. The restorative power of Nature, to which all things transitory and human eventually return, is described by Jeffers in November Srf. Considering the respective dates of composition and the correspondent attitudes toward Nature's regenerative capacity to absorb humanity's decay and contamination, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the poem owes a debt to the following passage from Ellis' Fountain of Life:

Alone but for a few meditative gulls, I sit among the rocks and dream of the miracle of this restless, antiseptic sea that for millions of years has been slowly and tirelessly absorbing all the rejected filth that the Earth and now Man can pour into it, and still to-day, as at the first, sends forth its fresh procession of waves in Purity and Joy, for the sacred lustration of an Evil World.

From Ellis' various statements, then, Jeffers apparently could have drawn considerable inspiration. Ellis had no fully developed philosophical system of his own from which Jeffers could borrow, but the men were emotionally compatible in their regard for Nature, they shared theories about the cycles of civilization, they recognized certain possibilities in Nietzsche's philosophy, they were equally concerned about the interrelationship of morality and art, and, though they differed somewhat on the role of science, their ideas of truth were all but identical.

from Robinson Jeffers: Poet of Inhumanism. Copyright 1971 by the Regents of the University of Wisconsin.


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