Robinson Jeffers
The Purse-Seine                                                                              Published/Wr...
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The Purse-Seine

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The Purse-Seine

  1. 1. Robinson Jeffers The Purse-Seine Published/Written in 1937 Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top of the moon; daylight or moonlight On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: They could not tell where to spread the net, how could I help but recall the seine-net unable to see the phosphorescence of the Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how shoals of fish. beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible. They work northward from Monterey, coasting I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together Santa Cruz; off New Year's Point or off into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now Pigeon Point There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color of free survival, insulated light on the sea's night-purple; he points, From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all and the helmsman dependent. The circle is closed, and the net Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet gleaming shoal and drifts out her seine-net. they shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters They close the circle Will not come in our time nor in our children's, but we And purse the bottom of the net, then with great and our children labor haul it in. Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all powers—or revolution, and the new government I cannot tell you Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls—or anarchy, How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, the mass-disasters. then, when the crowded fish Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall These things are Progress; to the other of their closing destiny the Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps phosphorescent its reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria, sheeted with flame, like a live rocket splintered gleams, crackled laughter. But they are A comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside quite wrong. the narrowing There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up that cultures decay, and life's end is death. to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night Stand erect to the stars.

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