Excerpted from In This Wild Water: The Suppressed Poems of Robinson Jeffers by James Shebl:
In “Staggering Back Toward Life” Jeffers addresses what he takes to be the sickness of civilization and its bearing on the future. Jeffers speaks of the efforts and dreams of man that have brought the world through wars interspersed with nominal peace to a condition of “fever-crisis.” Thus he sees that the world is “one hospital.” He questions just how much of man’s effort and fantasy can be utilized in his attempt to build a future. He hopes “not much,” for the building blocks that man seeks to work with are “amazing lumber.” Those materials, taking origin from man’s present state of delirium, are hardly suitable for bringing him up “the steep gorges that thrid the cliffs of the future.” Jeffers’ panacea for the “pale convalescent” is a “new dark age, five hundred years of winter/and the tombs for dwellings.” But even after such a washing away of man’s disposition for war, the possibility for a viable future is remote. The poet speaks of this burden that man has assumed in foregoing “new science” as “amazing.” Because of his inhumanism, Jeffers is bewildered by man’s predicament; consequently, he hopes that the cause of the “fever-crisis” will not hold over and accompany man as he strives toward the future. Even with a “new dark age” Jeffers is skeptical that man will lose the “amazing lumber” to which he has grown accustomed.
Filed under History, Poem, Study