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Voices of the Headland

Robinson Jeffers and the Bird of Prey

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Alan J. Malnar

Voices of the Headland: Robinson Jeffers and the Bird of Prey explores the image of the raptor in the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Emanating from the continent’s end of the American West, Jeffers’ poetic eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, and other birds of prey symbolize the compelling presence and voice of nature, a pantheistic universe of beauty and splendor, death and destruction. It is the perilous bird of prey which calls forth the very essence and life-force of Jeffers himself, winging its way through his expansive body of narrative and lyrical verse, a poetry fundamentally anti-social in its vision and primitive in its basic, instinctual surge. Voices of the Headland examines this distinctive imagery from many critical viewpoints.

 

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Chapter 7. The King and His Hawks

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· 7 ·

THE KING AND HIS HAWKS

The image of a hooded hawk perched on Caesar’s wrist in “Shine Republic” had obviously not been composed for historical authenticity; no evidence in the archive of classical antiquity indicates that the leader of the Republic of Rome had ever been a practitioner of the sport of falconry.1 Rather, the image of Caesar fisting the hooded hawk represents an aesthetic idea:

Freedom is poor and laborious; that torch is not safe but hungry, and often            requires blood for its fuel. You will tame it against it burn too clearly, you will hood it like a kept            hawk, you will perch it on the wrist of Caesar. (CP 2: 417)

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