“Vulture” by Robinson Jeffers

Catal Huyuk, Central Anatolia, 7400 to 6200 BC, vultures depicted reaching for headless human bodies (originals are drawn in red)

The poem “Vulture” by Robinson Jeffers expresses a religious perspective on death and afterlife that is pervasive in contemporary green spirituality. In it, Jeffers reflects on an occasion when, while lying on his back in adesert canyon in the Southwestern United States, he was once mistaken for carrion by a vulture.
I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a
     bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a
     vulture wheeling high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer,
     its orbit narrowing,
     I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and
     heard the flight feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come
. . . how beautiful he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked,
     veering away in the sea-light
     over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be
     eaten by that beak and
     become part of him, to share those wings and
     those eyes –
What a sublime end of one’s body, what an ensky-
     ment; what a life after death.

One Comment on ““Vulture” by Robinson Jeffers

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Despite Jeffers’ fame, I never got around to checking out his work. Clearing I’ve been missing out. 🙂

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