The Eye by Robinson Jeffers: Literary Appreciation

The Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific are the oceans and the sea which are allusions that invite us to consider the situation of the poem. "The Eye", the oceans and the wars that have been mentioned here and the poet draws a line of relation between them. Where is the speaker, in fact? There are some hints by which we can determine his position like: but here the pacific, here from this mountain, into pale sea, looks west at the hill of water.

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

From the above lines, it is obvious that the speaker is standing high up on a mountainous shore, looking out westwards across the immensity of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, he is somewhere in America. Ships and airplanes signify war, but their presence is merely an assumption, an imaginary thought. "The Atlantic is a stormy moat", and "the Mediterranean/The blue pool in the old garden/More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice/Of ships and blood and shines in the sun..." From these statements, we can learn the facts that the Mediterranean is the part of the ocean that has experienced several wars. Many sacrifices have been received. It shines in the sun. These are only parts of the speaker's meditation, which have been attempted to compare with the Pacific Ocean, for which the wars and the blood feuds are irrelevant. They are like "a mote of dust the great scale-pan." "The great, scale-pan,"' a metaphor from weighing, trading and evaluating, is a direct reminder of the Last Judgment, the time when perhaps like Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel, we shall be "weighed in the balances and found wanting." "The great scale-pan" may have been also referred to the sea in which the wars and the blood-feud are like "a mote of dust," very insignificant in the speaker's view.

The speaker speaks with contempt for the warfare taking place in the Pacific area. He seems to be an American, or at least American-based. "Dwarfs" refers possibly to the Japanese or Asian soldiers. Similarly, by "westering or eastering man", he refers to the landed half of the globe — Asia and Europe, and their wars. During the development of the poem, we read a series of metaphors in which the Pacific is considered as "a hill of water," a "dome," a "hall-globe," and by a final, more imaginative act of comparison, "a bulging eyeball of water." The comparison is apt in several ways: in shape, in the wateriness, in the division between the outward and the inward parts of the eye, comparable to the watery expanses of the Pacific Ocean contrasted to the landed half of the globe containing Asia and Europe. On the far side of eyeball-like ocean are Asia, Australia and Antarctica which, according to his comparison, represent "the eye-lids which never close" — because they are too far apart!

Though it is a 'war poem,' the war has not been commented with the painting of heart-rending pictures of suffering and death, destruction and agony, nor with the details of the human heroism, skill, or miracles. It describes rather the phenomena of human warfare against the background of the whole universe. War is rather a foolish act or invention of human beings.

The language of the poem is sparse and economical, but the poem's quality has been enriched by the use of metaphors, symbols and rhythm. For example, the 'Eyeball' is a metaphor for the Mediterranean. "Eastering' and "westering" are symbolic meanings for Asia and Europe. Rhythmic effect can be realized in tenth and eleventh lines. Besides, this poem is highly intellectual poem, pretentiously philosophical, and over-derivative from other well-known poems in the English language.

Related Topics

Shine, Perishing Republic: Summary and Analysis

The Eye: Summary

The Eye: Critical Appreciation

Robinson Jeffers: Biography