Free-verse narrative by Jeffers, the title poem of a volume published in 1932.
This tale of suffering, violence, and desperate courage on a California coast farm is principally concerned with stubborn, powerful Reave Thurso, his wife Helen, and his brother Mark, who has been crippled in the World War and loves and sympathizes with his lonely sister-in-law, as her unfeeling husband cannot. Grim old Mrs. Thurso hates Helen, realizing the younger woman's passionate, sensual nature and her dissatisfaction with the limited life of the Landing, but is powerless to prevent Reave from bringing her home again after she elopes with his friend Rick Armstrong. When Reave takes a girl servant as his mistress, Helen is wildly jealous, but he is soon crippled and made impotent when a cable snaps while he is felling trees. A struggle of wills ensues between husband and wife, he clinging grimly to his useless life, and she wishing him dead but admiring his immense courage. Mark goes mad because of his lust for Helen and visions of his father's ghost, and hangs himself, after which Helen kills Reave and commits suicide. Old Mrs. Thurso, who says of Helen that she “had a wasteful gallant spirit,” calls herself “the last And worst of four: and at last the unhappiest: but that's nothing.”
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Robinson Jeffers (1887—1962)