Cawdor and Medea

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New Directions Publishing, 1970 - Poetry - 191 pages
The verse narrativeCawdor, set on the ruthless California coast which Jeffers knew so well, tells a simple tale: an aging widower, Cawdor, unwilling to relinquish his youth, knowingly marries a young girl who does not love him. She falls in love with his son, Hood, and the narrative unfolds in tragedy of immense proportions.

Medea is a verse adaptation of Euripides' drama and was created especially for the actress Judith Anderson. Their combined genius made the play one of the outstanding successes of the 1940s. InMedea, Jeffers relentlessly drove toward what Ralph Waldo Emerson had called "the proper tragic element"--terror.
 

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Page xvi - An exhibition of essential elements by the burning away through pain and ruin of inertia and the unessential. " Rudolf Gilbert describes the process this way: "What to Athanasius was divinity, to Jeffers is nature — nature and divinity always separated from Cawdor/ Medea 169 humanity.
Page xx - It is a profession of faith, and a sort of religion; a way of looking at life by virtue of which it is robbed of its pain. The sturdy soul of the tragic author seizes upon suffering and uses it only as a means by which joy may be wrung out of existence, but it is not to be forgotten that he is enabled to do so only because of his belief in the greatness of human nature and because, though he has lost the child's faith in life, he has not lost his far more important faith in human nature. A tragic...
Page xx - The intellect is a consoler, which delights in detaching or putting an interval between a man and his fortune, and so converts the sufferer into a spectator and his pain into poetry. It yields the joys of conversation, of letters and of science. Hence also the torments of life become tuneful tragedy, solemn and soft with music, and garnished with rich dark pictures. But higher still than the activities of art, the intellect in its purity and the moral sense in its purity are not distinguished from...
Page xvii - The bitterest tragic element in life to be derived from an intellectual source is the belief in a brute Fate or Destiny; the belief that the order of Nature and events is controlled by a law not adapted to man, nor man to that, but which holds on its way to the end, serving him if his wishes chance to lie in the same course, crushing him if his wishes lie contrary to it, and heedless whether it serves or crushes him. This is the terrible meaning that lies at the foundation of the old Greek tragedy,...

About the author (1970)

John Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) graduated from Occidental College at the age of eighteen. Subsequently, he studied literature at the University of Southern California; philosophy, Old English, Dante, and Spanish romantic poetry in Switzerland; medicine at USC; and forestry at the University of Washington. Much of his poetry focused on the central California coast.

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