Poetry Landmark: Robinson Jeffers’s Tor House
The poet Robinson Jeffers was born in 1887 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and moved to California with his family as a teenager. After marrying in 1913, he and his wife, Una, settled in Carmel, California. In 1919, he began building a stone cottage overlooking Carmel Bay that he called Tor House, after the craggy knoll, or "tor", on which it was built. Nearby, Jeffers also built a forty-foot stone structure—Hawk Tower—selecting and laying each stone himself.
Both the Tower and the coastal landscape figure strongly in Jeffers’s poetry, much of which celebrates the awesome beauty of the hills and ravines that plunged into the Pacific. His poem "Rock and Hawk" is a perfect example of his belief in the dramatic, and often tragic, power of nature:
Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.
This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,
Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.
I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,
But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Life with calm death; the falcon’s
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive
Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.
Almost all of Jeffers’s writing was done at Tor House. The Jeffers family also entertained many influential literary and cultural celebrities there, among them Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin, and Charlie Chaplin.
Managed by the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, the Tor House is open for tours, and poetry programs and readings are presented throughout the year. Visit the Tor House Foundation website for hours, admission fees, and more information.