The poem “Boat in the Fog” written by Robinson Jeffers in 1924 talks about human life and existence, and its worthlessness compared with the excellent creation that exists in nature. Jeffers also talks about the everyday events of human beings that they find as very important, like sports activities and the Hollywood actors and actresses, the music industry, but they are really not very significant when compared with the importance of nature and how God created the balance in the world. Thus, the poem, is about human existence and how humans believe that they are the most important ingredient in the universe, when the truth is that they are not very perfect and seems even to contribute to the problem in the world.
There is line in the poem that proves that Jeffers sees humans as not very great and they contribute to the problems in the world. This is in the lines that say “Have the charm of children but lack nobility; it is bitter earnestness That makes beauty; the mind Knows, grown adult” (Jeffers, 1924, lines 3-5). The words here that say that children have charm but lacks nobility in line three shows that Jeffers sees humanity as beautiful creations but lack the morality in order to be really excellent creatures. They are very good looking but immoral and are very proud creatures, the poem is trying to tell the readers.
There is also proof that Jeffers believes that humanity’s fate is doomed in the end, and that no matter how they see themselves as very good, they will cause their own destruction in the end. This is showed on the part where “A sudden fog muffled the oceanOut of the mystery, shadows, fishing boats, trailing each other, Following the cliff for guidance” (Jeffers, 1924, lines 6-11). What can also be understood here is Jeffers compares humanity by using a symbol like fishing boats, and that these boats do not know that they are headed toward a cliff, which will surely destroy them. This observation is the same with the one made by Hermitary.com where it says that “Jeffers perceives the flaw not in wicked human beings but in ambition” (Hermitary: Resources and Reflection, 2009, p. 1). So, Jeffers believes that human pride will cause their downfall even if they are very good at other things, like sports and arts. This is the same as leading the entire human to a procession that leads to a cliff, which in the poem the author had used the symbol of boats to express this kind of belief.
Also, it seems that Jeffers really believes that the human race cannot be saved anymore despite of the systems in place that should make sure of their success, such as in religion and politics. So, no matter if they elect or choose a leader to lead them in their country, the humanity as a whole is in destiny towards self destruction. This argument is showed in the part “One by one, trailing their leader, six crept by me, Out of the Vapor and into it,” (Jeffers, 1924, lines 14-15). By closer observation, it seems that what Jeffers is trying to say to his readers is that while they vote leaders to solve their problems and put their hope in them, this really will not give them any solution because he believes that human race is destroying themselves and this cannot be corrected anymore. Also, the fact that Jeffers mentions ‘six’ leaders suggest that the problem is not just in political field, but others as well. So, ‘six’ is a symbol for the many aspects where humanity will fail, and this might include politics, religion, morality standards, and maybe some more others. Likewise, the use of ‘vapor’ in the poem is meant to suggests the existing systems that will be the reason for human’s destruction, such as politics and religion as I mentioned earlier. They are fields that are cloudy or vague, that’s why ‘vapor’ is used to symbolize them, and no matter how humans try to make things better in these aspects, they are still destined to fail.
There is also an interesting line in poem, which is “Back to the buoys in Monterey harbor. A flight of pelicans Is nothing lovelier to look at” (Jeffers, 1924, lines 18-19) because of the many meanings that the line suggests. First, since Monterey harbor is in California this suggests that one of the big errors of humans can be seen in the United States system, perhaps in political or entertainment industry. This is very possible and understandable since America is the leader in politics and art entertainment all around the world, and that most nations in the globe follow their lead. Furthermore, the use of ‘pelicans’ in the poem and when connected with the later lines: “The flight of the planets is nothing nobler; all the arts lose virtue Against the essential reality” (Jeffers, 1924, lines 21-21) suggest that the arts that humans created throughout history, even the most brilliant, amounts to nothing when compared with the natural beauty that God created the universe and the earth. This again proves that Jeffers sees humanity and their works as worthless, and even adds to the self-destruction that humans will suffer later in the end.
The poem of Robinson Jeffers “Boats in the Fog” tells a message to its readers that humanity and their works, because of their pride, is destined for self-destruction. The poet achieves by using symbols in the poem, like fishing boats, vapor, the number six, and pelicans, to connect how human beings are insignificant when compared with nature and God’s work such as the planets. Maybe it is safe to say that the purpose of Jeffers in writing the poem is to warn humanity on the danger of putting too much pride or ego in themselves. This is important since just like other things in the world and the universe, they are just creations of God and not the creator of these things, thus should not be too proud of their works. So, humanity is the central theme of the poem; for people to always be aware that they are inferior to God and his works.
Jeffers, Robinson. Boats in a Fog. Poemhunter.com, 2010. Web. 6 July 2015.
Hermitary: Resources and Reflection on Hermits and Solitude. Hermitary.com, 2009. Web. 6 July 2015.