Wendell Berry, a living USA poet. Short extracts from some of his precious poems on animals, land, trees, nature, spirituality, suffering, war and politics.

Here are short extracts from some of the major poems of Wendell Berry, 84, the much-loved American poet, farmer, critic and activist.

I placed a pencil point on lines that I found exquisite in THIS DAY, Collected and New Sabbath Poems written between 1979 and 2013. The quotes consist of very short extracts from numerous poems in the book.

The book contains more than 300 poems, Many of these poems came to Wendell Berry during his weekly Sunday morning walks in the countryside in and around his farm.

This remarkable poet, Wendell Berry stands tall as a poet, farmer, critic and activist. He lives with his wife on his farm in Henry County, Kentucky, USA, since 1965. He has written eight novels and more than 50 short stories as well as numerous books of poetry.

Wendell has consistently spoken up against the violent policies of the US government. He delivered statements on the American war on the people of Vietnam, engaged in demonstrations against nuclear power, criticised the wars in the Arab world after 9/11, protested at coal-fired power plants, spoke at rallies against the destruction of local communities, the industrial agricultural system, fossil fuel dependency, soil loss and the ongoing damage to the ecosystem of the Earth.

He is much loved for his words and actions.

Many of us regard him as an adopted patron saint for those dedicated to a spiritual way of life.

To Readers

I find it helpful to read some lines in poetry a number of times.

If any lines you read touch a depth in your being,

then read those lines again, and again.

Read them out loud.

Commit those lines to memory.

Live those lines.

A Selection of Short Extracts from THIS DAY, Collected and New Sabbath Poems

He goes among trees,

climbing again the one hill of his life.

With his hand full of words he goes

into the wordless, wording it barely

In time as he passes.


I go among trees and sit still.

all my stirring becomes quiet

around me like circles on water.

My tasks lie in their places

Where I left them, asleep like cattle.


The mind that comes to rest is tended

In some ways that it cannot intend

Is born, preserved, and comprehended

By what it cannot comprehend.


Our only choice should be to die

Into that rest, or out of it.


I go in pilgrimage

Across an old fenced boundary

To wildness without age

Where, in their long dominion,

the trees have been left free.


Enclosing the field within bounds

Sets it apart from the boundless

of which it was, and is, a part,

And places it within care.


As the known life is given up, birdcall

Become the only language of the way,

the leaves all shine with sudden light, and stay.


We are free. The mind too

Making its little flight

Out from the shadow into the clear

In time between work and sleep.


with her breast; the air

Is bright with breath

of bloom, wise loveliness that asks

nothing of the season but to be.


The world is made at rest

In ease of gravity

I hear the ancient theme

In low world-shaping song.


A little while in flow.

Stem and leaf grow from it

At cost of death it has

A life. Thus falling founds

Unmaking makes the world.


Into this columned room, and he,

Only in silence, nothing in hand,

Comes here. A generosity

Is here by which the fallen stand.


Love where we cannot trust

Trust where we cannot know

And must await the wayward-coming grace

That joins living and dead


How long does it take to make the woods?

As long as it takes to make the world.


But, a man

is small before those who have stood so long solo (referring to trees)

He stands under them, looks up, sees, knows,

and knows that he does not know.


For us, the privilege

is only to see, within the long shade,

the present standing of what has come and is

to come: the straight trunks aspiring

between earth and sky, bearing upon all years


So they may look and see

For past and future’s sake

The terms of victory

They cannot win or take

Except by charity

Towards what they cannot make.


In front of us; and we are here

As we have never seen before,

Sighted as not before, our place

Holy, although we knew it not.


To have lost wantonly,

the ancient forests, the vast grasslands

is our madness, the presence

in our very bodies of our grief


Where human striving ceased

The Sabbath of the trees

Returns and stands and is.

The leaves shake in the wind.


The long age of the passing world, in which

I once was not, now am, and will not be,

And in that time, beneath the changing true,

I rest in a keeping not my own.


The body in the invisible

Familiar room accepts the gift

Of sleep, and for a while is still;

Instead of will, it lives by drift.


Sleep is the prayer the body prays,

Breathing in unthought faith the Breath

That through our worry-wearied days

Preserves our rest, and is our truth.


This is a nation where

No lovely thing can last

We trample, gauge and blast;


And liberty to be

A peaceful murderer

A murderous worshipper

A slender glutton,


No enemy, forgiven

By none, we live the death

Of liberty, become

What we have feared to be.


In this time

I could stay forever. In my wish

To stay forever, it stays forever.

But I must go. Mortal and obliged


But don’t neglect your garden,

Household economy

Makes family and land

An Independent state.


That trees

Must wait to sing, and sing

Longer than you can wait.

Soon you must go. The trees,

Your seniors, standing thus

Acknowledged in your eyes,

Stand as your praise and prayer

Your rest is in this praise

Of what you cannot be

And what you cannot do.


Loving you has taught me the infinite

longing of the self to be given away


But I rise up alive

When you come near

Our places of flowers where

Alone I live.


I have again come home

Through miles of sky

From hours of abstract talk

In the way of modern times

When humans live in their minds

and the world, forgotten, dies

Into explanations.


It is an old road that we

have followed, too narrow

to be traveled by more than two.


Every day you have less reason

not to give yourself away


The young man leaps and lands

on an old man’s legs.


We live the given life and not the planned.


I have been wakeful at night

and words have come to me

out of their deep caves,

needing to be remembered.


Thought is also human,

When a made of peace is killed

by a man of war, he gives a light


In morning light, men in dark clothes

Go out among the beasts and the fields

Lest the community be lost


You’re safe among the dead,

Alive, your death undone,

“Come and dine,” Christ said

Consenting, you have gone.


Best of any song

Is bird song

In the quiet, but first

you must have the quiet.


This is a day

when the road neither

comes not goes, and the way

is not a way but a place.


Whatever happens

those who learned

to love one another

have made their way

Into the lasting world

and will not leave

whatever happens.


The gift is balanced by

Its total loss, and yet,

And yet, the light breaks in,

Heaven seizing its moments.


I dream of a quiet man

who explained nothing and defends

nothing, but only knows

are blooming and who goes

and finds that he is smiling

not by his own will.


that rigid measure which predicts

only humankind’s demise.


The incarnate Word is with us,

Is still speakng, is present

always, yet leaves no sign

but everything that is.


When we convene the world again

To understand the world

The first speaker wil again

point silently out of the window


One of the thresholds

between Earth and Heaven

from which even I may step

forth from myself and be free


I stand and wait for light

To open the dark night

I stand and wait for prayer

To come and find me here.


Ask the world to reveal its quietude

Not the silence of machines when they are still


human confusion of greed

And creed, blood and fire.


war, the killed peace

Of the original world.


We come

to the space between ourselves,

The narrow doorway, and pass through

Into the land of the wholly loved


Is this the river of life

or death? Both? Both. The force

that brought us here remains

to carry us away.


To one who has watched here for many years

all this is familiar. And yet

none it has ever happened

before as it is happening now.


I sit without working and look out

An old man, into the young light.


Their greed is the hatred of mercy

Their pockets jingle with the small change of the poor

Their power is the willingness to destroy

everything for knowledge which is money

which is ashes sown by the win.


If national conduct

Forsakes these aims, it is one’s patriotic duty

To say so and oppose. What else have we to live for?


The moment of transformation

The presence of creation

Itself is beyond your reach.


Help me, please, to carry

This candle against the wind


If we have no compassion,

we will suffer alone, we will suffer

alone the destruction of ourselves.

These are merely the laws of this world

as known to Shakespeare and Milton.


I know that Heaven’s

bottom rung is Heaven

though the ladder is standing

on the earth where I work.


The times are disgusting enough

surely, for those who long for peace

and truth. But self-disgust

also is an injury


Before we kill another child

for righteousness’ sake, to serve

some blissful killer’s sacred cause

some bloody patriot’s anthem

And his flag


The CEO’s that they too

may wake to a day without hope

that in their smallness they

may know the greatness of Earth

and Heaven


Words emerge

From silence, the silence remains


Between us by now, what

is more telling than the silence

in which once more an old

rosebud simply blossoms?


Ours has been a brutal

history, punishing without

Regret whatever or whomever


within no boundary

nameable in human thought,

they had gathered once again,

the shepherd, his sheep and his dog.


To this dark blaze

driving the inert metal

of our most high desire

we offer our land as fuel,

thus offering ourselves at last

to be burned.


Made no doubt by force,

the world is saved by tenderness.


I wait to be changed

by work, by rest, by what
I know into what I know not.



Lest in our grief we lose our way,

The dead lead back to light of day

Not their absence from us we mourn

But ours from them, and this we learn.


Let us not condemn the human beings

self-appointed to serve machines,

poor humans, so weak of mind,

so self-misled.


In silence while the light

Performs its holy work

In colors on the white

Wall. After the dark


The machines of death draw

Breath from the sky. Give thanks to the quiet.


A man who loves the trees

walks among them on a dark day

from the solace he has taken always

from the company of his elders



is the dew that wets the grass

in the early morning dark.

it is god’s entirely. withdtraw

your fatal homage and live.


“Attend to the little ones”

said William Blake, and long

before Blake spoke or wrote

shepherds obeyed him, watching

over the birth of lambs


So much given, so few who know


Once there was nothing

not even darkness,

not even silence,

not even nothing

Think of that.


Welcome the refugees set free

from the “nowhere” of rural America

from the “drudgery of the household

and the “mind-numbing” work of shops and households

into the anthills of “liberation”

the endless vistas of “growth.”


On a bright day, having slept

a long nap in the woods,

he woke out of sleep’s darkness

to find the sky comes low

to the tops of the tallest trees.


After the long weeks

when the heat curled the leaves

and the air thirsted, comes

a morning after rain, cool

and bright. the leaves uncurl

the pastures begin again

to grow, the animals and the birds

rejoice. if tonight the world

ends, we’ll have had this day.


Sit and be quiet. In a while

the red berries, now in shadow,

will be picked out by the sun.


He sets out.


Collected and New Sabbath Poems

1979 – 2013

Wendell Berry

Counterpoint Publishers, Berkeley, USA

  • 404 pages

ISBN 978-1-61902-198-3

Support your local bookshop.

Simply take ISBN number with you or telephone bookshop to order.

PS. Thank you to Jaya (Ashmore) for the birthday present  of the book

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