POETRY: Sunday Meditations, by Wendell Berry

Sunday Meditations Wendell Berry

1981 — I

Here where the world is being made,
No human hand required,
A man may come, somewhat afraid
Always, and somewhat tired,

For he comes ignorant and alone
From work and worry of
A human place, in soul and bone
The ache of human love.

He may come and be still, not go
Toward any chosen aim
Or stay for what he thinks is so.
Setting aside his claim

On all things fallen in his plight,
His mind may move with leaves,
Wind-shaken, in and out of light,
And live as the light lives,

And live as the Creation sings
In covert, two clear notes,
And waits; then two clear answerings
Come from more distant throats—

May live a while with light, shaking
In high leaves, or delayed
In halts of song, submit to making,
The shape of what is made.

1982 — IV

Thrush song, stream song, holy love
That flows through earthly forms and folds,
The song of Heaven’s Sabbath fleshed
In throat and ear, in stream and stone,
A grace living here as we live,
Move my mind now to that which holds
Things as they change.
The warmth has come.
The doors have opened. Flower and song
Embroider ground and air, lead me
Beside the healing field that waits;
Growth, death, and a restoring form
Of human use will make it well.
But I go on, beyond, higher
In the hill’s fold, forget the time
I come from and go to, recall
This grove left out of all account,
A place enclosed in song.
Now falls from thought. I go amazed
Into the maze of a design
That mind can follow but not know,
Apparent, plain, and yet unknown,
The outline lost in earth and sky.
What form wakens and rumples this?
Be still. A man who seems to be
A gardener rises out of the ground,
Stands like a tree, shakes off the dark,
The bluebells opening at his feet,
The light a figured cloth of song.

1984 — II

A tired man leaves his labor, felt
In every ligament, to walk
Alone across the new-mowed field,
And at its bound, the last cut stalk,

He takes a road much overgone
In time by bearers of his name,
Though now where foot and hoof beat stone
And passed to what their toil became,

Trees stand that in their long leaf-fall,
Untroubled on forgiving ground,
Have buried the sledged stone with soil
So that his passing makes no sound.

He turns aside, and joins his quiet
Forebears in absence from that way.
He passes through the dappled light
And shadow that the breeze makes sway

Upon him and around him as
He goes. Within the day’s design
The leaves sway, darkly, or ablaze
Around their edges with a line

Of fire caught from the sun. He steps
Amid a foliage of song
No tone of which has passed his lips.
Watching, silent, he shifts among

The shiftings of the day, himself
A shifting of the day’s design
Whose outline is in doubt, unsafe,
And dark. One time, less learned in pain,

He thought the earth was firm, his own,
But now he knows that all not raised
By fire, by water is brought down.
The slope his fields lie on is poised

Above the river in mere air,
The breaking forewall of a wave,
And everything he has made there
Floats lightly on that fall. To save

What passes is a passing hope
Within the day’s design outlawed.
His passing now has brought him up
Into a place not reached by road,

Beyond all history that he knows,
Where trees like great saints stand in time,
Eternal in their patience. Loss
Has rectified the songs that come

Into this columned room, and he
Only in silence, nothing in hand,
Comes here. A generosity
Is here by which the fallen stand.

In history many-named, in time
Nameless, this amplitude conveys
The answering to the asking rhyme
Among confusions that dispraise

The membering name that Adam spoke
By gift, and then heard parceled out
Among all fallen things that croak
And cry and sing and curse and shout.

The foliage opens like a cloud.
At rest high on the valley side,
Silent, the man looks at the loud
World: road and farm, his daily bread,

His beasts, his garden, and his barns,
His trees, the white walls of his house,
Whose lives and hopes he knows. He yearns
Toward all his work has joined. What has

He by his making made but home,
A present help by passing grace
Allowed to creatures of his name
Here in this passing time and place?

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