Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Poems by Wendell Berry about home and travel

These are two poems I recently read by Wendell Berry, from facing pages of his book "The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry". One is A Standing Ground, which explores the urge to withdraw from the social world to one's own place. The other is called Air and Fire, which describes the appeal of travel. I feel the two poems are nice complements to one another, because within all of us is an urge for home and nature, and an urge for travel and new lands and sights. I don't believe that these feelings are opposed. One who loves his home and hearth will also appreciate other homes and hearths that he sees in his travels, and wonder what it would be like if his life transpired in a different place than that which he was born into. Likewise, even for one who values public life and debate and thought and concern, part of appreciating these things is being able to return home and enjoy the quiet, beyond cause or argument.

"Air and Fire" by Wendell Berry
From my wife and household and fields
that I have so carefully come to in my time
I enter the craziness of travel,
the reckless elements of air and fire.
Having risen up from my native land,
I find myself smiled at by beautiful women,
making me long for a whole life
to devote to each one, making love to her
in some house, in some way of sleeping
and waking I would make only for her.
And all over the country I find myself
falling in love with houses, woods, and farms
that I will never set foot in.
My eyes go wandering through America,
two wayfaring brothers, resting in silence
against the forbidden gates. O what if
an angel came to me, and said,
"Go free of what you have done. Take
what you want." The atoms of blood
and brain and bone strain apart
at the thought. What I am is the way home.
Like rest after a sleepless night,
my old love comes on me in midair.

"A Standing Ground" by Wendell Berry

However just and anxious I have been
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet berries in a cup.

No comments:

Post a Comment