'Sabbaths 2001' by Wendell Berry

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He wakes in darkness. All around
are sounds of stones shifting, locks
unlocking. As if some one had lifted
away a great weight, light
falls on him. He has been asleep or simply
gone. He has known a long suffering
of himself, himself sharpen by the pain
of his wound of separation he now
no longer minds, for the pain is only himself
now, grown small, become a little growing
longing joy. Something teaches him
to rise, to stand and move out through
the opening the light has made.
He stands on the green hilltop amid
the cedars, the skewed stones, the earth all
opened doors. Half blind with light, he
traces with a forefinger the moss-grown
furrows of his name, hearing among the others
one woman's cry. She is crying and laughing,
her voice a stream of silver he seems to see:
"Oh William, honey, is it you? Oh!"

Surely it will be for this: the redbud
pink, the wild plum white, yellow
trout lilies in the morning light,
the trees, the pastures turning green.
On the river, quiet at daybreak,
the reflections of the trees, as in
another world, lie across
from shore to shore. Yes, here
is where they will come, the dead,
when they rise from the grave.

dogwood flowers
in leafing woods
my mind.

Ask the world to reveal its quietude—
not the silence of machines when they are still,
but the true quiet by which birdsongs,
trees, bellows, snails, clouds, storms
become what they are, and are nothing else.

A mind that has confronted ruin for years
Is half or more a ruined mind. Nightmares
Inhabit it, and daily evidence
Of the clean country smeared for want of sense,
Of freedom slack and dull among the free,
Of faith subsumed in idiot luxury,
And beauty beggared in the marketplace
And clear-eyed wisdom bleary with dispraise.

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind's
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.

The wind of the fall is here.
It is everywhere. It moves
every leaf of every
tree. It is the only motion
of the river. Green leaves
grow weary of their color.
Now evening too is in the air.
The bright hawks of the day
subside. The owls waken.
Small creatures die because
larger creatures are hungry.
How superior to this
human confusion of greed
and creed, blood and fire.

The question before me, now that I
am old, is not how to be dead,
which I know from enough practice,
but how to be alive, as these worn
hills still tell, and some paintings
of Paul Cezanne, and this mere
singing wren, who thinks he's alive
forever, this instant, and may be.

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Masterpiece of Poetry: An Interpretation and Literary Criticism of Sabbaths 2001 by Wendell Berry

Have you ever read a poem that captured your heart and soul? That made you feel like it was written for you and about you? That made you want to read it again and again, each time discovering new depths of meaning and beauty? If not, then you need to read Sabbaths 2001 by Wendell Berry. This poem is a masterpiece of poetry, a work of art that is both profound and accessible, both personal and universal. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and techniques that make Sabbaths 2001 such a powerful and inspiring poem.

The Themes of Sabbaths 2001

At its core, Sabbaths 2001 is a poem about the search for a meaningful and fulfilling life. It explores the tension between the modern world, with its emphasis on speed, efficiency, and consumerism, and the natural world, with its rhythms, cycles, and mysteries. The poem celebrates the beauty and wonder of creation, while also acknowledging the pain and suffering that come with living in a world that is often chaotic and cruel. It encourages us to slow down, to pay attention to the small things, to savor the moments of grace and joy that are available to us if we are willing to look for them.

One of the key themes of the poem is the importance of Sabbath, both as a day of rest and reflection and as a way of life. Sabbath is not just a religious concept, but a fundamental human need. It is a time to pause, to step back from the pressures and distractions of daily life, and to focus on what really matters. Sabbath is a reminder that we are not just workers, consumers, or machines, but human beings with souls, hearts, and minds that crave rest, beauty, and meaning.

Another theme of the poem is the power of memory and imagination. Berry invites us to remember our own childhoods, our own experiences of wonder and innocence, and to use our imaginations to create a more hopeful and just future. He urges us to resist the forces of cynicism and despair that threaten to overwhelm us, and to hold fast to the belief that another world is possible, a world of peace, justice, and love.

The Symbols of Sabbaths 2001

Berry's use of symbols is one of the most striking features of Sabbaths 2001. He employs a wide range of images, metaphors, and allusions to convey his message and to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery. Some of the most powerful symbols in the poem include:

The Techniques of Sabbaths 2001

Berry's mastery of poetic techniques is evident throughout Sabbaths 2001. His use of language, imagery, rhythm, and structure create a rich and multi-layered work of art that rewards careful reading and reflection. Some of the most notable techniques in the poem include:


In conclusion, Sabbaths 2001 is a masterpiece of poetry, a work of art that speaks to the heart and soul of every reader. It explores the themes of Sabbath, memory, and imagination, and uses powerful symbols and techniques to convey its message. Berry's use of language, imagery, rhythm, and structure create a work of art that is both beautiful and profound. It invites us to slow down, to pay attention, and to embrace the beauty and mystery of the natural world. It urges us to remember our own experiences of wonder and innocence, and to use our imaginations to create a more hopeful and just future. It is a poem that will stay with you long after you have read it, a poem that will inspire you to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Sabbaths 2001: A Poem of Reverence and Reflection

Wendell Berry, the renowned American poet, farmer, and environmental activist, has gifted us with a masterpiece of poetry in Sabbaths 2001. This poem, published in 1987, is a reflection on the beauty and fragility of the natural world, and a call to action for humanity to live in harmony with it. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in Sabbaths 2001, and how they contribute to the poem's message of reverence and reflection.

The poem is structured in five stanzas, each describing a different scene from nature. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with the speaker describing a "quietness in which / another voice may speak." This voice is that of nature, which the speaker hears and responds to with reverence and awe. The speaker then describes a "light that falls / graciously" on the world, illuminating the beauty of nature and inviting the speaker to reflect on it.

The second stanza takes us to a river, where the speaker observes the "flowing of water" and the "rippling of leaves." The imagery here is one of movement and change, as the river and leaves are constantly in motion. The speaker also notes the "stillness" of the river's surface, which reflects the sky above. This image of reflection is important, as it suggests that nature can serve as a mirror for humanity, reflecting our own actions and attitudes back to us.

In the third stanza, the speaker turns to the sky, describing the "blue depth" and "white clouds" that fill it. The sky is a symbol of vastness and infinity, and the speaker marvels at its beauty. However, the speaker also notes the "smoke haze" that hangs over the horizon, a reminder of humanity's impact on the environment. This contrast between the natural and the human-made is a recurring theme in the poem, and serves to highlight the importance of living in harmony with nature.

The fourth stanza takes us to a field, where the speaker observes the "grasses yielding / their seeds and fruits." The imagery here is one of abundance and fertility, as the field is teeming with life. The speaker also notes the "birds and animals" that inhabit the field, suggesting that nature is a complex and interconnected system. However, the speaker also notes the "fences" that divide the field, a reminder of humanity's tendency to impose order and control on the natural world.

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the theme of quietness and reflection. The speaker describes a "stillness in which / the whole world is present," suggesting that nature is not just a collection of separate objects, but a unified whole. The speaker also notes the "silence that is the music of the world," suggesting that nature has its own language and rhythms that humans can learn from.

Throughout the poem, Berry uses language and imagery to convey a sense of reverence and reflection. The language is simple and direct, but also lyrical and evocative. The imagery is vivid and sensory, allowing the reader to experience the beauty of nature firsthand. Together, these elements create a powerful and moving portrait of the natural world.

One of the most striking features of Sabbaths 2001 is its use of contrast. Berry contrasts the natural and the human-made, the stillness and the movement, the abundance and the control. These contrasts serve to highlight the beauty and fragility of the natural world, and the importance of living in harmony with it. They also suggest that nature is not a static or passive entity, but a dynamic and responsive one that can be affected by human actions.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of reflection. The speaker repeatedly urges us to be still and listen to the voice of nature, to reflect on its beauty and complexity. This reflection is not just a passive activity, but an active one that can lead to change. By reflecting on nature, we can learn to live in harmony with it, and to appreciate its value and importance.

In conclusion, Sabbaths 2001 is a masterpiece of poetry that speaks to the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Through its use of language and imagery, it conveys a sense of reverence and reflection, urging us to listen to the voice of nature and to live in harmony with it. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting the environment, and a call to action for all of us to do our part.

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