'The Country Of Marriage' by Wendell Berry

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I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.


This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth's empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.


How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.


Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don't know what its limits are--
that puts us in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering
we are more together than we thought?
You are the known way leading always to the unknown,
and you are the known place to which the unknown is always
leading me back. More blessed in you than I know,
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I
have fallen tine and again from the great strength
of my desire, helpless, into your arms.


What I am learning to give you is my death
to set you free of me, and me from myself
into the dark and the new light. Like the water
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.


I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for the love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in the ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself
again and again, and satisfy--and this poem,
no more mine than any man's who has loved a woman.

Submitted by David Shackelford

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Country of Marriage by Wendell Berry

As I read Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Country of Marriage,” I am struck by the depth of emotion and the vivid imagery that the poem conveys. Berry’s use of language is masterful, and his ability to evoke strong feelings and images in the reader is truly impressive. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbols, and literary devices used by Berry in this classic poem.


“The Country of Marriage” is a poem about the transformative power of love and marriage. It is a celebration of the joys and challenges of a committed relationship, and a reflection on the beauty and complexity of human connections. The poem begins with a description of the speaker’s idyllic childhood memories of playing in the woods and fields, but quickly shifts to a more adult perspective. The speaker describes his journey from a solitary life to a life of marriage and family, and reflects on the joy and pain that come with this new way of living.


One of the central themes of “The Country of Marriage” is the transformative power of love. The poem is essentially a love poem, but it is not a simplistic or sentimental one. Berry acknowledges the challenges and difficulties that come with a committed relationship, but he also celebrates the ability of love to inspire growth and change.

Another important theme of the poem is the connection between human beings and the natural world. Berry is a well-known advocate for environmentalism and sustainable agriculture, and this theme is evident in much of his poetry. In “The Country of Marriage,” Berry uses the natural world as a symbol for the complexity and beauty of human relationships.

The poem also touches on the themes of time and mortality. The speaker reflects on the passing of time and the inevitability of death, but he also finds hope and comfort in the enduring power of love.


One of the most striking symbols in “The Country of Marriage” is the image of the woods and fields. This natural setting represents the innocence and freedom of childhood, but it also serves as a contrast with the more complex and challenging world of adulthood.

The house and the garden are also important symbols in the poem. The house represents the stability and security of a committed relationship, while the garden represents the possibility of growth and renewal.

The speaker’s journey through the woods and fields can also be seen as a metaphor for his journey through life. He begins as a solitary figure, but he is ultimately drawn to the warmth and companionship of a loving relationship.

Literary Devices

One of the most impressive aspects of “The Country of Marriage” is Berry’s use of language. The poem is full of vivid imagery and sensory details, which create a powerful emotional impact.

One of the most interesting literary devices used by Berry in this poem is the repetition of the phrase “the country of…” This repetition creates a sense of continuity and connection between the different parts of the poem, and it also reinforces the theme of the poem as a celebration of the human connection to the natural world.

The poem also makes use of metaphor and simile, particularly in the description of the house and the garden. The house is compared to a “rock,” and the garden is described as a “living room” for the natural world.


Overall, “The Country of Marriage” is a powerful and emotionally resonant poem that celebrates the transformative power of love and the beauty of the natural world. It acknowledges the challenges and difficulties that come with a committed relationship, but it also finds hope and comfort in the enduring power of love.

There is a sense of nostalgia and longing in the poem, as the speaker reflects on his childhood memories and the passing of time. But there is also a sense of hope and renewal, as the speaker finds joy and meaning in his relationship with his partner.

As a reader, I am struck by the honesty and authenticity of Berry’s writing. He is not afraid to acknowledge the complexities and challenges of a committed relationship, but he also celebrates the beauty and joy that come with it.

In the end, “The Country of Marriage” is a poem about the human desire for connection and intimacy, and the profound ways in which love can transform our lives. It is a celebration of the beauty and complexity of human relationships, and a powerful reminder of the enduring power of love.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Country of Marriage: An Analysis of Wendell Berry's Classic Poem

Wendell Berry's "The Country of Marriage" is a classic poem that explores the complexities of love, marriage, and the human experience. The poem is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece that delves into the nature of relationships and the challenges that come with them. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of the poem to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning and significance.


One of the central themes of "The Country of Marriage" is the idea that love and marriage are not easy. Berry explores the difficulties that come with relationships, including the struggle to communicate and the fear of losing oneself in the other person. The poem also touches on the idea that love is not just a feeling, but a choice that requires commitment and sacrifice.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the connection between humans and nature. Berry uses imagery of the natural world to explore the beauty and complexity of human relationships. He suggests that just as nature requires care and attention to thrive, so too do relationships.


"The Country of Marriage" is a free verse poem that consists of six stanzas of varying lengths. The poem does not follow a strict rhyme or meter, which gives it a natural and conversational tone. The lack of a set structure also allows Berry to explore his themes in a more organic way, without being constrained by a specific form.

The poem is divided into two parts, with the first three stanzas exploring the challenges of love and marriage, and the final three stanzas offering a more hopeful and optimistic view of relationships. This structure creates a sense of progression and development, as the poem moves from a place of struggle to a place of hope.


One of the most striking aspects of "The Country of Marriage" is Berry's use of language. The poem is filled with vivid imagery and metaphors that bring the themes to life. For example, in the first stanza, Berry compares love to a "wilderness" that is both beautiful and dangerous. This metaphor captures the idea that love is both exciting and unpredictable, but also fraught with risk.

Throughout the poem, Berry also uses imagery of the natural world to explore the complexities of human relationships. He describes love as a "field of light" and a "garden" that requires care and attention to thrive. These images suggest that just as nature requires nurturing and cultivation, so too do relationships.

Another notable aspect of Berry's language is his use of repetition. The phrase "the country of marriage" appears several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of unity and continuity. This repetition also emphasizes the importance of marriage as a central theme of the poem.


"The Country of Marriage" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the complexities of love and relationships. Through vivid imagery and metaphors, Berry captures the beauty and challenges of human connection. The poem offers a nuanced and realistic view of love, suggesting that it is not always easy, but that it is worth the effort. Ultimately, "The Country of Marriage" is a celebration of the human experience, and a reminder of the importance of connection and commitment in our lives.

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