'Sabbaths 2001' by Wendell Berry

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PoetryOctober-November 2002IHe 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!"II
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.III
dogwood flowers
in leafing woods
my mind.IV
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.V
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.VI
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.VII
The wind of the fall is here.
It is everywhere. It moves
every leaf of everytree. 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.VIII
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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Literary Criticism and Interpretation of Sabbaths 2001 by Wendell Berry

Sabbaths 2001 is a collection of poems by one of the most celebrated poets of our time, Wendell Berry. The collection consists of 33 poems, each one reflecting on the passage of time and the beauty of the natural world. The poems are divided into sections, each one representing a different season of the year. Berry's poetry is known for its simplicity and its ability to connect with readers on a deep level. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze the themes, language, and style of Sabbaths 2001 to gain a deeper understanding of the work.


One of the primary themes of Sabbaths 2001 is the passage of time. Berry reflects on the changing of the seasons, the passing of days, and the inevitability of death. In the poem "High Windows," Berry writes, "The leafless branches against the sky / The broad beech tree in the corner of the yard / The yard is frozen, frozen and sere / The cold heats slowly through the ground." These lines are a reflection on the winter season and the way in which nature appears to be dead or dying. However, Berry takes a different view of the passage of time. Rather than seeing it as something to be feared or mourned, he sees it as something to be celebrated. In "The Clearing," he writes, "This is the moment of inertia / When the whole forest waits / And nothing appears to be happening." Here, Berry is celebrating the stillness of the natural world and the way in which it appears to be waiting for something to happen.

Another theme that runs throughout the collection is the beauty of the natural world. Berry writes about the changing colors of the leaves, the sound of birds singing, and the way in which the sun reflects off of the water. In "The Pasture," he writes, "I'm going out to clean the pasture spring; / I'll only stop to rake the leaves away / (And wait to watch the water clear, I may): / I shan't be gone long. You come too." These lines are an invitation to the reader to come along and experience the beauty of the natural world. Berry's appreciation for the natural world is not just aesthetic; it is also deeply spiritual. He sees the natural world as a reflection of the divine and as something that is intimately connected to the human soul.


Berry's language in Sabbaths 2001 is simple and direct. He uses everyday language to describe the natural world, making it accessible to readers who might not have a background in poetry or literature. He also uses repetition and sound to create a musical quality to his poetry. In "The Real Work," Berry writes, "It may be that when we no longer know what to do / We have come our real work, / And that when we no longer know which way to go / We have come to our real journey." These lines are not only beautiful in their simplicity, but they also have a musical quality to them that draws the reader in.

Another feature of Berry's language is his use of metaphor and symbolism. In "A Standing Ground," he writes, "We travelers, walking to the sun, can't see / Ahead, but looking back the very light / That blinded us shows us the way we came." Here, Berry is using the sun as a metaphor for the divine, and the act of walking towards the sun as a metaphor for the human journey towards enlightenment.


Berry's style in Sabbaths 2001 is characterized by its simplicity and directness. He does not use complex language or obscure imagery to convey his ideas. Instead, he relies on the power of everyday language and the beauty of the natural world to create an emotional connection with his readers. His style is also characterized by its sense of reverence for the natural world. Berry sees himself as a steward of the land, and his poetry reflects this sense of responsibility. In "The Real Work," he writes, "It may be that when we no longer know what to do / We have come our real work." Here, Berry is suggesting that the real work of human beings is to be caretakers of the natural world.

Another feature of Berry's style is his use of repetition. In "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," he writes, "So, friends, every day do something / that won't compute. Love the Lord. / Love the world. Work for nothing." These lines are repeated throughout the poem, creating a sense of urgency and importance to the message he is trying to convey.


Sabbaths 2001 is a collection of poetry that celebrates the passage of time and the beauty of the natural world. Berry's language is simple and direct, but also deeply poetic. His style is characterized by its reverence for the natural world and its sense of urgency. The themes of the collection are universal and speak to the human experience. Sabbaths 2001 is a work of great beauty and significance and is a testament to the power of poetry to connect us to the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Sabbaths 2001: A Celebration of Nature and Spirituality

Wendell Berry, the renowned American poet, farmer, and environmental activist, is known for his deep love and respect for nature. His poetry reflects his belief that the natural world is not just a resource to be exploited but a sacred gift to be cherished and protected. In his collection, Poetry Sabbaths 2001, Berry celebrates the beauty and wonder of the natural world and explores the spiritual dimension of our relationship with it. In this article, we will delve into the themes and motifs of this collection and examine how Berry's poetry can inspire us to live more harmoniously with nature.

The collection is divided into four sections, each corresponding to a season of the year. The poems in each section are arranged in a sequence that reflects the cycle of nature, from the birth of spring to the death of winter. The first section, "Sabbaths 2001," sets the tone for the collection with its opening poem, "I Go Among Trees." In this poem, Berry expresses his reverence for trees and their role in sustaining life on earth. He writes, "I go among trees and sit still/All my stirring becomes quiet/around me like circles on water." This image of stillness and calmness is a recurring motif in the collection, as Berry invites us to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

The second section, "Sabbaths 2001 II," focuses on the theme of renewal and rebirth. The poems in this section celebrate the arrival of spring and the awakening of the natural world after the long sleep of winter. In "The Peace of Wild Things," Berry reflects on the restorative power of nature, writing, "When despair for the world grows in me/and I wake in the night at the least sound/in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be/I go and lie down where the wood drake/rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds." This poem reminds us that even in times of darkness and uncertainty, we can find solace and comfort in the natural world.

The third section, "Sabbaths 2001 III," explores the theme of interconnectedness. Berry reminds us that we are not separate from nature but part of a larger web of life. In "The Real Work," he writes, "It may be that when we no longer know what to do/we have come to our real work,/and that when we no longer know which way to go/we have begun our real journey." This poem encourages us to embrace the uncertainty and complexity of life and to recognize that our actions have consequences that ripple through the natural world.

The final section, "Sabbaths 2001 IV," is a meditation on mortality and the cycle of life and death. Berry reflects on the passing of time and the inevitability of our own mortality. In "To Know the Dark," he writes, "To go in the dark with a light is to know the light./To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,/and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,/and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings." This poem reminds us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, there is beauty and meaning to be found.

Throughout the collection, Berry's poetry is infused with a sense of wonder and awe at the natural world. He invites us to slow down and pay attention to the small miracles that surround us every day. In "The Blue Robe," he writes, "I wanted to see where beauty comes from/without you in the world, hauling my freight." This poem is a reminder that we are not the center of the universe but a small part of a larger whole. Berry's poetry encourages us to cultivate a sense of humility and gratitude for the gifts of the natural world.

In addition to celebrating the beauty of nature, Berry's poetry also explores the spiritual dimension of our relationship with it. In "The Country of Marriage," he writes, "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." This poem is a metaphor for the spiritual journey, as we move through the darkness of life and find moments of clarity and beauty that sustain us.

Berry's poetry is not just a celebration of nature but a call to action. He challenges us to live more harmoniously with the natural world and to recognize our responsibility to protect it. In "The Peace of Wild Things," he writes, "For a time/I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." This poem is a reminder that our own well-being is intimately connected to the health of the natural world. If we want to find peace and freedom, we must work to protect the ecosystems that sustain us.

In conclusion, Poetry Sabbaths 2001 is a powerful collection of poetry that celebrates the beauty and wonder of the natural world and explores the spiritual dimension of our relationship with it. Berry's poetry invites us to slow down and appreciate the small miracles that surround us every day, to cultivate a sense of humility and gratitude, and to recognize our responsibility to protect the natural world. As we face the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, Berry's poetry is a timely reminder of the importance of living in harmony with nature.

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