Wendell is one of America’s great living poets. I’ve been enjoying his latest book of poems entitled Leavings: Poems. In the tradition of Thoreau (though with a Christian perspective), Berry loves Nature. In these poems from 2005 to 2008, alternately, he either extols its beauty or prophetically chastises man for being such a poor steward of it. And for Berry, love of nature goes hand in hand with love of neighbor, love of stranger. Seeing and caring for the beautiful world around us leans our hearts towards others who are unlike us. And loving others, rather than going to war against them, makes us more at home and at peace in this world we live in.
Here are a couple of excerpts. The first captures Berry’s environmental concerns placing them in the context of a greater (Christian) ethic:
“Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot. Be lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of imagination. By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place. It lights invariably the need to care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.
No place at last is better than the world. The world
is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.”
The second touches on Berry’s pacifism and social concerns.
“Out of charity let us pray
for the great ones of politics
and war, the intellectuals,
scientists, and advisors,
the golden industrialists,
the CEOs, that they too
may wake to a day without hope
that in their smallness they
may know the greatness of Earth
an Heaven by which they so far
live, that they may see
themselves in their enemies,
and from their great want fallen
know the small immortal
joys of beasts and birds.”