Sabbaths 1999, VII

by Wendell Berry


Original Language English

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.

What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.

-- from Given: Poems, by Wendell Berry

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/ Photo by Jonathan Gill /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

It's been a while since we've had a poem by Wendell Berry. And, yes, maybe this poem is for a misty autumn morning, but it suits a crisp late winter day too...

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing...


That's the "long lesson," the slow realization of a lifetime lived with attention: the deep satisfaction of simple moments. Grand experiences may serve as important punctuation marks to life, but it is only when we deeply engage with the gentle flow of small events that we come to know our lives. Remember, real magic is hidden; it is hidden in those quiet moments.

how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.


And nature is our constant teacher and guide, again and again bringing us back to ourselves.

With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.


When we walk well among the woods, with the quiet attention that comes only when self is left behind, we glide through the eternal moment.

What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be.


And we just might come to recognize the Source of "all this" -- right here, within this moment, within our own breast.

Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest...

Berry's title tells us this poem is about the Sabbath. He understands the real meaning of the Sabbath. It is not the one day out of seven when one goes to church or synagogue. Sabbath is the living moment of sacred rest. It isn't a question of how often we sit within a steepled hall. Until the mind quiets and comes to rest in the heart, we have not yet honored the Sabbath.

Have a beautiful Sabbath day!



Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Selected Poems of Wendell Berry Given: Poems A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
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Sabbaths 1999, VII