Farming: A Handbook
Wendell Berry

To kill in hot savagery like a beast
is understandable. It is forgivable and curable.
But to kill by design, deliberately, without wrath,
that is sullen labor that perfects Hell.

-from The Morning News, p. 19

and the summer”s garden continues its descent
through me, toward the ground.

-from The Morning News, p. 20

All this serves the dark. Against the shadow
of veiled possibility my workdays stand
in a most asking light. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass.

-from Enriching The Earth, p. 21

After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is the last raised up into song.

-from Enriching The Earth, p. 21

The land is an ark, full of things waiting.

-from A Wet Time, p. 22

What must a mad do to be at home in the world?

-from The Silence, p. 23

I am wholly unwilling to be here
between the bright silent thousands of stars
and the life of the grass pouring out of the ground.
The hill has grown to me like a foot.
Until I life the earth I cannot move.

-from On The Hill Late At Night, p. 27

And we rest, having done what men are best at.

-from The Barn, p. 28

In their dark heat I labor all summer making them ready.
A time of death is coming, and they desire to live.
It is only the labor surrounding them that is manly,
the seasonal bringing in from the womanly fields
to the womanly enclosures.

-from The Buildings, p. 29

But the sower
going forth to sow sets foot
into time to come, the seeds falling
on his own place.

-from The Seeds, p. 30

so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

-from The Wish To Be Generous, p. 31

So in the woods I stand
free, knowing my land. My country, tis of the
drying pools along Camp Branch I sing
where water striders walk like Christ,
all sons of God, and of the woods grown old
on the stony hill where the thrush”s song rises
in the light like a curling vine and the bobwhite”s
whistle opens in the air, broad and pointed like a leaf.

-from Independence Day, p. 34

I bid you to a one-man revolution-
The only revolution that is coming.

We”re too unseparate. And going home
From company means coming to our senses.

-Robert Frost, Build Soil

Epigram to Part II, p. 35

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

-from A Standing Ground, p. 37

And I asked: “You mean a death then?”
“Yes,” the voice said. “Die
into what the earth requires of you.”
Then I let go all holds, and sank
like a hopeless swimmer into the earth
and at last came fully into the ease
and the joy of that place,
all my lost ones returning.

-from Song In A Year Of Catastrophe, p. 40

their hands gathering the stones up into walls,
and relaxing, the stones crawling back into the ground.

-from The Current, p. 41

Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don”t know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. Its is one way.

-from The Contrariness Of The Mad Farmer, p. 45

shedding its richness on them
silently as snow, keeper and maker
of places wholly dark. And in him
something dark applauds.

-from The Farmer And The Sea, p. 46

The winds of her knees shake me
like a flame. I have risen up from her,
time and again, a new man.

-from Earth And Fire, p. 47

Wherever lovely women are the city is undone,
its geometry broken in pieces and lifted,
its streets and corners fading like mist at sunrise
above groves and meadows and planted fields.

-from The Mad Farmer In The City, p. 49

Late in the night I pay
the unrest I owe
to the life that never lived
and cannot live now.
What the world could be
is my good dream
and my agony when, dreaming it,
I lie awake and turn
and look into the dark.
I think of a luxury
in the sturdiness and grace
of necessary things, not
in frivolity. That would heal
the earth, heal men.
But the end, too, is part
of the pattern, the last
labor of the heart:
to learn to lie still,
one with the earth
again, and let the world go.

Awake At Night, p. 55

Don”t pray for the rain to stop.
Pray for the good luck fishing
when the river floods.

-from Prayers And Sayings Of The Mad Farmer, p. 56

Don”t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.

-from Prayers And Sayings Of The Mad Farmer, p. 56

By the excellence of his work the workman is a neighbor. By selling only what he would not despise to own the salesman is a neighbor. By selling what is good his character survives his market.

-from Prayers And Sayings Of The Mad Farmer, p. 58

If the crop of any one year was all, a man would have to cut his throat ever time it hailed.

-from Prayers And Sayings Of The Mad Farmer, p. 58

If he raises a good crop at the cost of belittling himself and diminishing the ground, they he has gained nothing. He will have to begin all over again the next spring, worse off than before.

-from Prayers And Sayings Of The Mad Farmer, p. 59

after sleep, the sense of being enabled
to go on with work, morning a clear gift;

-from The Satisfactions Of The Mad Farmer, p. 61

What I know of spirit is astir
in the world. The god I have always expected
to appear at the wood”s edge is beckoning,
I have always expected to be
a great relisher of the world, its good
grown immortal in his mind.

-from The Satisfactions Of The Mad Farmer, p. 63

Setting and resting, hell!
Setting and resting ‘ll soon
make a dead man out of you.
A man like myself, with only
twenty or thirty more years
to live, has got to be rattling.

-spoken by Old Jack in The Bringer Of Water, p. 75

But you can”t escape life by loving it.

-spoken by Nathan in The Bringer Of Water, p. 86

It”s not what I wanted.
It”s what was here to be had,
and what I could afford.
It”s my fate you could say.

-spoken by Nathan in The Bringer Of Water, p. 91

And a lifetime won”t be enough
to bring it back. A man
would have to live maybe
five hundred years
to make it good again
-or learn something of the cost
of not making it good.
But hard as it is, I accept
this fate. I even like it
a little-the idea of making
my lifetime one of the several
it will take to bring back
the possibilities of this place

-spoken by Nathan in The Bringer Of Water, p. 92

I remind myself: the past is gone. Remember it.

-from A Letter, p. 101

Those who wait
to change until a crowd agrees
with their opinions will never change.

-from A Letter, p. 102

May it abide a poet with as much grace!
For I too am perhaps a little mad,
standing here wet in the drizzle, listening
to the clashing syllables of the water.

-from Meditation In The Spring Rain, p. 106

men she had married and mothered bent
past unbending by her days of labor
that love had led her to. They had to break her
before she would lie down in the coffin.

-from The Grandmother, p. 109

Suddenly I know I have passed across
to a shore where I do not live.

-from The Heron, p. 114

That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

-from To The Unseeable Animal, p. 118

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