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The Peace of Wild Things

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.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wendell Berry is a master of essays and fictional forms, in addition to poetry. His elegant versatility is evident not only in his written work, but throughout the whole of his working life; he is a naturalist, small-scale farmer, and has taught at several universities. His awards include being named a Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.  

The collection in which this poem originally appeared is the poet’s 1968 Openings; later, it is found in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1998, and in his Collected Poems 1957 – 1982, 1987.  (I’m in process of actually finding these books, to double-check this information.)  I originally found the poem in a small anthology I’ve referred to once previously, Poems to Live by in Uncertain Times, ed. Joan Murray, 2001.