The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

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, an American environmental activist has lived and maintained a farm for over forty years, where he nurtures what he believes to be a great impact to civilisation. Berry is very tied to the natural landscape and believes that people must learn to live in co-ordination with the natural rhythms of earth or decease. Written in only eleven lines, Wendell berry wrote a poem enriching the natural inhabitant and the wild as an environment that is calming and therapeutic. Wendell Berry’s ‘The Peace of Wild Things’, 1985,   highlights how the wild can be seen as a safety net for those who are overwhelmed by the lifestyle and captivity of society. Berry invites us to share the experience of living on the outskirts of society, where he embraces life without the suppression of society’s morals and expectations.

The structure of the poem guides us through the journey of escapism. We are first presented with a situation: ‘When despair for the world grows in me’, engaging the reader to a mutual feeling that everyone experiences. Then we are given the resolution to the problem: ‘I rest in the grace of the world, and am free’. Escapism is explored as an underlying theme of ‘Wild’ in The Peace of the Wild Things. Escapism is represented as a way out for those in society who feel overwhelmed by the day to day to duties that apply in society. Berry underlines the ideology that encompasses the society in comparison to the peace of the Wild: ‘I come to the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief’. Berry lines up the two compositing environments and comes to the conclusion as to where any one would be better off which is the wild.

Additionally Berry presents the sub themes of space and time. Space is presented in the physical sense where people need to have space and retract themselves from society and enter into a space that do not occupy the same constitutions of the norm. Space is metaphorically spoke of by Berry, ‘I go and lie down where the woods drake’, leaving one environment to ‘go’ to a place which is much more comforting. Berry speaks on taking a space from society by exploring another environment in order to return to his normal environment and face the troubles it presents. Taking space away to explore an exotic environment allows you to release and find inner peace, similarly to taking on a holiday. Holidays are presented as a chance to escape reality and find time to find yourself. Berry here is presenting to us that just like a holiday we need to find time where we can digest and re-evaluate situations and that comfort is found in exotic places.

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