When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Wendell Berry's poem The peace of wild things


  1. G. M. Dale says:

    ONE of the mistakes by whoever submitted this wonderful of poem has been commented on already, but not the other. The first two lines are:

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and i wake in the night at the least sound..

    Please proofread carefully when you post a poem!!

  2. Jessica Jerkface(: says:

    I really like this poem. I stumbled upon this freshman year of mine. It made me smile and feel like running through a feild of flowers would be just great to do. I love it!

  3. mac says:

    I have carried a handwritten copy of this poem with me in my body armour on my last 3 tours, Iraq and Afghanistan, twice.
    It always helps me to find a quiet corner and have a wee read.
    A truly beautiful poem.

  4. Jerry says:

    It made me feel good and it made me think of what I am missing.

  5. meghan says:

    i had to do a project on a poem and i chose to do one of Berry’s creations. this one was by far my favorite, i agree that his love of nature and humanity intertwined with one another is beautiful. every once in a while everyone needs to get in touch with nature and just get away for a little while. the wild is how our world got started, all we had to begin with was wild land and creatures, we need to get back to our roots sometimes.

  6. Carla says:

    The line “I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief.” made me think of a contrast of human nature vs wild animal/bird nature. Humans will worry about today, tomorrow, and the future whereas, animals deal with now and have no thought of more than immediate need. I also thought about Berry’s spiritual and biblical tendencies and recalled scriptures in Matthew and Luke reminding us not to worry about how we will be taken care of for we are worth more than birds and lilies which have their needs taken care of.

  7. Marcus says:

    Wild things do not tax thier lives with “thoughts” I’m not sure wild things have thoughts. the poem itself is perhaps an attemt to enlighten us with the knowledge we posess does not nessessiarily mean we poison our own peace of mind with this great intelligence of ours.

  8. Cam says:

    Line one on this poem is not “When despair grows in me” but is actually “When despair for the world grows in me”

  9. Kathryn Klos says:

    This lovely poem was quoted on an episode of “ER”, which I saw in re-reuns. The poem was attributed to William Blake, but Google thankfully led me to the correct author and the complete poem.

    I don’t care to analyze poetry; I only know when something touches me and moves me, as this poem has. It says what I feel, when I am alone with myself in a special wild-place to which I retreat when “despair for the world grows in me.”

  10. Angela says:

    I found it amazing a respected poet wrote about his “happy place” Society tells us we are crazy if we have a vivid imagination, if we go off into lala land there is something wrong with us, heart attacks and strokes are increasing with the rise of stressfull enviroments, maybe if we all visited lala land every once in a while we would add a few more years to our lives.

  11. LK Marshall says:

    How nice to find some of Wendell Berry’s poetry here! This is the first of his poems I ever read…years ago. I love the almost biblical feel of some of the phrases:
    “still water” and “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” If you haven’t read Berry’s poetry, novels, and essays, you should. His deep love of the land and of those who form a community in it is
    at the heart of all his work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Wendell Berry better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.