cover image Sabbaths


Wendell Berry. Gnomon Press, $12.95 (98pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-289-1

Although these psalm-like verses were written on the Sabbath, they are also songs in praise of the six days of labor that precede it. A poet, novelist and essayist, Berry is first and foremost a small farmer who works his ancestral land in rural Kentucky. These poems reflect a utopian visionreminiscent of the religion of the Native American peoplethat relates human life to the cycles of the Earth. Organized by years rather than by specific titles, Berry's lyrical hymns follow the seasons of birth and death, growth and decay, over a seven-year period, from 1979 to 1986. According to this writer's system of values, death holds no real terror; instead, the danger that confronts humankind is our increasing alienation from the land. Berry is widely admired for his authenticity and his deep commitment to an ideal way of life. In effect, these verses, some of which borrow directly from the Bible, are meant to be read as prayers and meditations, both to instruct and to give sustenance to the weary: ""Bewildered in our timely dwelling place,/ Where we arrive by work, we stay by grace.'' (September)