A Poem Of Hope

A Poem on Hope
by Wendell Berry

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,

For hope must not depend on feeling good

And there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.

You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality

Of the future, which surely will surprise us,

…And hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction

Any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.

The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?

Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit

Our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,

The streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope

Then to belong to your place by your own knowledge

Of what it is that no other place is, and by

Your caring for it as you care for no other place, this

Place that you belong to though it is not yours,

For it was from the beginning and will be to the end

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are

Your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,

Who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,

And the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike

Fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing

In the trees in the silence of the fisherman

And the heron, and the trees that keep the land

They stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power

Or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful

when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy

when they ask for your land and your work.

Answer with knowledge of the others who are here

And how to be here with them. By this knowledge

Make the sense you need to make. By it stand

In the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.

Speak to your fellow humans as your place

Has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.

Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it

Before they had heard a radio. Speak

Publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up

From the pages of books and from your own heart.

Be still and listen to the voices that belong

To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.

There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,

By which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.

Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground

Underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls

Freely upon it after the darkness of the nights

And the darkness of our ignorance and madness.

Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,

Which is the light of imagination. By it you see

The likeness of people in other places to yourself

In your place. It lights invariably the need for care

Toward other people, other creatures, in other places

As you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world

Is no better than its places. Its places at last

Are no better than their people while their people

Continue in them. When the people make

Dark the light within them, the world darkens.

Wendell Berry

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