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

Death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room,
I am I and you are you;
Whatever we were to each other, That we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used,
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we shared together.
Let my name ever be the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant,
It is the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

– Henry Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars and you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

– Max Ehrmann, 1927

Appalachian Round Up

Take me back oh hills I love,
Lift me from this lonely bed,
Light my way with stars above,
Curl soft winds about my head,
Wash my feet in crystal streams,
Cradle my arms in boughs of oak,
Breathe the scent of pine for dreams,
Wrap me tight in earthen cloak.

– Traditional folk song

Recension Day

Unburn the boat, rebuild the bridge,
Reconsecrate the sacrilege,
Unspill the milk, decry the tears,
Turn back the clock, relive the years
Replace the smoke inside the fire,
Unite fulfilment with desire,
Undo the done, gainsay the said,
Revitalise the buried dead,
Revoke the penalty and the clause,
Reconstitute unwritten laws,
Repair the heart, untie the tongue,
Change faithless old to hopeful young,
Inure the body to disease
And help me to forget you please.

– Duncan Forbes

From Psalm 103

As for man, his days are as grass:
as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;
and the place thereof shall know it no more.

“Years ago I found this quote from Psalm 103 to describe Usk. I still think it sums it up perfectly.” – Charles Cowling

The Unknown Shore

Some time at eve when the tide is low,
I shall slip my mooring and sail away,
With no response to the friendly hail
Of kindred craft in the busy bay.
In the silent hush of the twilight pale,
When the night stoops down to embrace the day,
And the voices call in the waters’ flow –

Some time at eve when the tide is low,
I shall slip my mooring and sail away.
Through the purpling shadows that darkly trail
O’er the ebbing tide of the Unknown Sea,
I shall fare me away, with a dip of sail
And a ripple of waters to tell the tale
Of a lonely voyager, sailing away
To the Mystic Isles where at anchor lay
The crafts of those who have sailed before
O’er the Unknown Sea to the Unseen Shore.

A few who have watched me sail away
Will miss my craft from the busy bay;
Some friendly barks that were anchored near,
Some loving souls that my heart held dear,
In silent sorrow will drop a tear
But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
In mooring sheltered from storm and gale
And greet the friends who have sailed before
O’er the Unknown Sea to the Unknown Shore.

– Elizabeth Clark Hardy

Invisible Kisses

If there was ever one
Whom when you were sleeping
Would wipe your tears
When in dreams you were weeping;
Who would offer you time
When others demand;
Whose love lay more infinite
Than grains of sand.

If there was ever one
To whom you could cry;
Who would gather each tear
And blow it dry;
Who would offer help
On the mountains of time;
Who would stop to let each sunset
Soothe the jaded mind.

If there was ever one
To whom when you run
Will push back the clouds
So you are bathed in sun;
Who would open arms
If you would fall;
Who would show you everything
If you lost it all.

If there was ever one
Who when you achieve
Was there before the dream
And even then believed;
Who would clear the air
When it’s full of loss;
Who would count love
Before the cost.

If there was ever one
Who when you are cold
Will summon warm air
For your hands to hold;
Who would make peace
In pouring pain,
Make laughter fall
In falling rain.

If there was ever one
Who can offer you this and more;
Who in keyless rooms
Can open doors;
Who in open doors
Can see open fields
And in open fields
See harvests yield.

Then see only my face
In the reflection of these tides
Through the clear water
Beyond the river side.
All I can send is love
In all that this is
A poem and a necklace
Of invisible kisses.

– Lemn Sissay

Danny Boy

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.

And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

– Frederic Weatherly

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

– W H Davies

I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an after glow of smiles, when life is done
I’d like to be an echo whispering softly down the ways
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve to dry before the sun
Of happy memories when I leave when my life is done.

– Carol Mirkel

Landscape, September 2010

Looking at this landscape,
no words come
but a tiny thread
extends —
an anchor drops,
my ballast lost
is found
love at last
I’m home

– Lara Hiller – Poetry Soup

Parta Quies

Good-night; ensured release,
Imperishable peace,
Have these for yours,
While sea abides, and land,
And earth’s foundations stand,
And heaven endures.

When earth’s foundations flee,
Nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found,
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.

– AE Housman

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there’s some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

– Robert Frost

The Way Through the Woods

THEY shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

– Rudyard Kipling

Woodland Burial

Don’t lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.

– Pam Ayers (link to official website)

My Orcha’d in Lindèn Lea

‘Ithin the woodlands, flow’ry gleäded,
By the woak tree’s mossy moot,
The sheenèn grass-bleädes, timber sheäded,
Now do quiver under voot;
An’ birds do whissle auver head,
An’ water’s bubblèn in its bed,
An’ there vor me the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves that leätley wer a-springèn
Now do feäde ‘ithin the copse,
An’ païnted birds do hush their zingèn
Up upon the timber’s tops;
An’ brown-leav’d fruit’s a-turnèn red,
In cloudless zunsheen, auver head,
Wi’ fruit vor me, the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

Let other vo’k meäke money vaster
In the aïr o’ dark-room’d towns,
I don’t dread a peevish meäster;
Though noo man do heed my frowns,
I be free to goo abrode,
Or teäke ageän my hwomeward road
To where, vor me, the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

– William Barnes (1801-1886)

The Farmer among the Tombs

I am oppressed by all the room taken up by the dead,
Their headstones standing shoulder to shoulder,
The bones imprisoned under them.
Plow up the graveyards! Haul off the monuments!
Pry open the vaults and the coffins
So the dead may nourish their graves
And go free, their acres traversed all summer
By crop rows and cattle and foraging bees.

– Wendell Berry

Death must be so beautiful.

To lie in the soft brown earth,
with the grasses waving above one’s head,
and listen to silence.
To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow.
To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.

– Oscar Wilde The Canterville Ghost

To be as we were before we were born

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born.

– William Hazlitt essayist (1778-1830)

If I should go before the rest of you

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower or inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must, parting is hell
But life goes on, so sing as well.

– Joyce Grenfell

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain,
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.

– Mary Elizabeth Frye

Onto a Vast Plain

This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke follows the course of change through seasons and captures the loneliness of uncertainty in everyday life. Yet there is a sense of connection to the earth and a feeling of humility in the final verse…

​You are not surprised at the force of the storm–
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

– from Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows’ translation of Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke

Lonely woods / Bois épais

Ode to natural burial –

Lonely woods, with paths dim and silent
A haunt of peace for weary hearted
there’s healing in your shade
and in your stillness balm
here, all who seek repose
from the world’s strife and clamour
find a haven calm and secure
and go forth strengthened and renewed

English words by Harvey Grace

From “Amadis” music by Lully (original French words by Philip Quinault)

Bois épais, redouble ton ombre;
Tu ne saurais être assez sombre,
Tu ne peux pas trop cacher
Mon malheureux amour.
Je sens un désespoir
Dont l’horreur est extrême,
Je ne dois pas plus voir ce que j’aime,
​Je ne veux plus souffrir le jour.

To My Old Brown Earth

https://youtu.be/eERiCgqyha4

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.

– Pete Seeger