Sick of politics and politicians? Read this poem!

I have got to the stage in life where I am so sick of politics and politicians that I only vote – I always vote – because I know that women fought and died for me to have that vote.

But it does seem these days that in ‘mature’ democracies such as we have in the UK and the USA, power, influence and money are increasingly concentrated in the hands of those who are not much in touch with the needs of our planet or the will of the people.

Sectarian polarisation seems to be growing worse, and not just in the turmoil and bloodshed of the Middle East: look at the stasis existing in the USA between Republicans and Democrats, and the despair which that impasse is generating amongst ‘ordinary’ voters. In Scotland, of course, we have an increasingly strident shouting match as the 18th September Independence Referendum on Scotland’s future – and that of the whole United Kingdom – draws near.

So – when I came across this wonderful poem by Wendel Berry in a recent post by my favourite blogger, Linda Leinen at The Task at Hand, it spoke to me, loud and clear. I hope it speaks to you, wherever you are:

The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union

From the union of power and money,

From the union of power and secrecy,

From the union of government and science,

From the union of government and art,

From the union of science and money,

From the union of genius and war,

From the union of outer space and inner vacuity,

The Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.

He returns to the small country he calls home,

His own nation small enough to walk across.

He goes shadowy into the local woods,

And brightly into the local meadows and croplands.

He goes to the care of neighbors,

He goes into the care of neighbors.

He goes to the potluck supper, a dish

From each house for the hunger of every house.

He goes into the quiet of early mornings

Of days when he is not going anywhere.

Calling his neighbors together into the sanctity

Of their lives separate and together,

In the one life of the commonwealth and home,

In their own nation small enough for a story

Or song to travel across in an hour, he cries:

Come all ye conservatives and liberals

Who want to conserve the good things and be free,

Come away from the merchants of big answers,

Whose hands are metalled with power;

From the union of anywhere and everywhere;

By the purchase of everything from everybody at the lowest price

And the sale of anything to anybody at the highest price;

From the union of work and debt, work and despair;

From the wage-slavery of the helplessly well-employed.

From the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation,

Secede into the care for one another

And for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth.

Come into the life of the body, the one body

Granted to you in all the history of time.

Come into the body’s economy, its daily work,

And its replenishment at mealtimes and at night.

Come into the body’s thanksgiving, when it knows

And acknowledges itself a living soul.

Come into the dance of the community, joined

In a circle, hand in hand, the dance of the eternal

Love of women and men for one another

And of neighbors and friends for one another.

Always disappearing, always returning,

Calling his neighbors to return, to think again

Of the care of flocks and herds, of gardens

And fields, of woodlots and forests and the uncut groves,

Calling them separately and together, calling and calling,

He goes forever toward the long restful evening

And the croak of the night heron over the river at dark.

~ Wendell Berry

(NOTE: I had to put in a small dash to indicate verse breaks, since my WordPress programme for reasons best known to itself, refused to let me create spaces between verses. Purists, please forgive me!)

700 words copyright Wendell Berry/Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


10 responses to “Sick of politics and politicians? Read this poem!

  1. So nice to read the poem again, Anne. I’m glad it spoke to you. Berry is wonderful as a poet, and as a tonic when malaise begins to strike!

    As for those line breaks, you ought to be able to do that. I looked at your page source, and it appears you might have copied and pasted from another source. That can create havoc. I think I remember that, if you’re doing a copy and paste, you can use the “Clear formatting” button or the “Paste as text” button as well, but I’ve never explored those. I need to do that, for my own edification.

    Here’s one link from the WordPress formatting tips pages. It shows one way to enter additional line breaks.


    • Linda, you are a marvel,finding time to give me (who after six years on WordPress should know better!) blogging layout tips as well as conversing with your own large following. Many thanks!

      Synchronicity is so interesting. My nephew is about to begin his Politics dissertation for his final year at Edinburgh University, and is choosing to analyse the gradual shift of power gradually taking place in the global community, away from institutional hegemonies, more towards technology-expedited processes sweeping the world in which people take power into their own hands…with varying results for both good and ill…the Wendell Berry poem spoke powerfully to him, too.


  2. very nice; those are pretty much our sentiments as well; having had backyard chickens for about a year now…….looking to move more to a more agrarian environment….even though we love our working class neighborhood and the closeness of the homes…..


  3. wonderfully calming


    • So glad you find it so, Ellen, and thanks for visiting. I especially like the evocative quality of the last two lines:

      “He goes forever toward the long restful evening

      And the croak of the night heron over the river at dark.”


  4. I think maybe the politicians should read that Anne…. ahhhhh if only it were that easy.


  5. What a wonderful poem of Wendell Berry’s – thank you dear friend! Jane


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