Work Song

          by Wendell Berry

1. A Lineage

By the fall of the years I learn how it has been

With Jack Beechum, Mat Feltner, Elton Penn,

And their kind, men made for their fields.

I see them stand their ground, bear their yields,

Swaying in all weathers in their long rows,

In the dance that fleshes desire and then goes

Down with the light. They have gone as they came,

And they go. They go by a kind of will. They claim

In the brevity of their strength an ancient joy.

"Make me know it! Hand it to me, boy!"

Robert Frost says, "Strongly spent is synonymous with kept."  In Wendell Berry's world of family farms in Henry County, Kentucky, the men who taught him farming are measured by their devotion to their fields, their giving of themselves to their good work until they "go down with the light." A good death is integral to the good and sustainable lives they have lived: "they have gone as they came."  These men remind Berry, and he us, that mortality— "the brevity of [our] strength"— gives meaning and joy to the life we inherit and pass along. "Make me know it! Hand it to me, boy!"


David LaMotte


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