Sunday, August 2, 2009

MAD FARMER MANIFESTO: THE FIRST AMENDMENT

Wendell Berry's classic and its updates stand the test of time

Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” has resonated with many of us with words like:

“…So, friends, everyday do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval for all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias…”

Berry
’s “First Amendment” to “Manifesto” in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1998) goes like this:


Berry precedes the poem with an excerpt of a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Rev. James Madison: “…it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.”

That is the glimmering vein
of our sanity, dividing from us
from the start: land under us
to steady us when we stood,
free men in the great communion
of the free. The vision keeps
lighting in my mind, a window
on the horizon in the dark.

To be sane in a mad time
is bad for the brain, worse
for the heart. The world
is a holy vision, had we clarity
to see it--a clarity that men
depend on men to make.

It is ignorant money I declare
myself free from, money fat
and dreaming in its sums, driving
us into the streets of absence,
stranding the pasture trees
in the deserted language of banks.


And I declare myself free
from ignorant love. You easy lovers
and forgivers of mankind, stand back!
I will love you at a distance,
and not because you deserve it.
My love must be discriminate
or fail to bear its weight.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.