W. S. Merwin Quotes

On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree

Obviously a garden is not the wilderness but an assembly of shapes, most of them living, that owes some share of its composition, it’s appearance, to human design and effort, human conventions and convenience, and the human pursuit of that elusive, indefinable harmony that we call beauty. It has a life of its own, an intricate, willful, secret life, as any gardener knows. It is only the humans in it who think of it as a garden. But a garden is a relationship, which is one of the countless reasons why it is never finished.

Separation Your absence has gone through me Like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.

We are not born to survive. Only to live.

From what we cannot hold the stars are made.

We are asleep with compasses in our hands.


Any work of art makes one very simple demand on anyone who genuinely wants to get in touch with it. And that is to stop. You’ve got to stop what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and what you’re expecting and just be there for the poem for however long it takes.

I say to my breath once again, little breath come from in front of me, go away behind me, row me quietly now, as far as you can, for I am an abyss that I am trying to cross.

I needed my mistakes in their order to get me here

I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.

Poetry is a way of looking at the world for the first time.

The story of each stone leads back to a mountain.

Your absence has gone through me

Sitting over words
Very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
Not far
Like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
The echo of everything that has ever
Been spoken
Still spinning its one syllable
Between the earth and silence.

What you remember saves you.

Now all my teachers are dead except silence.

What I really believe is the only hopeful relation between our life and the whole of life is one of reverence and respect and of feeling at one with it. The other attitude which is the one our society is based on is devastating and it is killing the earth and it is killing us too.

Laughter was the shape the darkness took around the first appearance of the light.

I will take with me the emptiness of my hands. What you do not have you find everywhere

We are the echo of the future.

I also think that life itself is both indifferent to us and the source of all of our joys and everything that we love. And it’s necessary to accept the one in order to love the other.

I have with me all that I do not knowI have lost none of it.

When a poem is really finished, you can’t change anything. You can’t move words around. You can’t say, ‘In other words, you mean.’ No, that’s not it. There are no other words in which you mean it. This is it.

come back believer in shade believer in silence and elegance believer in ferns believer in patience believer in the rain

I’m very pessimistic about the future of the human species. We have been so indifferent to life on the whole that it will take its toll. It’s not just the polar bears that are having a hard time; what we’re doing is gradually impoverishing and poisoning the whole of the rest of life.