Lorna Edwards on Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The Moth, the Mountains, the Rivers’

Mary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She died in January 2019.

This poignant poem by Mary Oliver speaks to the fragility/ever changing nature of life, in all its forms.

And invites us to reflect on our role as humans on this planet.

Are we able to curb our ‘….so clever, and ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained….’ selves before it is too late?


The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers

Who can guess the luna’s sadness who lives so briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone longing to be ground down, to be part again of something livelier?

Who can imagine in what heaviness the rivers remember their original clarity?

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile time with them.

And I suggest them to you also, that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life be richer than it is,

that you bow to the earth as you feel how it actually is,

that we—so clever, and

ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained—

are only one design of the moving, the vivacious many.

This poem is from A Thousand Mornings: Poems (Penguin Press, New York). Copyright © 2012 Mary Oliver.


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