The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Country of Marriage” is a pastoral lyric in free verse with seventy-eight lines and seven irregular stanzas. The title suggests the poem’s dual celebration of country life and marriage. Both farming and marriage are valued as complementary expressions of love, fidelity, trust, and commitment. The poem is written in the first person, using the Berry persona of the “Mad Farmer,” who reflects Berry’s agrarian perspective. It is implicitly addressed to Berry’s wife, Tanya, as a love poem, though she is not named directly but addressed throughout the poem in the second person.

As a poem about courtship, marriage, and the married life, “The Country of Marriage” echoes the form and sentiments of Edmund Spenser’s “Epithalamion” (epithalamion means “wedding song or poem”). Berry, however, forsakes Spenser’s classical allusions in favor of pastoral images drawn directly from the Berrys’ marriage and life together on their Kentucky farm.

Stanza 1 opens with a dream: The speaker envisions his wife “walking at night along the streams/ of the country of my birth,” merged with the forces of nature, “holding in your body the dark seed of my/ sleep.” This discreetly eroticized dream of love and procreation sets their conjugal love within the context of the wider reproductive powers of nature.

Stanza 2 contrasts the security of their union with the prior loneliness and isolation of the speaker, who...

(The entire section is 563 words.)