Monday, October 4, 2010

From the Pen of Thoreau

We're studying a chapter of Walden tomorrow in my American Literature class, so I'm catching up on my reading. Our hilarious professor had intended us to take a nature walk to the creek for our discussion, but the fact that the creek has over-spilled its banks makes that unlikely. Alas. The transcendentalists would not approve.
I thought I'd share several passages from the chapter "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" that I found interesting and enjoyable.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Classic Thoreau, sort of a manifesto if you will. Next, Henry David tells us why mail and newspapers are a waste (I wonder how he would feel about text messages and Yahoo! News).
The penny-post is, commonly, and institution through which you seriously offer a man that penny for his thoughts which is so often safely offered in jest. And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned or one vessel wrecked, one one steamboat blown up or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter-we never need read of another. One is enough.

As a student journalist, I must say that I don't believe news is useless, but I get his point.
One more for good measure, one of my favorites:
Let us spend each day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails.

Ironically (as it is my life long quest to find irony and produce it where there is none), some club on campus had baskets of foam fortune cookies (I don't understand either) in the college center this afternoon, each with a slip of paper containing a quotation. The one I grabbed had a quotation by Thoreau about the importance of writing only when the impetus to write is hot upon you. Have you ever noticed that certain things seem to follow you in life? Words, stories, writers that pop up in various people and places that are unconnected to each other. This happens to me all the time, and lately it has been Henry David Thoreau.
I think it's time to officially upgrade him to Literary Crush. He makes me laugh, we could take nature walks, he likes the quiet, but doesn't seem dull- I like him. Although according to the pictures, he probably could have benefitted from a shave to get rid of that mutton chop/beard combination, but he has very soulful eyes. Besides, he's got a great cabin in the woods, and I've always said my ideal man is a rugged nerd. Yeah, this one has promise.


  1. I studied Thoreau in college and found him quite interesting but a bit too antisocial. :D I don't really buy the idea that only nature and the natural are "real" and everything that comes from human civilization is somehow fake. (Though I would agree that a LOT of what's in the newspapers, or these days on the Internet, is of the "you've seen one, you've seen them all" category.)

    My biggest literary crush ever was Byron. :)

  2. Ooh, Byron's a little dangerous for me and I'd always feel like I was playing second fiddle to his half sister.
    I guess what I take from Thoreau is that it's easy to forget that humans are natural beings and that we get caught up in contrived social traditions and the tiny details that drive us mad.
    Maybe I just dig Thoreau because there is a little hermit in me that's dying to...stay in?

  3. LOL, yes -- the half-sister thing was a tad creepy, though she did inspire some lovely poetry ("Though the day of my destiny's over/And the star of my fate has declined,/Thy soft heart refused to discover/The faults that so many could find" ... etc.).

    And yeah, I hear you about Thoreau.

    Oh, did you get my PM with RH board stuff? :-)

  4. Oh yeah, the poetry was gorgeous.
    Did you ever see the play "Bloody Poetry"? I can't remember who wrote it, but a local theatre did it a few years back. It's about Byron and his relationship with the Shelleys, very interesting.