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Walking: All Good Things Are Wild and Free.

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Henry David Thoreau tells us that "all good things are wild and free." These words are found in his lecture "Walking," which he delivered numerous times, beginning in 1851. The connection between wildness and freedom is seen throughout Thoreau's writing. To him, the good life required balancing the civilized and the wild, and his idea of nature informs his idea of liberty. F Henry David Thoreau tells us that "all good things are wild and free." These words are found in his lecture "Walking," which he delivered numerous times, beginning in 1851. The connection between wildness and freedom is seen throughout Thoreau's writing. To him, the good life required balancing the civilized and the wild, and his idea of nature informs his idea of liberty. For Thoreau, the wild holds numerous individual and social benefits. It is a place where a person can discover and renew oneself. It is a place that allows for experimentation. It is a place that can bring radical regeneration or even a restructuring of society. Thoreau's life in the Walden Woods, though he was somewhat isolated, was a kind of social experiment that he conducted on himself. Its goal was personal as well as social regeneration. Thoreau's views of wildness and freedom underlie his original and relevant libertarian philosophy. It is individualist and social. It is grounded in an understanding of nature and a desire to or figure out one's place within it. Thoreau's belief in acting on principles also gave him a practical attitude toward political violence and helped him make a persuasive case for peaceful revolution. Originally given as part of a lecture in 1851, "Walking" was later published posthumously as an essay in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. Now being a chief text in the environmental movement, Thoreau's "Walking" places man not separate from Nature and Wildness but within it and lyrically describes the ever beckoning call that draws us to explore and find ourselves lost in the beauty of the forests, rivers, and fields.


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Henry David Thoreau tells us that "all good things are wild and free." These words are found in his lecture "Walking," which he delivered numerous times, beginning in 1851. The connection between wildness and freedom is seen throughout Thoreau's writing. To him, the good life required balancing the civilized and the wild, and his idea of nature informs his idea of liberty. F Henry David Thoreau tells us that "all good things are wild and free." These words are found in his lecture "Walking," which he delivered numerous times, beginning in 1851. The connection between wildness and freedom is seen throughout Thoreau's writing. To him, the good life required balancing the civilized and the wild, and his idea of nature informs his idea of liberty. For Thoreau, the wild holds numerous individual and social benefits. It is a place where a person can discover and renew oneself. It is a place that allows for experimentation. It is a place that can bring radical regeneration or even a restructuring of society. Thoreau's life in the Walden Woods, though he was somewhat isolated, was a kind of social experiment that he conducted on himself. Its goal was personal as well as social regeneration. Thoreau's views of wildness and freedom underlie his original and relevant libertarian philosophy. It is individualist and social. It is grounded in an understanding of nature and a desire to or figure out one's place within it. Thoreau's belief in acting on principles also gave him a practical attitude toward political violence and helped him make a persuasive case for peaceful revolution. Originally given as part of a lecture in 1851, "Walking" was later published posthumously as an essay in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. Now being a chief text in the environmental movement, Thoreau's "Walking" places man not separate from Nature and Wildness but within it and lyrically describes the ever beckoning call that draws us to explore and find ourselves lost in the beauty of the forests, rivers, and fields.

30 review for Walking: All Good Things Are Wild and Free.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking. Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking. Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. I love to walk so I had no problem agreeing with much of what Thoreau says in the first part of this essay. He wanted people to connect with the Wild, which is even harder to do these days than in his own, especially depending on where a person lives. In this particular corner of Mexico, there is not really too much empty space, not like in the vast deserts of Arizona where I used to live. There, just five miles out of town, my husband and I felt like the only two people on the planet. And after ten more we seemed to have become a part of our surroundings: weaving our way between thorny bushes, or following the dry wash where once we saw two deer, or sitting on a rock and simply listening. Peace and quiet sing in the desert. I miss hearing that music. Thoreau suggests that West and Wild are essentially the same thing. That man has been drawn to the West even before the discovery of the New World, always seeking to meet that setting sun that is just ahead of us. He even thought that America was discovered just so Man could become more than what he was in the Old World. I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, as our sky—our understanding more comprehensive and broader, like our plains—our intellect generally on a grander scale, like our thunder and lightning, our rivers and mountains and forests-and our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur to our inland seas. The more I read the news these days, the less I see that vision developing. I began to get a little confused when after all of this admiration for the Wild, he then says this: The weapons with which we have gained our most important victories, which should be handed down as heirlooms from father to son, are not the sword and the lance, but the bushwhack, the turf-cutter, the spade, and the bog hoe, rusted with the blood of many a meadow, and begrimed with the dust of many a hard-fought field. So which is best, Henry? The Wild you love to walk in or the settled land? Because you cannot have both on the same plot of ground. You have either wilderness or farmland or towns. And the more people who venture into the wild, the less wild it becomes, even if you are just walking along ruminating. Later he talks about watching some cows playing in a field, acting Wild. He thought it was wonderful. But in the very next paragraph I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before they can be made the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some wild oats still left to sow before they become submissive members of society. Is he rejoicing that the Wild is there? Or that it must be beaten out of both animals and men? And why is it not possible to keep a bit of the Wild in your soul, no matter what else you have going on in your life? Can we not be members of society without being completely submissive? I feel like I need to read more of Thoreau's work (and maybe argue with him a little more) before I completely understand what he was all about. But I did like the final sentence in this essay (well, I would have said Universe instead of Holy Land, but I guess I am still in a debating mood!): So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    I picked this little book up the other day with reason. Recently I read Gros' A Philosophy of Walking which associated walking with creative thinking and returning to nature. Living in the outskirts of Dallas I figured I should give it a try. I usually travel by bicycle, but recently had my doubts about of its value over my life and limb. Last month a car, which was behind me, ran a stop sign and ran over the rear end of my bike, with me on it. A few weeks later an angry driver ran a stop sign, I picked this little book up the other day with reason. Recently I read Gros' A Philosophy of Walking which associated walking with creative thinking and returning to nature. Living in the outskirts of Dallas I figured I should give it a try. I usually travel by bicycle, but recently had my doubts about of its value over my life and limb. Last month a car, which was behind me, ran a stop sign and ran over the rear end of my bike, with me on it. A few weeks later an angry driver ran a stop sign, almost hit me, then turned around and chased me. The police are not much help in matters. Their main job it appears is writing reports for insurance companies rather than law enforcement. Two close calls last night have convinced me that I need to do something else. Last week I started walking to work. It is five miles each way and allows me to listen to audiobooks on the way. I can manage to make a good deal of the trip on green strips and small parks. Walking distance is quite a bit shorter than the riding distance but still take over twice as long. Like Thorough mentions walking does separate you from "civilization" and although I am not walking through meadows and forests I see where he is coming from. It is different, less rushed, less crowded. It is something that people have forgotten. I gotten the "Oh, my God you are walking to work... do you need a ride?" No, that would defeat the purpose. People consider walking today a punishment. Thoreau captures the essence of the individual and nature: Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go West a distant and as fair as that into which the sun goes down. and the irony of especially today's need a gym crowd: Think of a man's swinging dumbbells for his health, when springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him. and something I witness everyday Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forests and of all the large trees, simply deform the landscape, and male it more and more tame and cheap. Thoreau through a variety of observations, and sometimes a little humor makes his point very clear. Today the message is even clearer. We need a connection to the outdoors, nature, and our own senses; yet, we at every turn do our best to isolate ourselves from the natural environment and force ourselves to adapt to an artificial environment where stimulation by nature has been replaced by consumerism and electronics. We want virtual reality and lifelike special effects, while ignoring, except to destroy, the nature around us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Could jogging count, perchance? I promise to keep my head facing west by south-west as I run in my daily circles...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This essay by Henry David Thoreau is about the author's joy in living in nature and in the present. Walking is a short read and nicely encapsulates many of Thoreau's themes from Walden Pond and his other works. Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand! I saw th This essay by Henry David Thoreau is about the author's joy in living in nature and in the present. Walking is a short read and nicely encapsulates many of Thoreau's themes from Walden Pond and his other works. Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand! I saw the fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle of the prairie, and some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his bounds, while heaven had taken place around him, and he did not see the angels going to and fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the midst of paradise. I looked again, and saw him standing in the middle of a boggy Stygian fen, surrounded by devils, and he had found his bounds without a doubt, three little stones, where a stake had been driven, and looking nearer, I saw that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor. I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then the brook, and then the meadow and the woodside. There are square miles in my vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilization and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture even politics, the most alarming of them all—I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape. Politics is but a narrow field, and that still narrower highway yonder leads to it. I sometimes direct the traveler thither. If you would go to the political world, follow the great road—follow that market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it will lead you straight to it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does not occupy all space. I pass from it as from a bean field into the forest, and it is forgotten. In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth's surface where a man does not stand from one year's end to another, and there, consequently, politics are not, for they are but as the cigar-smoke of a man. I live in an urban world in which I would have to drive at top sped for an hour and a half to get to the wildness of the desert, which Thoreau never knew. Most of my life is spent hemmed in by people, buildings, roads--and very little nature. Reading Thoreau, for me, is like nature porn. It excites me and makes me want to re-think my life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    I recently read an article that said Thoreau lived about a mile and a half from his family home for his hermitage. So he wasn't far from civilization during his time in Walden woods. He also had lots of visitors. So here's my point, the beginning of this book says that Henry David Thoreau walked 30 miles a day. And I think to myself, "Hmmm. Men never make good shopping lists. Otherwise he would not have had to make so many trips because he forgot to buy milk, eggs, bread, etc." I know. I'm brill I recently read an article that said Thoreau lived about a mile and a half from his family home for his hermitage. So he wasn't far from civilization during his time in Walden woods. He also had lots of visitors. So here's my point, the beginning of this book says that Henry David Thoreau walked 30 miles a day. And I think to myself, "Hmmm. Men never make good shopping lists. Otherwise he would not have had to make so many trips because he forgot to buy milk, eggs, bread, etc." I know. I'm brilliant at looking at the big picture. hahaha! Anyway I joined the masses while listening to this book and hit the pavement. I walked, I observed the things around me and enjoyed listening to his opinions on stuff. So lace up your sneakers and start walking. But, take your list with you, 30 miles is ridiculous.

  6. 4 out of 5

    julieta

    Thoreau finds nature a reflection of how we think. Leaving nature for civilisation is the first mistake we make. I love everything he writes, and of course, this is more about nature than it is about walking, and more of who we are in nature.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I was terribly disappointed in this book, primarily because it just didn't flow or hold together. I have known Thoreau primarily from quotations, and indeed, the lyrical or descriptive beauty of random excerpts from this book were its only redeeming elements. Examples: "For every walk is a sort of crusade..." "When a traveler asked Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, 'Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.'" "There is something in the mountain air that fe I was terribly disappointed in this book, primarily because it just didn't flow or hold together. I have known Thoreau primarily from quotations, and indeed, the lyrical or descriptive beauty of random excerpts from this book were its only redeeming elements. Examples: "For every walk is a sort of crusade..." "When a traveler asked Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, 'Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.'" "There is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires." "...in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild." "Dullness is but another name for tameness...in short, all good things are wild and free." And his eloquent conclusion: "So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn." But after all was said and done, these lovely pearls were not sufficient to make me want to recommend the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    J Dride

    "When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them -- as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon -- I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago." I usually read from this at least a few times a month. One of my all time favorite Thoreau pieces. His wit and critiques are spot on; as per usual with Thoreau "When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them -- as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon -- I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago." I usually read from this at least a few times a month. One of my all time favorite Thoreau pieces. His wit and critiques are spot on; as per usual with Thoreau. The quote above (along with the rest of the piece) often makes me question what I am doing with my life. Were we really made to sit around all day at desks? It makes me long for nature and question what society has become. A great piece that all should read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane Reye

    I was surprised to find Thoreau's attitude somewhat... extremist (from what I had gathered about the author, I was already expecting, at least, a great deal of zeal). Thoreau's passion for walking and the natural world are evident throughout, possibly a revision of the wording at certain points in the essay could have avoided or limited the superior and judgemental vibe I sensed, particularly in the first half of the book (this was quite unfortunate as Thoreau made many valid points). I had plan I was surprised to find Thoreau's attitude somewhat... extremist (from what I had gathered about the author, I was already expecting, at least, a great deal of zeal). Thoreau's passion for walking and the natural world are evident throughout, possibly a revision of the wording at certain points in the essay could have avoided or limited the superior and judgemental vibe I sensed, particularly in the first half of the book (this was quite unfortunate as Thoreau made many valid points). I had planned on reading Walden next. Perhaps I'll hold off a while, purely in the hopes that a time delay will help me get into it with fewer preconceived notions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Stevenson

    Where do you come from? where do you go? Where do you come from, Henry Thoreau?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Opening lines: wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that. Quotations: Page 2: If Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Opening lines: wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that. Quotations: Page 2: If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk. Page 7: We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure. The Atlantic is a Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an opportunity to forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do not succeed this time, there is perhaps one more chance for the race left before it arrives on the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe of the Pacific, which is three times as wide. Page 8: Sir Francis Head, an English traveler and a Governor-General of Canada, tells us that "in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the New World, Nature has not only outlined her works on a larger scale, but has painted the whole picture with brighter and more costly colors than she used in delineating and in beautifying the Old World.... The heavens of America appear infinitely higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher, the cold is intenser, the moon looks larger, the stars are brighter the thunder is louder, the lightning is vivider, the wind is stronger, the rain is heavier, the mountains are higher, the rivers longer, the forests bigger, the plains broader." This statement will do at least to set against Buffon's account of this part of the world and its productions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Cootey

    One day Henry David Thoreau started following me on Twitter and I thought to myself that I had never read any of his works. I realize Thoreau is not auto-tweeting from beyond, but I enjoyed enough of his namesake's abbreviated tweets to pique my curiosity to read the original less abbreviated works. I've been to Concord, Massachusetts. It's lovely country, even still. There I saw Louis May Alcott's home where she wrote Little Women, and I believe I've been to Walden Pond. None of it had any appe One day Henry David Thoreau started following me on Twitter and I thought to myself that I had never read any of his works. I realize Thoreau is not auto-tweeting from beyond, but I enjoyed enough of his namesake's abbreviated tweets to pique my curiosity to read the original less abbreviated works. I've been to Concord, Massachusetts. It's lovely country, even still. There I saw Louis May Alcott's home where she wrote Little Women, and I believe I've been to Walden Pond. None of it had any appeal to me because it didn't involve actors dressed up as Minutemen shooting off live muskets. I had to wait for a whim thirty or more years later before I downloaded this essay to discover a treasure that I was simply not mature enough to appreciate before. "Walking" is a short work, but it is written in a languid style that begs to be read slowly and with purpose. Whenever my life ran out of gas, I would read a few more pages and soak Thoreau's writing style in. His attention seemed to wander from time to time, and I certainly noticed that he seemed oblivious to the life of entitlement that he lived, free to while away hours walking for pleasure while the sheep he looked down on worked hard to put food on their tables, too tired to stop to admire the beauty around them because time is money. Yet, many passages still resonated through the years to claim importance even in our time. Thoreau didn't write as much as he painted with words, and the canvas he covered was rich with expression. Tonight, as I was out for errands, I walked back and forth while reading out loud the final pages of this work accompanied only by the cool illumination of my iPad. Inside, 24-hour pharmacists busily filled my order, teenagers outside hooted and hollered as if they alone understood what it meant to have fun, and the night was filled with the nonstop roar of passing traffic. Thoreau's writing was so evocative and intense that the city sounds faded into the background and let me steep myself in his writing. Because Thoreau often lost focus, I felt the work lacked impact, especially in the middle, but his arguments for enjoying the sanctity of the natural world around us were convincing, though perhaps only because I am one who loves to walk and allow myself to explore without hurry. I will read Walden next, then return to Walking to see if it deserves an extra star and a place on my Inspirational bookshelf for the year.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emma | everemmareads

    This was my second reading of "Walking" and, this time, I chose to read it in nature. That really made all the difference. I found myself hating it this last fall when I read it in the confines of my tiny little room. Surrounding myself in nature and allowing myself to annotate in the margins made me feel like Thoreau and I were on our own walk, having a conversation. Just like any long conversation there were moments I began to zone out and think about other things but overall it is a wonderful This was my second reading of "Walking" and, this time, I chose to read it in nature. That really made all the difference. I found myself hating it this last fall when I read it in the confines of my tiny little room. Surrounding myself in nature and allowing myself to annotate in the margins made me feel like Thoreau and I were on our own walk, having a conversation. Just like any long conversation there were moments I began to zone out and think about other things but overall it is a wonderful read and an experience I will probably have again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    7 in 7 readathon book #4. A big meh. Starts well, then he goes off on one about civilisation and society. Doesn't really stick to the topic of walking at all. Too bad.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    I wouldn't want to meet Thoreau in real life. "Which is the best man to deal with—he who knows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, or he who really knows something about it, but thinks that he knows all?" Thoreau is the latter. But this little book has several enjoyable, ranty, insights. "He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, whic I wouldn't want to meet Thoreau in real life. "Which is the best man to deal with—he who knows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, or he who really knows something about it, but thinks that he knows all?" Thoreau is the latter. But this little book has several enjoyable, ranty, insights. "He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea." "When a traveler asked Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, "Here is his library, but his study is out of doors." "What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?" He harshly rebukes that person that sits at three in the afternoon as if it is three in the morning. I read these wise words at three in the afternoon in my favourite armchair.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Saunter (at a clip!) far away from this one. You know there'll be trouble by page two when Thoreau, speculating on the etymology of the word "saunter," declares that he "prefer[s]" a derivation from "Sainte-Terrer," a "Holy-lander," rather than "sans terre," a wanderer "without land or a home." "For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels." Ugh. Malarkey. "You must be born into the family of Saunter (at a clip!) far away from this one. You know there'll be trouble by page two when Thoreau, speculating on the etymology of the word "saunter," declares that he "prefer[s]" a derivation from "Sainte-Terrer," a "Holy-lander," rather than "sans terre," a wanderer "without land or a home." "For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels." Ugh. Malarkey. "You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit." If it were possible to ruin walking (which it is not), this pompous tract would come close. By walking, Thoreau means walking westward (literally) toward a personal and national manifest destiny. Every walk has a telos. “We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracting the steps of the race; we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure.” And those "mechanics and shopkeepers [who] stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon, too"? He pities and scorns them, lamenting their "moral insensibility." He displaces enmity for urbanization onto the urbanized (er, New England town-dwellers) themselves. I didn't sense an interest in (or tolerance for) balance between nature/society. Thoreau presents false choices. Which makes for an exasperating read. My priors: this is the first of Thoreau that I have read. I know little about transcendentalism.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This was interesting....I'm still thinking about it. Henry David Thoreau put such thought and care into this. He made the time to write about "walking" which was a beloved past time of his. Granted this was back in the mid 1800's where traveling (of any kind) was either a luxury or a necessity, let alone having spare time to do it. When I look at the lives of my ancestors in the mid-west during that time, it was a hard life. After a day in the fields, I think the last thing they wanted was to go This was interesting....I'm still thinking about it. Henry David Thoreau put such thought and care into this. He made the time to write about "walking" which was a beloved past time of his. Granted this was back in the mid 1800's where traveling (of any kind) was either a luxury or a necessity, let alone having spare time to do it. When I look at the lives of my ancestors in the mid-west during that time, it was a hard life. After a day in the fields, I think the last thing they wanted was to go for a hike. There was hardly time or energy left at the end of the day to head out into nature, which is why I think the author stressed the necessity and benefits of communing nature.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Nicole Wagner

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS PIECE BY THOREAU! Wow, it just really spoke to me. The opening line, "I wish to speak a word for Nature." Wow. It had me captivated from the first line. I really love this message of looking around at the beauty around you and appreciating all of the "real-life," that surrounds us. It pays omage to "stop and smell the roses," I just love it so much! xo, Rach

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Oh, Thoreau- sometimes I wish a man of this time period could live exclusively by your ideals. I shouldn't generalize, I am sure there are men that do.... I mean me. I wish I could. Anyways, this little gem is a great essay on the topic of walking. The premise is that walking is good for the body, mind and soul. I do not believe many people would refute this, but Thoreau is eloquent and assertive on the subject and I believe makes a great case for this great alternative to anything else one does Oh, Thoreau- sometimes I wish a man of this time period could live exclusively by your ideals. I shouldn't generalize, I am sure there are men that do.... I mean me. I wish I could. Anyways, this little gem is a great essay on the topic of walking. The premise is that walking is good for the body, mind and soul. I do not believe many people would refute this, but Thoreau is eloquent and assertive on the subject and I believe makes a great case for this great alternative to anything else one does in life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mmars

    For me, this was just a little too unfocused. At sixty pages it is a long essay, something that, to be successful, should be tightly focused. On the flip side, it IS about walking - not to anywhere in particular, not at a purposeful pace - but as in wandering, meandering. As in partaking of an existential experience. And, what does Thoreau's mind do? It wanders, it meanders, it ruminates and produces profound thoughts. If you like quotes, there's many to be found here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Being an avid, daily walker, I enjoy thinking about Thoreau’s thoughts as I walk.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shruti Pandey

    Walkingis a transcendental essay, which Henry David Thoreau also considered as one of his seminal works. He even quoted it as, "an introduction to all his coming works." So, reading Walking is one the most essential aspect, if we want to understand the philosophy of Thoreau in an efficient manner. When it comes to reviewing this essay it's an equally difficult task, because of the contemplative style of writing that changes its course quite often. I have tried to write down the main aspects of th Walkingis a transcendental essay, which Henry David Thoreau also considered as one of his seminal works. He even quoted it as, "an introduction to all his coming works." So, reading Walking is one the most essential aspect, if we want to understand the philosophy of Thoreau in an efficient manner. When it comes to reviewing this essay it's an equally difficult task, because of the contemplative style of writing that changes its course quite often. I have tried to write down the main aspects of the essay, which clearly presents his thinking in a concise way: •Being a ''Saunterer" : Thoreau mentions that he has only met one or two people in his life, who really know the art of Walking, rest all just pretend to walk. "Sauntering" is the right word to use for walking. The word originated in the mid 17th century which was described for "the idle people who roamed aimlessly around the country, in Middle Ages, and asked charity under the pretense of going to 'à la Sainte Terre' - which means Holy Land." They were thus called 'Sainte -Terrer' or Saunterer- A Holy-Lander. So, here Thoreau meant that those who go for a walk, just for the sake of walking are mere vagabonds, but those who really walk like saunterers are the real seekers of the Holy Land. People who have no particular home but are equally at home everywhere. This is the biggest secret to walking. He states that people sitting still in their houses are the greatest vagrant of all. They are still but their minds are somewhere else, which clearly gives the idea that Thoreau believed i.e in mindfulness. Walking should be done as a Holy task, just like a river seeking the course to the sea. (This made me question my walking skills.) •Seeking an adventure: He is disappointed by the fact that people have become more faint-hearted when it comes to walking. They walk as if they are on a tour and half of the journey just becomes an act of retracing steps. This makes walking more of a monotonous task. He believes that walking even if for the shortest route should be done with the spirit of undying adventure. One who walks like a free man letting go of his house, his family and all the worldly affairs, is the walker in the real sense. He also makes a point of " pretentious adventure", means when people pretend that they have experienced one of the best adventures in their half-hour long walking expeditions. He believes that its just the fact that they are elevated only for a moment, by reminiscing about their previous states. Henry David Thoreau also confesses the fact that he is surprised by the spirit of human endurance. He sarcastically talks about the moral insensitivity of his neighbors who confine themselves to the shops and offices for months and years, as if legs are meant for sitting. "No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom and independence which are the capital of this profession. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to be a walker." •Finding comfort Outdoors: Thoreau made a point of increasing temperament and decreasing patience of the people with age, as a result of which people resort to indoor occupations. They take walking as a half an hour task, just like sick take medicines. Henry David Thoreau just like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley had the observations of the coming future generations. He makes the point of men, swinging dumbbells indoors for their health, which is ironic seeing the situation of the present generation, where people prefer going to the gym and pulling heavy metallic machines rather than going for an adventurous walk. " Think of a man’s swinging dumb-bells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!" He believes that living outdoors and facing the sun and wind will produce a certain roughness of character, whereas staying indoors will produce softness and sensitivity to certain impressions. Therefore those who stay outdoor and active will have more air and sunshine in their thoughts. "The callous palms of the laborer are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness." •Be a walker, not a roadster: He talks of preferring the path to woods rather than taking the course of roads. He believes that roads are meant for the horses and men of business. He didn't travel in them because those roads are taken when you have to buy something or you have to go to a particular destination. He gives the example of old roads like Marlborough road, which led to some profitable destination and is now discontinued, which also signifies the materialistic nature of humans who discard anything of no value to them. So, he prefers taking the free course. •Freedom of walking freely: Thoreau believed that the day is not far when these free landscapes will be divided into so-called pleasure grounds and the fences will multiply so only a few people would be able to get that narrow and exclusive pleasure, and other engines will be developed to confine men in the public roads, and walking on shall mean trespassing some gentleman's grounds, which is quite ironic when we see today's situation! Sigh! And to quote the following line, that hit me so sharply: " To enjoy a thing exclusively, is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it." •Preserving Wildness: As "walking" was also known by the name of "wild", Thoreau also mentioned about the importance of being wild in his essay. He believed that in wildness there is the preservation of the world and men should not forget their roots. There is a difference between drinking and eating for strength and from mere gluttony. The most alive people are the wildest ones. No matter how much society and civilization comes, a man should never forget his real wild roots. To him, a tanned skin is more respectable than a pale white sensitive skin. "Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in impervious and quaking swamps." He gives the reference of literature and ancient scriptures to signify the importance of wildness. How Iliad and Hamlet's uncivilized and free-thinking delights us more than restricted thinking. Dullness is more like tameness. He believed that a truly good book is something that speaks naturally and unaccountably fair. He prefers being surrounded by wild and free friends instead of tame ones. ( This philosophy could also be applied nowadays, where everybody is so much guarded and self- centered, the rawness and free thinking has become quite rare now.) •Laws and boundations: He talks about the importance of ignorance of a man. People who don't think a lot and have less knowledge are sometimes more useful than those with knowledge. The idea of people following the law and going by it, makes them submissive and a successful life knows no law. By seeking and knowing about a law we get chained to its implications. Live free child of mist, because with respect to knowledge we all are children of mist. A man who has taken the liberty to live on his own is superior to all the laws. For this, he also gives the example of Vishnu Purana which states that: " That is active duty, which is not for our bondage; that is knowledge which is for our liberation: all other duty is good only unto weariness; all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an artist." So, all in all, the essay not only enlightened me about the art of walking but also on the importance of preserving our roots, resorting to an organic lifestyle and free, unbiased thinking that gives birth to many creative aspects of our lives. This book will surely trigger your creative instincts. It was an eye-opening experience for me while reading this essay in the 21st century, how precise (and sarcastic) Henry David Thoreau was in his predictions about the future lifestyle. The references of Indian philosophy, literature, mythologies, science, and history signified his rich knowledge and experience which should not be missed by anyone. Even if you missed reading Walden, you can definitely read this short essay and get the taste of enlightenment and wildness, which is surely missing in today's time. For more book reviews and lessons, visit our website: http://minireads.in

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Martindale

    I loved Thoreau's use of language and how his words smoothly flowed forth, carrying me like a stream to the end of this little book. Thoreau definitely made me look forward to moving to New Hampshire where I will be surrounded by endless miles of the wild and will have the opportunity to saunter for hours in the forest. Nature is one of those things, that like Shakespeare I know I should appreciate more then I in fact do. Don't get me wrong, i love nature and I do stop and smell the roses to use I loved Thoreau's use of language and how his words smoothly flowed forth, carrying me like a stream to the end of this little book. Thoreau definitely made me look forward to moving to New Hampshire where I will be surrounded by endless miles of the wild and will have the opportunity to saunter for hours in the forest. Nature is one of those things, that like Shakespeare I know I should appreciate more then I in fact do. Don't get me wrong, i love nature and I do stop and smell the roses to use the cliche, but I still know that being amidst a giant wood doesn't mean for me what it does for others. I appreciate the beauty, the light rays coming through the trees and the feeling of serenity, but there is a magical element, the transcendental that envelopes others and helps them commune with God, and this is something I don't experience. Maybe, it has something to do with temperament, my love for comfort and my valuing quality conversation and ideas so highly. A good conversation can had anywhere, many great ideas are found in books and as I get lost in a good discussion or in a book , the surrounding matters little. Discomfort distracts from a conversation or a book. The love for comfort is a thorn in the side, it keeps me inside when the weather isn't ideal. The companionship of a cloud of misquotes as I go for a walk through the wood, kinda sucks the joy out of the experience, pardon the pun. The pain in my feet and in my back eventually like an impatient 3 year old starts nagging me to go home. I suppose Thoreau had thick blood and strong legs, to saunter about 10 or 20 miles in a day...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marios

    After a one day Walden reading marathon(a full day of Thoreau-ian seclusion in the house!), I can say Walking was a disappointment. I could not find equally lyrical descriptions of nature, I could not feel the "joys and necessities of long afternoon walks". I was not moved... Reading Walden and you imagine being alone in that forest next to the lake, you imagine walking and seeing the plants, you hear the sound of birds, you learn to distinguish the species of fish visible through the clear water After a one day Walden reading marathon(a full day of Thoreau-ian seclusion in the house!), I can say Walking was a disappointment. I could not find equally lyrical descriptions of nature, I could not feel the "joys and necessities of long afternoon walks". I was not moved... Reading Walden and you imagine being alone in that forest next to the lake, you imagine walking and seeing the plants, you hear the sound of birds, you learn to distinguish the species of fish visible through the clear waters. The author describes in moving detail even a territory war of ants: several pages of ruthlessness ensue but also heroism and self-sacrifice compared only to the noblest of heroes. The scene ends when our lone survivor, wounded, staggers... and falls off the window ledge, unrenowned. :-O How much meaning can be found in even such small happenings in nature, how much meaning goes unnoticed every day? One only has to look for it. I got a fresh appreciation for the small things, I loved all those descriptions of plant and animal behaviours, it all made me admire wildlife and anticipate next time I ll happen to be in a forest or park. I will be more aware, this is sure. This is the spirit I was longing to find in Walking, and this I didn't find. It was not bad, but it was more general and philosophical and thus not as exciting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    The elevated language will make you smarter. The sentiments will make you richer.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Sikes

    The influence of European Romanticism on American Transcendentalism is difficult to overstate. The influence is so strong scholars often call American Transcendentalism “American Romanticism.” During this time, a central issue of American literature was its identity as a distinct, national American literature. Throughout “Walking,” Thoreau draws heavily on the influence of European Romanticism while balancing and arguing for the distinctiveness of an American literature. Throughout “Walking,” Tho The influence of European Romanticism on American Transcendentalism is difficult to overstate. The influence is so strong scholars often call American Transcendentalism “American Romanticism.” During this time, a central issue of American literature was its identity as a distinct, national American literature. Throughout “Walking,” Thoreau draws heavily on the influence of European Romanticism while balancing and arguing for the distinctiveness of an American literature. Throughout “Walking,” Thoreau draws upon Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” directly. For example, Wordsworth points out the importance of rustic life and common living in the “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” saying that a primary focus in poetry is to “make the incidents of common life interesting by tracing in them… the primary laws of our nature” (935). Such a sentiment can be seen in “Walking:” “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day… sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements” (409). Clearly, Thoreau’s idea of walking is one of those activities of the everyday life, and Thoreau describes the action of walking as allowing him to be free from ‘worldly engagements,’ and essentially, society. Thus, Thoreau heightens the value of common everyday walking to an essential part of living outside of society. In addition, Wordsworth notes the power of low and rustic life: “the essential passions of the heart… are less under restraint… because in that situation [in low and rustic life] our elementary feelings exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequence…” (935). “Walking” exhibits this focus on low and rustic life in two ways. First, its focus on farmers directly exemplifies the low and rustic life as the life of a farmer is more rustic than someone living in society. Thoreau makes this explicit, contrasting the blending of farmers into the landscape to the otherwise overbearing constraints of society on the landscape: “The farmers and their works are scarcely more obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture even politics… I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape” (412). Also, by advocating walking to remove the stresses of society he exemplifies actually living out a rustic life rather than using it just as a rhetorical vehicle for the passions of the heart. In addition, Thoreau praises the rustic life to an even higher level than the Romantics by placing the men who live a rustic life in the position of a hero: “for the hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men” (421). Ideals and symbols from Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” permeate Thoreau’s essay “Walking.” In addition, Thoreau and Wordsworth’s common belief in poetry belonging to the common language as opposed to a ‘higher’ realm of language evidences itself in “Walking.” As Wordsworth notes in “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” “The language too of these [rustic] men is adopted… because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived” (935). In other words, Wordsworth recognizes the value of common language in adequately describing the nature of life in literature. Thoreau shares this sentiment, mentioning, “It is too late to be studying Hebrew; it is more important to understand even the slang of today” (420). Such a clear and consistent agreement on the value of everyday language over more scholarly language, a major tenant of Romanticism, suggests a clear influence of Romanticism on Thoreau’s essay “Walking.” Further evidence of European Romanticism upon Thoreau’s “Walking” evidences itself when viewed with Thoreau’s representation of Romantic questions. Andrew Hubbell, in his essay comparing the treatment of nature between Byron and Wordsworth, points out the duality of staying in one place and traveling in Romantic Literature. Thoreau is able to merge these two features with his notion of walking. He is able to stay a part of the place in which he lives while simultaneously being a traveler: “Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. … There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life” (412). Thoreau takes the ideas of traveling and being a more permanent part of a place, and combines the best of both worlds. The fact that Thoreau is answering questions that are posed in Romantic literature further suggests the influence Romanticism has on Thoreau. Another influence of Romanticism can be seen through the organic structure of “Walking.” Frederick Garber points out the dominance of organic persuasion over logical persuasion in European Romanticism. With the variety of purposes and points Thoreau makes throughout “Walking,” it is obvious Thoreau prefers a more organic approach to persuasion than an orderly and logical one. As an example of such organic persuasion in “Walking,” Thoreau often interrupts his prosaic exposition with poems without even citing the author. Such a break does not follow the logical progression of his prose, but is effective in getting the persuasion across in a more organic manner. As Scott Palmer, in his essay about the influence of “Walking,” points out in regards to his poem “The Old Marlborough Road,” which Thoreau inserted, “This rudeness of style, as with his prose, can be seen as a statement regarding the necessity to use uneven, organic forms when writing about nature” (120). Thoreau also advocates such a position for writing in general in “Walking:” “A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower...” (426) Thoreau advocating such a Romantic idea in writing further suggests Thoreau drew upon and espoused Romantic ideals throughout “Walking.” Thoreau’s treatment of nature similarly manifests the influence of Romanticism on Thoreau. Thoreau understands nature much like the Romantics did: as a way to escape from the bounds of society and to be able to think clearly. More importantly, though, Thoreau sees nature as a vehicle for expressing truth through common experience. As Newman notes in his book about Thoreau and Transcendentalism, “Our Common Dwelling,” Thoreau believes “It is not just that poetry is the natural language of humanity, but more, that when people produce poetry, nature is working directly and immediately through them” (84). So, in addition to nature being the vehicle for the Romantic ideal of common language used in poetry, Thoreau also believes in the power of nature to aid in the Romantic notion of ‘emotion reflected in tranquility.’ Throughout “Walking,” Thoreau suggests walking enables him to “return to [his] senses” (411), rather than causing him to be distracted by society and out of his senses, suggesting he is able to produce this Romantically ideal tranquility while walking. Further, the love of nature and language is evident in his use of the West as a symbol for not just the future of the American Landscape, but also the wild. As he points out himself, “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild” (421). While suggestions of the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion come to mind as a reason for this symbolism during this time period, Glenn Deamer, in his essay “Thoreau: Walking Toward England,” points out “the dream is not inherent in the literal frontier,” (86) but rather Thoreau uses the West as a symbol solely for its rhetorical connection to the Wild rather than any recognition of its political or social value. Further evidence of Thoreau’s European Romantic love of nature can be seen in the symbolism he uses of tanned skin: “Tanned skin presents unmistakable physiological evidence of its communication with the natural, external world” (Harvery, 181). In other words, Thoreau uses tanned skin as a symbol for the connection of man with nature, because of the obvious cause of tan skin: time in the sun. His idealization of such a natural man further emphasizes the influence of European Romanticism. Thoreau’s treatment of man to society also manifests the influence of Romanticism upon Thoreau’s “Walking.” The essay opens with the sentence “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil – to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society” (407). Clearly, Thoreau is placing the emphasis on man’s place not in society, but rather to Nature. The roots of such anti-societal sentiments can be seen in the philosophers of Europe around the Romantic era, such as Rousseau. For example, Rousseau’s famous statement in his “The Social Contract” is ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ While the focus of Rousseau in the rest of “The Social Contract” seems to be on man living inside of society, Thoreau takes this philosophy and focuses instead on living outside of society’s chains. As Duane Smith points out in his essay entitled “Romanticism in America: The Transcendentalists,” “If the German romantics saw isolation as the punishment imposed upon the man of genius… Thoreau saw it as a prize to be won after a long and hard struggle with that society which was prepared to do almost anything except leave one alone” (318). The statement Thoreau makes in “Walking:” “In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society” (411) suggests such a Romantic anti-societal viewpoint with an American individualistic spin. Another vital influence seen in European philosophical roots is that of the German writer Goethe. However, Thoreau rejects the work of Goethe as a complete influence on himself. As Kuhn points out in his book over Romanticism, “Thoreau’s verdict is clear: ‘Nature is hindered’ (327). Goethe’s artistic efforts are consequently incomplete” (125). Once again, the influence of Romanticism is clear, however, there are also some clear distinctions in Thoreau’s rejection of certain Romantic thought. Such rejections of Romanticism can be best understood in the context of Thoreau’s hope in the emerging national American literature. Such an idea can be seen in Thoreau’s recognition of the influence of Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” on European Romanticism. Newman points out this recognition, stating, “Thoreau generalized from this understanding of Wordsworth’s cultural significance to develop his initial sense of the social and political functions of poetry and the poet” (86). Because of that influence, Thoreau sought to be an influential poet, like Wordsworth, in shaping the American nationalistic literature. Romantic understanding of the power of the poet further supports such a position. Newman states this by saying: “The poet -- a figure of secular authority... had the potential to lead the nation out of its interminable crisis...” (88). Essentially, Newman claims Thoreau’s position as a poet is part of his deep desire for an emerging national American Literature, and the roots of this desire lie in his appreciation of Wordsworth’s deep influence on Romanticism. Such a desire for an American national literature fits with the general consensus of transcendentalists. Brown points out, “As the nation began to realize its potentialities and its worth, it became increasingly reluctant to accept its previous cultural dependence upon England” (1), and “It was in this period [early transcendentalism] that the first significant progress was made in the development of a national literature” (1). In other words, during the early days of American Transcendentalism, Transcendentalists understood American literature should be distinct from its European roots. In addition, Transcendentalists understood the influence of Romanticism could prevent a fully independent national American literature: “They simply had to disassociate themselves from what Emerson pungently called ‘the corpse-cold Unitarianism of Brattle Street and Harvard College’“ (Miller, 153). Clearly, Thoreau wrote “Walking” at a time when belief in an emerging national literature made sense. He wanted to liberate himself from being labeled merely as a European Romantic in America, yet he still drew upon Romantic ideology. Evidences of such aspirations for an emerging national Literature can be seen in the prophetic and positive language used to describe the American West throughout “Walking:” “we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure” (“Walking,” 417). The specific mention of ‘the future’ in regards such a positive attitude of ‘enterprise and adventure’ suggests Thoreau’s belief in the future of America in creating a national literature. Garber notes Thoreau’s recognition of both the influence of Romanticism and the emerging national literature: “At many points in his writing Thoreau showed the problem of answering was not only his to work out but America’s as well.This former colony had to establish the sense and contours of its own Romanticism, which meant that it had to define an American version of nature and the self’s at-homeness within it” (43). In this quote, Garber essentially points out the Romantic ideal of nature and the self, and notes how the Transcendentalists shape this ideal into their own. Garber further notes Thoreau’s undergraduate essay, “Advantages and Disadvantages of Foreign Influence on American Literature,” and how it expresses such a sentiment of defining American literature inside of European Romanticism without being dominated by it: “We of New England are a peculiar people: we whistle, to be sure, our national tune; but the character of our literature is not yet established” (131). Thoreau continues on in “Advantages and Disadvantages” by noting American political independence from Britain, and suggests such an independence from Britain in literature would also be beneficial. The sentiment of Thoreau’s hope for an emerging national American literature is seen throughout “Walking.” For example, Thoreau’s sense of nationalism, in addition to itself being a Romantic ideal, helps define his desire for an American literature. He is explicitly nationalistic in many parts of “Walking,” saying: “The species of large trees are much more numerous in North America… America is made for the man of the Old World” (“Walking,” 418) and “The heavens of America appear infinitely higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher, the cold is intenser… [etc.]” (419). Such a high praise of the American landscape is clearly representative of Thoreau’s nationalism. Thoreau then takes a strong case in denouncing his European influence and stating the inadequacies of European literature, saying phrases such as “It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair landscapes or sufficient wildness and freedom behind the eastern horizon… I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe” (416). In the first statement, Thoreau’s zealous belief in the American landscape suggests to him ‘the eastern horizon’ (symbolically, Europe) is simply inadequate in comparison to the experience he has had with the American landscape. In the second statement, he emphasizes his faith in the American landscape by explicitly stating his intention to ‘walk’ (symbolically, to allow himself to be inspired by) the American landscape, as opposed to the Europe landscape. He is even explicitly critical of English literature, saying: “English literature... breathes no quite fresh and, in this sense, wild strain. It is an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome” (426). Such a criticism further suggests his dissatisfaction with European Romanticism as the primary defining factor in the emerging national American Literature. As Harvey points out in regards to Thoreau’s independent rhetoric in “Walking:” “to forget or decompose our European literary and historical sources is to ensure the survival and health of a new American identity” (185). After all, if American literature is too rooted in European literature, it can seem to be more of an extension to European literature rather than distinct from it. As Lorrie Smith notes in her essay over the influence of Romanticism in “Walking,” “indeed, he needs to declare his independence in order to enact his own original, American literary enterprise” (222). Clearly, Thoreau is distancing himself from and rejecting European Romanticism because of his hope for an independent American literature. Thoreau’s rhetorical rejection of European Romanticism while simultaneously drawing upon its influence is itself also rooted in European Romanticism. Robert Langbaum notes in his book, “The Poetry of Experience,” such a tendency throughout Romanticism, saying, “the romanticists sees the past as different from the present and uses the past to explore the full extent in other words of his own modernity” (12). In other words, by recognizing and drawing upon the past, Romantics build upon their own unique present. Smith also notes this about Thoreau: “Though Thoreau implicitly critiques his antecedents... he also relies on their models to assert his own new place in the romantic tradition” (225). As already proven, Thoreau draws heavily upon Romanticism throughout “Walking.” Despite Thoreau’s nationalistic rhetoric, which distances himself from Europe, Thoreau readily recognizes the influence of Romanticism on himself and on the emerging national American literature. He does this by saying: “We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure” (“Walking,” 417). Thoreau fully recognizes the influence of literature and culture from Europe (the east) in the first half of the sentence. After the semicolon, however, Thoreau expresses his belief in the future of the American west, and symbolically, the future of the emerging national Literature. Perhaps the best summary of his sentiment towards the influence of European Romanticism is summed up in the Latin phrase he mentions: “Ex Oriente lux; ex Occidente FRUX. From the East light; from the West fruit” (419). Light is a source that nurtures a fruit to grow. However, fruit is an end unto itself, and a means for spreading more fruit. So it is with Thoreau’s hope for the emerging national American Literature. While Thoreau recognizes a clear influence of European Romanticism (the light), the new American literature is a worthwhile and independent product to itself (the fruit). While fruit cannot exist without the benefits of light, the existence of a fully matured fruit is independent of its nurturing light source. As Harvey interprets it: “Although light from the east is essential, the inspiration must never become more than a sustaining source, must never have its own coherent identity, lest it threaten the very life it nourishes” (195). As previous evidence already shows, in “Walking,” Thoreau understood and capitalized on his influence of Romanticism, however, he used it to further the emerging national American literature. While Thoreau draws heavily upon this Romantic influence, Thoreau is unwilling to rest solely upon it because of his desire for a national American Literature. This desire is driven both by the recognition of a need for a national American literature, and Romantic ideology such as nationalism and individualism. Evidences of European Romanticism and Thoreau’s desire for a national American literature permeate his essay “Walking.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adeline

    Henry David Thoreau, in his essay “Walking”, demonstrates both a deep connection to the natural world as well as an obvious notion about his own superiority in appreciating it. This pretension does not diminish his likability as a narrator, but it does call into question some of his romanticized notions of simple and rugged lifestyles. Thoreau's ruminations on the value and power of walking to distinguish true appreciators of nature from common travelers are tinged with a sense of nobility which Henry David Thoreau, in his essay “Walking”, demonstrates both a deep connection to the natural world as well as an obvious notion about his own superiority in appreciating it. This pretension does not diminish his likability as a narrator, but it does call into question some of his romanticized notions of simple and rugged lifestyles. Thoreau's ruminations on the value and power of walking to distinguish true appreciators of nature from common travelers are tinged with a sense of nobility which Thoreau seems to confer upon himself. Much as Thoreau appreciates and champions the value of wilderness, he is not as ready to become a farmer as he might like to think. Thoreau's appreciation of wild, dark, untrammeled forest throughout his narrative also marks him as someone who might not be suited to an undertaking whose very purpose is to tame the wild and produce by the hand of man. The tone and subject of Thoreau's opening ruminations reveal much about his character. Thoreau immediately expresses his prejudices regarding man's ability to appreciate nature when he claims that he has “met with but one or two persons...who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering” (71). It is implied that Thoreau believes himself to be in possession of this type of “genius”, and can practice the “noble art” (73) of walking quite well. The comparisons Thoreau makes between “Walkers” (73) and the nobility are eloquently put, but elitist nonetheless. Thoreau fancies that Walkers are of an “ancient and honorable class” (73) and explains that No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. (73) With this extraordinary pronouncement, Thoreau is declaring himself touched “by the grace of God” (73). This example of his unabashed egoism is one of many which, cumulatively, demonstrate how removed from the common farmer Thoreau really is. This is not to say that his egoism utterly disqualifies him from the art of farming, but it certainly demonstrates that he might be over romanticizing what it means to be a farmer. An exceptionally well educated man, Thoreau delves into a discussion of the etymology and mythology of the word “saunter”, further separating him from a common farmer who would most likely have little education, particularly in the study of foreign languages. He enjoys musing that a man “sans terre” (72) is heading for the Holy land, and again Thoreau aligns himself with some higher power or calling. Thoreau's claim that he can't maintain his “health and spirits” (74), without spending “four hours a day, at least” (74) wandering in the outdoors says much about his situation in life. Only a person with a substantial degree of leisure time would be able to indulge in such a luxury; a man who farms for his living would tend not to have such freedoms. Were Thoreau to own a farm, he would need to spend nearly all of his time working his land. Additionally, Thoreau displays a degree of insensitivity to the common working man. He seems unable to understand that some people have no real choice about their vocation. Thoreau expresses a disdain for “mechanics and shopkeepers” (74) who spend all their time inside without acknowledging that they may be trapped by their financial situations or familial obligations. As further evidence of Thoreau's high opinion of himself, he seems to think he is kind in declaring that “they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago” (75). Demonstrating his freedom of vocation again, Thoreau remarks that Walking, for him, is not a matter of exercise but “is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day” (77). Thoreau next enters into an interesting discussion which compares and contrasts the farmer with the villager and the gentleman. Clearly, Thoreau is an opinionated man, and he throws out pronouncements at random; this is part of why he is so appealing to read. The immediacy of Thoreau's communication with the reader is always enjoyable. Thoreau remarks that “the callous palms of the laborer are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism” (78), and reveals what appeals to him about the life of a farmer. The self-made nature of a farmer appeals to Thoreau's romantic attitudes. The “callus of experience” (78) more than the actual process of farming seems to be what Thoreau seeks. In another display of his intellectual wealth, Thoreau examines the meaning of villages and villagers. His conclusion is not a positive one; he connects the Latin derivation vilis to vile and villian as evidence of the “degeneracy villagers are liable to” (81). Villagers are “wayworn by the travel that goes by and over them, without traveling themselves” (81). This seems again like an insensitive evaluation of Thoreau's fellow men. The farmers that he so admires are probably quite dependent on the village and the villagers for company and resources which cannot be grown. Were Thoreau to become a farmer, he too would be dependent on the village and might not be so able to take such a haughty air. Most contradictory to his farming inclinations are the observations of “man's improvements” (80) which Thoreau views with horror. To Thoreau, the clearing of land and the building of houses serve only to “deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap” (80). Surely Thoreau realizes that even the smallest and most primitive farm requires an alteration of the existing landscape, so this seems like a clear problem with his desire to farm. One of the most compelling images Thoreau presents is his description of a surveyor looking after his bounds, while heaven had taken place around him, and he did not see the angels going to and fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the midst of paradise... the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor. (80) This is a clear example of how much Thoreau worships nature and sees it as a truly spiritual place. Nature is not just something pretty to be enjoyed, but something which can touch the soul on a deeper level. While it is possible to have a farm that does not interrupt the beauty of the landscape too greatly, it does nonetheless require some degree of surveying and modification of the environment. Thoreau's utter respect and affection for the most wild and untouched landscapes also contradicts the essence of a farm. As mentioned earlier, the goal of a farm is to tame the land and make it lucrative. Not necessarily monetarily lucrative, but at the very least a farm must produce a harvest – otherwise it is just a field. Thoreau values land that is not developed by man for any purpose other than wild beauty above all else. For Thoreau, “how near to good is what is wild” (97). A farm is not wild, it is cultivated. Thoreau is most moved by “impermeable and unfathomable bog” (98) and seeks “the darkest wood, the thickest and more interminable, and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp” (100). The opinion Thoreau has of farming is based on observations made from a distance, and because of this Thoreau has an overly romanticized idea of farm life. His perspective certainly is appealing, particularly when he says that “nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat of arms is simply a lichen” (117). But everything Thoreau has said about villagers, the meaning of walking, his own need for nature, and his worship of the wild would suggest that he might not be so suited to farming, despite what romantic notions he might have about it. Thoreau expresses his opinions and observations with authority and passion. His view of farming, idyllic though it may be, is nonetheless at odds with nearly everything else he says. Thoreau is dismissive of the men who work in the village, and disdainful of any human development of the land. He wants to hike through wild bogs, not survey fields and labor in the sun. While Thoreau clearly has a deep respect for the farmer, he is not necessarily well suited to the enterprise himself. But then again, “who but the Evil One has cried, 'Whoa!' to mankind” (107)?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Booth

    Good, but not Walden good I’d give it 3.5 stars. This is an essay about walking though Thoreau tends to meaner mentally as he does on his physical walks. He touches upon architecture etc., and its more the thoughts he’s had while walking than anything, methinks. I had trouble getting into unlike Walden which I devoured much like my grandmothers apple pie after not eating for two days. It’s not his most inspirational work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    George Love

    More of an essay than a book, but a brilliant essay. The closing section of Walking is amazing, one stunning insight crashing down on top of the next and reaching a crescendo on the final line which I would rank as my second favorite closing line ever after The Great Gatsby. Thoreau begins with walking and dives into innovation, creativity, domesticated spirits, freedom and plenty more. He suggests that in walking - away from the village, into nature - we are reminded of who we truly are. We str More of an essay than a book, but a brilliant essay. The closing section of Walking is amazing, one stunning insight crashing down on top of the next and reaching a crescendo on the final line which I would rank as my second favorite closing line ever after The Great Gatsby. Thoreau begins with walking and dives into innovation, creativity, domesticated spirits, freedom and plenty more. He suggests that in walking - away from the village, into nature - we are reminded of who we truly are. We strive so much to satisfy societal norms and expectations, much of little consequence, that we fail to cultivate the gifts and graces that are the stuff of which we are built. Can't recommend this one enough - read it. Then take a walk.

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