"Walden" was first published in 1854, a 2000 copies print by Ticknor and Fields. It mostly comprises of Thoreau's life in the woods between July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1857. It is considered by some wise men as one of the most influential works in American literature.
To me, "Walden" is a paradise of wisdom, an epitome of Truth in the simplest verses. Well, then let us sojourn again into the wilderness.
- In most books, the I, or first person is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference.
(This shows his characteristic of the importance of self, and the individualistic spirit of being).
In the rest of the chapter Thoreau details out the financial account details of all the experiments that failed and that finally succeeded, and of course the wonderful philosophy about life. In front of the Thoreau's cabin replica at the Walden Pond Conservative in concord is an excerpt from this chapter. The below is a photograph of the same.
WHERE I LIVED, AND WHAT I LIVED FOR
This perhaps is the zenith of the masterpiece. All the underlined philosophy of Thoreau's experiments and the wise learnings must have been put under this chapter alone. Excerpts follow.
The chapter begins with a basic fact, which I myself have personally experienced during my travels through my own country as well as in the far-off soils.
- At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.
Then it reminds of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" when Thoreau states:
- I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.
More aphorisms follow:
- I have no doubt that time discriminates between the good and the bad; and when at last I shall plant, I shall be less likely to be disappointed.
- As long as possible live free and uncommitted. (Again, the foremost of the three principles of my own life, derived from Thoreau).
- The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where.
And then there are references to the Hindu texts (Hindoo as Thoreau would spell it), which being a born Hindu, I have had to shamelessly learn from Thoreau, who lived about 8000 miles from my land.
- The Harivansa says, " An abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning".
- "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon" - said Damodara, when his herds required new and larger pastures.
- The Vedas say, "All intelligences awake with the morining."
- I have read in a Hindoo book, that "There was a king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his native city, was brought up by a forester, and growing up to the maturity in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers having discovered him, revealed to him what he was, and the misconception of his character was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince. So soul", continues the Hindoo philosopher, "from the circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to be Brahme".
There are several such references to Hindoo texts, the Vedas and other scriptures from the breadth of the book.
I, myself, am not a morning person, yet in some occasions, when I have the glimpse of the morning sky even before the sun begins to rise, the following lines do truly explain the exhilerating feeling I get:
- The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.
To sum up, his basic point of living at Walden:
- 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.
One more personal favorite and every time I see that fad on T-Shirts that says "I was born intelligent. Education ruined me", I am tempted to quote to the person wearing that, Thoreau said:
- I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things.
- A written word is the choicest of relics.
- The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a modern man's speech.
- It is not all books that are as dull as their readers.
- It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure- if they are indeed so well off- to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.
- If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.