Review: Thoreau’s essay is like his walking—meandering. He wanders from topic to topic offering tidbits on everything. He provides the origin of the word “saunter”—probably apocryphal—but interesting anyhow. His main message is that existence of the wilderness is essential to the survival of civilized man. The wild needs to be a part of nature and of man. “I would not have every man nor every part of man cultivated any more than I would have every acre of earth cultivated….”
Quote: “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.”
Quote: “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks.”
Quote: Evolution of the word “saunter”…. “…from idle people who roved about the country in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going `a la Sainte Terra,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer,’ ‘A saunterer—a Holy-Lander.’ ”
Quote: “…no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.”
Quote: “…most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom and independence, which are the capital in this profession [of walking].”
To be continued.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. 1995.