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 man 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: “…sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all wordly engagements….”
Quote: “…the moral insensibility of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and years almost together.”
Quote: “Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.”
Quote: “What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will walk? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
Quote: “As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam in Paradise was more favorably situated on the whole than the backwoodsman in this country.”
Quote: “…in wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Quote: “I believe in the forest and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows.”
Quote: “Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.”
Quote: “Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but inn the impervious and quaking swamps.”
Quote: “Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me to dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art contrived, or else a dismal swamp, I should certainly decide for the swamp.”
To be concluded.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. 1995.