From Emerson to Thoreau. American Literature I 15/11/2004 Cecilia H.C. Liu Info. Provided by Dr. Murphy. Thoreau ’ s Walden (1854). Thoreau ’ s Walden is a book about nature in the woods at Concord and a book on how to live.
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American Literature I
Cecilia H.C. Liu
Info. Provided by Dr. Murphy
Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; [ . . .] Now put the foundations under them” (962, B1977).
Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. . .” (915, 1855).
“The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, [ . . . ] be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel” (873, B1813).
“I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living” (904, B1844).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (1)—Build your own world
Emerson: “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” (496, B1106).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (2)—Originality
Emerson: “But when the fact is seen under the light of an idea, the gaudy fable fades and shrivels. We behold the real higher law. To the wise, therefore, a fact is true poetry” (524, B1134)
Thoreau: “Look at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all got to pieces in your account of them” (918, B1858).
Thoreau: “If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces. . .” (919, B1859).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (3)—Blindness and Vision
Thoreau: “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature” (941, B1905).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (4)—The Eye
Thoreau: “With respect to landscapes,--
‘I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute.’
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” (911, B1851).
Example 2Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (5)—Landscape and Horizon
Emerson: “But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things. . . . The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are always inaccessible. . .” (497-98, 1107-08).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (6)—Stars
Thoreau: “The phenomena of the year take place every day in a pond on a small scale” (1964, Ch. 17).
“What is man but a mass of thawing clay? The ball of the human finger is but a drop congealed. The fingers and tows flow to their extent from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what the human body would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven?” (950, B1968).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (7)—The Alikeness of Nature
Thoreau: “On land the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it” (943, B1907).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (7)—The Alikeness of Nature (2)
Words are signs of natural facts.
Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts.
Nature is the symbol of spirit. (504, B1114)
Thoreau: “I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. . . . The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement” (962, B1977).Comparison of Thoreau and Emerson’s Nature (8)—Perceptions of Language