Walking (First published posthumously in The Atlantic Monthly, June 1862)


by Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Aiming ‘to speak a word for Nature’, this essay saunters and surveys, with playful lateral logic. Thoreau’s wide-ranging allusions raise the piece above the spontaneous musings of a hike in Massachusetts.

Thoughts turn on contrasts: Eastern pasts vs Western futures, the once-heroic Rhine vs the now-heroic Mississippi, fenced front-yards vs wild swamps, or stiffened cattle vs supple cats. There is national pride, but also prophecy of when American liberty will become ‘a fiction of the past’. Strikingly proto-environmental in his message, Thoreau’s image of wisdom (‘the lighting up of the mist by the sun’) points to even larger philosophical concerns.

Related recommendation: Kamo No Chomei’s ‘An Account of My Hut’ (1212)

Origin: United States

Themes: Walking, Nature or Architecture/ Material Environment, America

Genres: Familiar or Personal, Spiritual or Philosophical Meditation

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