Henry David Thoreau, Extract from ‘Baker Farm’, Walden
Sometimes I rambled to pine groves,
standing like temples, or like fleets at sea,
full-rigged, with wavy boughs, and rippling with light,
so soft and green and shady that the Druids
would have forsaken their oaks to worship in them;
or to the cedar wood beyond Flints’ Pond,
where the trees, covered with hoary blue berries,
spiring higher and higher, are fit to stand before Valhalla,
and the creeping juniper covers the ground with wreaths full of fruit;
or to swamps where the usnea lichen hangs in festoons from the white-spruce trees,
and toadstools, round tables of the swamp gods,
cover the ground, and more beautiful fungi adorn the stumps,
like butterflies or shells, vegetable winkles;
where the swamp-pink and dog-wood grow,
the red alder-berry glows like eyes of imps,
the waxwork grooves and crushes the hardest woods in its folds,
and the wild-holly berries make the beholder forget his home with their beauty,
and he is dazzled and tempted by nameless other wild forbidden fruits,
too fair for mortal taste.
The evocation of the richness of a forest place.
Henry David Thoreau was one of the first philosophers to challenge our exploitative and utilitarian view of nature. ‘Walden’, his most famous work, was published in 1854 after Thoreau had spent two years living in solitude in a small cabin beside Walden Pond, Massachusetts.
I confess that I was so moved with reading Walden that when I finished, I sat and gazed upon it closed, smoothed it with my hands …. then kissed it.
Some extracts from Walden relating to forests bear repeating. As a forester (not a radiata pine agronomist) I love the sense of what a forest is – not a thing you can understand from within a model – much like life. Thoreau’s words not only represent some of the most beautiful prose in print, but also portray a love of nature that is profound.
I’ve written them out as poems; which is what they are. The second is to come.