“Walking”: A somewhat poetic summary

Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” from the Thoreau Reader.  A somewhat poetic summary.



Walking.

Words for Nature, absolute Freedom, and Wilderness.

Man as an inhabitant, part and parcel of nature.

Come sauntering: à la sainte terre.  Not idly or as a vagabond.

All the earth is our home; sitting idly in a house makes you a vagrant.

Come sauntering, as a crusade, reconquer this holy land from the infidels.

A faint-hearted crusade… but only if you are ready to leave all behind,

free.

Then you will be ready for a walk.

We are an ancient and honorable class – Walkers – outside to Church and State and People.  A forth estate.

No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession.

Coming only by the grace of God.

Some recall one great walk from years past – once losing themselves for an hour.

Why leave yourself only to the road?  I myself need four hours a day at least!

The woods, over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldy engagements.

Sitting with crossed legs all forenoon and after? As if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk – they should be commended for not committing suicide.

Such endurance to confine themselves in shops and offices for the whole day, for weeks and months, aye, and years almost together.

How can womankind, confined to the house, stand it?  I suspect they do not stand it at all.

In growing older, the ability to sit still increases; vespertinal in habit.  Only a half hour walk will do.

This walking is not akin to exercise; it itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.

“Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.”

Out of doors, sun and wind.

Roughness occurs: thicker cuticle, face and hands.

Severe labour robs man of his touch, though inside may produce a thinness.

Night bears the day in proportion.  The winter to the summer.

We walk naturally to the fields and woods.

And must also make it there in spirit; shake off the village.

My vicinity affords a never-ending choice of good walks on any afternoon, even after three-score and ten years of human life.


Man’s improvements, so called, building houses and cutting forest and all the large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap.

My walks include square miles with no inhabitants, seeing civilization from afar; I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape.

Politics is but a narrow field; follow the market man and his dust.  The space it occupies does not exist.

I can walk to some portion of earths surface that will not be stood upon from one year’s end to another and there consequently politics are not, for they are but as the cigar smoke of a man.

The village tends to the roads, an expansion of highway, like rivers of a lake.

The villa with via from the latin and even more anciently ved and vella derives from veho to carry, as the villa is the place to and from which things are carried.

The vilis and our vile; suggests what kind of degeneracy villagers are liable to.

Roads are made for horses and men of business.  For those in a hurry to get to the tavern, or grocery, or lively stable, or depot to which they lead.

I have a good horse to travel but not from choice a roadster.

Though, there are some old roads worth travelling; the Old Marlboro Road.

I walk like the prophets of old.


The best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom.  But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only, – when fences shall be multiplied, and man traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road; and walking over the surface of God’s earth, shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds.  To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it.  Let us improve our opportunities then before the evil days come.

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