Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) was born David Henry Thoreau, in Concord, Massachusetts. He was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and transcendentalist. In 1841, Thoreau moved into the Emerson house. There, from 1841 to 1844, he served as the children's tutor, editorial assistant, and repair man/gardener.
He advocated recreational hiking, conserving natural resources on private land, and preserving wilderness as public land. He neither rejected civilisation nor fully embraced wilderness, as he realised the necessity of balance.
Thoreau's last words before he died were "Now comes good sailing." And in the years up till that moment, he wrote much. His prose is largely detailed and descriptive, and boring too. Parts of his poetry are descriptive, detailed, with patterned end rhymes. Other parts of his poetic outputs are contain more pronounced philosophical ideas.
Now for a random poem:
THE WAVES SLOWLY BEAT
"Descriptive, detailed, with patterned end rhymes" - a poem about impressions, mainly. Now, it is his main ideas and apt selections from his various writings that make him shine - some selections bring out his brilliant ideas. that were advanced for his times. His writings influenced many public figures, like Mohandas Gandhi.
Gandhi first read Thoreau's Walden in 1906 while working as a civil rights activist in Johannesburg, South Africa. He told the American reporter Webb Miller that Thoreau's ideas "influenced me greatly. I adopted some of them and recommended the study of Thoreau to all of my friends who were helping me in the cause of Indian Independence. Why I actually took the name of my movement from Thoreau's essay 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience'.
A few weeks after I came to the woods . . . for an hour, I doubted if the near neighbourhood of man was not essential to a serene and healthy life. . . . But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood. - Thoreau, Walden
A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. - Thoreau
Be not simply good, be good for something. - Thoreau
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it. - Thoreau
Do what nobody else can do for you. - Thoreau
Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new. - Thoreau, Walden (1854)
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. - Thoreau
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. - Thoreau
I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. - Thoreau
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. - Thoreau, Walden
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. - Thoreau
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. - Thoreau
Inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. - Thoreau
It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. - Thoreau
It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes. - Thoreau, Walden
It is monstrous when one cares but little about trees and much about Corinthian columns. - Thoreau, in Snyder 1902, 55
It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar. - Thoreau
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. - Thoreau
Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity. - Thoreau
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. - Thoreau
Simplify! - Thoreau, in Krutch 1948, 3
[Some] have become the tools of their tools. - Thoreau
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. - Thoreau
The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. - Thoreau, Walden, Chap. 1: Economy
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. - Thoreau, Walden
The whole pettiness of our life . . . is seen in the light of music's strains. - Thoreau, in Snyder 1902, 50
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison. - Thoreau
What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?
Blake, G. H. O., ed. 1890. Thoreau's Thought: Selections from the Writings of Henry David Thoreau. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1890.
Bloom, Harold, ed. 2007. Henry David Thoreau. Updated ed. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007.
Bode, Carl, ed. 1947. The Portable Thoreau. New York: Viking Press.
Cain, William E., ed. 2000. A Historical Guide to Thoreau. New York: Oxford University Press.
Childs, Christopher, comp., ed. 1978. Encounters with Henry David Thoreau: Clear Sky, Pure Light.. Lincoln, MA. Penmaen.
Krutch, Joseph Wood. 1948. Henry David Thoreau. London: Methuen.
Snyder, Helena Adell. 1902. Thoreau's Philosophy of Life with Special Consideration of the Influence of Hindoo Philosophy. Doctoral thesis. Heidelberg, DE: Ruprecht-Karl's Universität.
Thoreau, Henry D. 2004. Walden. Ed. Jeffrey S. Cramer. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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