Sandra Harbert Petrulionis examines the political uses of this phrase in “The ‘Higher Law’: Then and Now,” Thoreau Society Bulletin 262, Spring 2008 (5-7), available at the Internet Archive
May 4, 2018 at 11:33 am
Posted in: Emerson-Thoreau SUNY Geneseo
[where is he so poor that, clad in such a suit, of his own earning, there will not be found wise men to do him reverence?]
As Thoreau’s Persian translator in Iran, I am honored that I was able to discover an allusion to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act three, scene two in this sentence. It is where Mark Antony points to Caesar’s dead body and says, “But yesterday the word of Caesar might / Have stood against the world. / Now lies he there, / And none so poor to do him reverence.” I have published this little discovery in Thoreau Society Bulletin.
This allusion is in perfect harmony with Thoreau’s purpose in these sentences. Thoreau is speaking about garments and coats and clothes in general and ends his argument by implying that Caesar’s dress does not make him rich enough for the poorest man in Rome to do him reverence. As we remember how Mark Antony counts the cuts made by the daggers of Caesar’s friends in his mantle, we realize how vulnerable a dress is even when worn as a mantle by a man like Caesar.
This little discovery is a souvenir of a whole nation who loved Thoreau and his Walden. I hope I will be remembered with this allusion in Walden.
See in context
April 23, 2018 at 11:38 pm
Posted in: General Discussion
[No humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature, which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. ]
Considering Thoreau’s statements in the first paragraph of this section, how can he revere attitudes and actions which he also labels as inhumane?
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
[He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes. ]
This passage thoroughly debases any belief of misanthropy on Thoreau’s part. Any time Thoreau is given the chance to relay information about friends, it’s clear in his tone and reflections how much Thoreau cares about people. He is cognizant enough of his friends to denote their habits, to quote them offhand, and relishes in conveying simple yet animated portrayals of the people in his life.
April 23, 2018 at 8:32 pm
[my shortcomings and inconsistencies do not affect the truth of my statement.]
I find this line so important in our study of Thoreau. No person is without fault, and we often take any flaw or inconsistency in his argument first, as a flaw in his character, and second, to discount his accurate statements. Beyond Thoreau, even, we do this too often with people, too.
April 23, 2018 at 8:24 pm
[To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?]
Thoreau comments on those who live life resembling sleepwalkers, lacking true purpose and meaning in their existence. Is Thoreau himself awake? This criticism of his, unlike some of his other points of contention, seems to be solely directed toward other people.
April 23, 2018 at 2:11 pm
This paragraph certainly comes off as elitist. Assuming that the books he’s chosen to read are the most important does not portray him in the kindest light. However, I wouldn’t, unlike Schulz, use this paragraph necessarily as evidence to condemn him as a misanthrope. Looking at the importance he places in education as is demonstrated in paragraphs 2 and 36 of Resistance to Civil Government (the first time he uses the fact that the people have educated others as a sign that the people are better than the government, and the second time, he says that he is taking it upon himself to educate others), it is unlikely that he looks down on these people for being people and more likely that he looks down on the education that produced them.
This seems to counter Schulz’ claim that Thoreau was misanthropic. Apparently, he loved to sit with others in the social bar-room. This sounds like the opposite of misanthropy, but it is obviously biased as it comes from Thoreau himself.
April 22, 2018 at 7:28 pm
[Sometimes, when I compare myself with other men, it seems as if I were more favored by the gods than they, beyond any deserts that I am conscious of; as if I had a warrant and surety at their hands which my fellows have not, and were especially guided and guarded. ]
Thoreau could not possibly make a more conceited statement than this.
April 22, 2018 at 3:37 pm
There is a parallelism here between Thoreau himself and the house in which he will live. The house is unfinished since Thoreau has just begun to construct his new life. There may also be a suggestion that he hasn’t decided if the house should ever be finished lest it diminish his hearing of the morning wind blowing over his home carrying the poem of creation. Will the completed plastered cabin be a place where the poem of creation can be sung?
March 26, 2018 at 4:51 am
Thoreau was eating his own house. He was tasting life in all its details. This is part of the deliberate life he followed at Walden Pond.
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