In paragraph 15, T begins to describe man’s relationship to nature. He acknowledges how man puts faith in nature to just work correctly, recognizing that humanity does not understand nature as well as it should. He ends by invoking the notion of miracles, and suggests, through the use of his Confucius quote, that man has adopted a sort of ignorance or stupidity towards the natural world, which in turn seeps into man’s daily life.
T’s claim seems like a logical preface to some of Pope Francis’ claims in Laudato si. Pope Francis calls on man to recognize what he already knows about nature and make political and economic changes based on that knowledge. The Pope rationalizes his suggestions by emphasizing the relationship between humanity and nature, arguing that no matter how far removed we try to make ourselves from the natural world, we are very much a part of it. T sees this inherent connection to the natural world, which is why he calls out his peers for choosing to live in ignorance towards the world around them.
T does not acknowledge the economic and political realities of thinking in such a way, but failing to do so makes sense when considering the state of political development still being carried out in T’s lifetime. Further, the lack of understanding that T describes would, in turn, suggest a lack of knowledge about the specific needs for the persistence of life on Earth.
As we read historically back towards Pope Francis’ encyclical, it is interesting to consider how T is the first writer we have encountered who starts to make specific claims about the philosophical relationship between humanity and nature. Up to this point, the writers we have considered have chosen to primarily reframe the man/nature relationship as a pragmatic concern (Locke) or social-economic issue (Marx). It will be interesting to see if T’s genuine anxiety about the state of this man/nature relationship continues to build as we move closer to Francis’ similar worries.
What I hear Thoreau advocating for most strongly is for us all to listen deeply to the soft voice of nature within us, our “true course,” and to tap into something bigger than us- our connection to everything else in the world. A deep love for all people and things.
June 17, 2018 at 8:05 pm
Posted in: General Discussion
Yes, I appreciate what you say and I thank you for replying.
I have already scrapped 5 th version of my translation and your reply will help me when I am writing my 6th one… 🙂
Thanks a lot.
See in context
June 14, 2018 at 10:51 am
Long before leaves appear on trees, they reveal themselves in sands to Thoreau. To him sands and stones are as alive as leaves and trees. It seems to me that Thoreau is watching what Emerson called the Oversoul here. It is this Oversoul that is giving animal life to this inanimate material. “Sand foliage” may be seen only in Walden. See how beautifully “springing to life” reminds us of the spring which is just emerging. The spring does not emerge in leaves, trees, not even in the cracks in Walden Pond’s ice only, it is seen in the dead sands that are just springing into life.
Isn’t all this a mystical invitation to a deliberate life. How can we continue our winter hibernation while even stones and sands rupture and spring into life life this?
June 14, 2018 at 9:52 am
Jayant, I had a terribly difficult time translating this particular passage. I remember that, through a scholar friend in Japan and another in Korea, I even looked at the way the Japanese and Korean translators treated this paragraph. No one can feel what you are going through better than me. You have to begin to form specific questions.
June 14, 2018 at 8:59 am
Can anyone help me to understand this para in detail ? I am translating Walden into Marathi, language spoken in Maharashtra, India. I would like to discuss this para by e-mail exchanges if one agrees…
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.
April 23, 2018 at 11:38 pm
[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.
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