Walden Revisited: A Centennial Tribute to Henry David Thoreau

Walden Revisited: A Centennial Tribute to Henry David Thoreau

Walden Revisited: A Centennial Tribute to Henry David Thoreau

Walden Revisited: A Centennial Tribute to Henry David Thoreau

Excerpt

Walden Pond, in spite of the twentieth century mania for calling every body of fresh water a lake, still keeps its oldfashioned name. Beside the heap of stones that marks the site of Thoreau's cabin the young pines are springing up. Standing there in the hush of an early morning in summer, one may look across the unruffled surface to wooded shores and recapture momentarily the sense of a landscape attuned to leisurely living and the delights of meditation.

But the drive and grind of modernity are not far distant. A. glance at the ground where bottle caps and torn papers mingle with the dry pine needles or a whiff, not of a chance traveler's pipe, but of a passing motor-car's exhaust brings back the insistent realities of an era of speed and waste. Though Walden Pond is preserved as a State Reservation, it is no longer a refuge of the spirit. Free enterprise has exploited its bathing beach as a location for hot-dog stands and amusement booths. Official tests of the water at the beaches of popular resorts within the reach of Greater Boston show that Walden sometimes ranks among the most favored in urine-content.

Of more concern than the state of Walden's water or the beauty of its shores is the moral heritage of human freedom and loyalty to principle that descends from Thoreau. Nothing could be more opposite to the totalitarian doctrines of our times than the transcendentalist's belief in the dignity of man and the supremacy of individual conscience over a debased collective authority. The hope that these ideas may still be cherished and made valid is the mainspring of this essay.

G. F.W.

Amherst, Massachusetts February, 1945 . . .

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