« ElőzőTovább »
There is a poem of Thoreau's, of uncertain date, called “ The Departure," which, as I suppose, expresses his emotions at leaving finally, in 1848, the friendly house of Emerson, where he had dwelt so long, upon terms of such ideal intimacy. It was never seen by his friends, so far as I can learn, until after bis death, when Sophia Thoreau gave it to me, along with other poems, for publication in the Boston Commonwealth,” in 1863. Since then it has been mentioned as a poem written in anticipation of death. This is not so; it was certainly written long before his illness.
“In this roadstead I have ridden,
In this covert I have hidden :
“ This true people took the stranger,
“ Whatsoe'er the land afforded
To the stranger's wish accorded, -
“And by night they did spread o'er him
What by day they sprcad before him;
That good will which was repast
“The stranger moored him to their pier
Without anxiety or fear ; · By day he walked the sloping land,
By night the gentle heavens he scanned.
“ When first his bark stood inland
To the coast of that far Finland,
“And still he stayed from day to day,
If he their kindness might repay;
“And still, the more the stranger waited,
The less his argosy was freighted ;
“So he unfurled his shrouded mast
To receive the fragrant blast,
Again and again; -
“ All day the low hung clouds
Sighed plaintively.” .
POET, MORALIST, AND PHILOSOPHER.
THE character of poet is so high and so rare, in any modern civilization, and specially in our American career of nationality, that it behooves us to mark and claim all our true poets, before they are classified under some other name, — as philosophers, naturalists, romancers, or historians. Thus Emerson is primarily and chiefly a poet, and only a philosopher in his second intention; and thus also Thoreau, though a naturalist by habit, and a moralist by constitution, was inwardly a poet by force of that shaping and controlling imagination, which was his strongest faculty. His mind tended naturally to the ideal side. He would have been an idealist in any circumstances ; a fluent and glowing poet, had he been born among a people to whom poesy is native, like the Greeks, the Italians, the Irish. As it was, his poetic light illumined
every wide prospect and every narrow cranny in which his active, patient spirit pursued its task. It was this in ward illumination as well as the star-like beam of Emerson's genius in “Nature,” which caused Thoreau to write in his senior year at college, “ This curious world which we inhabit is more wonderful than it is convenient; more beautiful than it is useful,” and he cherished this belief through life. In youth, too, he said, “ The other world is all my art, my pencils will draw no other, my jackknife will cut nothing else ; I do not use it as a means." It was in this spirit that he afterwards uttered the quaint parable, which was his version of the primitive legend of the Golden Age:
“I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them,
describing their tracks and what calls they an..swered to. I have met one or two who had
heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind the cloud; and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.”
In the same significance read his littleknown verses, “ The Pilgrims."
“When I have slumbered
I have heard sounds
These my grounds.
« 'T was a sweet music
Wafted them by,
If afar off or nigh.
“ Unless I dreamed it
This was of yore;
To mortal before.
“ Never remembered
But in my dreams,
A miracle seems." It seems to have been the habit of Thoreau, in writing verse, to compose a couplet, a quatrain, or other short metrical expression, copy it in his journal, and afterward, when these verses had grown to a considerable number, to arrange them in the form of a single piece. This gives to his poems the epigrammatic air which most of them have. After he was thirty years old, he wrote scarcely any verse, and he even destroyed much that he had previously written, following in this the judgment of Mr.