Walden and Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau
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Henry David Thoreau’s masterwork Walden is a collection of his reflections on life and society.
In 1845, Thoreau moved to a cabin that he built with his own hands along the shores of Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Shedding the trivial ties that he felt bound much of humanity, Thoreau reaped from the land both physically and mentally, and pursued truth in the quiet of nature. In Walden, he explains how separating oneself from the world of men can truly awaken the sleeping self. Thoreau holds fast to the notion that you have not truly existed until you adopt such a lifestyle—and only then can you reenter society, as an enlightened being.
These simple but profound musings—as well as “Civil Disobedience,” his protest against the government’s interference with civil liberty—have inspired many to embrace his philosophy of individualism and love of nature. More than a century and a half later, his message is more timely than ever.
With an Introduction by W.S. Merwin
and an Afterword by Will Howarth
the preface about wit being the soul’s powder,—“but most of mankind are strangers to wit, as Indians are to powder.”gb It chanced that I walked that way across the fields the following night, about the same hour, and hearing a low moaning at this spot, I drew near in the dark, and discovered the only survivor of the family that I know, the heir of both its virtues and its vices, who alone was interested in this burning, lying on his stomach and looking over the cellar wall at the still
answered question, to Nature and daylight. The snow lying deep on the earth dotted with young pines, and the very slope of the hill on which my house is placed, seemed to say, Forward! Nature puts no question and answers none which we mortals ask. She has long ago taken her resolution. “O Prince, our eyes contemplate with admiration and transmit to the soul the wonderful and varied spectacle of this universe. The night veils without doubt a part of this glorious creation; but day comes to reveal
as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of the world. I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi of Shiraz,bi that “They asked a wise man, saying; Of the many celebrated trees which the Most High God has created lofty and umbrageous, they call none azad, or free, excepting the cypress, which bears no fruit; what mystery is
and consciousness were beginning to emerge as central preoccupations of such major twentieth-century writers as James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner. Many of the best-known nineteenth-century American writers in fact achieved their status as classic writers through interpretations advanced by twentieth-century critics and scholars who were themselves influenced by the chief writers of their own age. Indeed, D. H. Lawrence’s own Studies in
battle was raging; internecine war; the red republicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely. I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other’s embraces, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at noon-day prepared to fight till the sun went down, or life went out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vice to his