Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) was an American poet, author, and transcendentalist who is best known for his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). Thoreau was also an abolitionist, historian, philosopher, surveyor, naturalist, development critic and tax resister, and he contributed to the field of natural history, which would influence modern day environmentalism. He had hoped Walden would establish him as the leading spokesman for the American transcendentalist movement, but unfortunately he wasn't widely appreciated in his lifetime - his collected books, journals, essays, articles and poetry would eventually find a large audience during the 1900s. His book Walden would become particularly popular during the forced austerity of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and then again during the 1960s when conservationism, transcendentalism and many other isms swept through American culture.
"Walking" is Thoreau's (1861) essay that champions the simple act of taking stroll through Nature. It has become one of the most important essays in the environmental movement, and is a portable guide to the most basic act which man do to witness the 'absolute freedom and wildness' of nature. Thoreau also uses an experience from his own life to represent a personal account in nature, more specifically his experiences while walking into the forest near his property. Eco-social politics can be seen in this essay when Thoreau analyzes building development as a taming and cheapening of the landscape. Thoreau brings the reader into a spiritual realm when he associates the divinity of nature and the spirit of walking with Christianity and Greek Mythology. In addition, when describing the Mississippi River, Thoreau describes the river as a kind of enchanted Holy Land. "I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society"
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January 11, 2013
What a glorious essay. Henry David uses his love and rich first hand experience of Nature to inspire poetry, philosophy, and beautiful prose. He is calling us all to embrace the paradise that is the natural world by the simple act of walking in it.
February 21, 2012
It was wonderful. It reminds me to notice and appreciate even the smallest bits of nature and calls us to break free of our pastures and other inhibitions in order to experience nature's wonder that surrounds us to a fuller extent. I loved it.