A poet carries off a landscape (Walden 46)

Farm near Lincoln, Nebraska.

Cornfield and cattle near Lincoln, Nebraska.

The back story to the previous post is that Thoreau actually thought seriously about buying a farm, the very thing he ridiculed in earlier chapters. I’m not sure how he planned to do it. He had little money.

In the end, he didn’t buy the farm. But, as he explains it here, that was a sign of his wealth (as he defined wealth), not his poverty. (“a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”)

“But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow…  I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.”

Henry is a master of redefinition. He’s already redefined wealth and poverty and broadened the idea of home. Now he’s going after possession. What does it mean to own land? Not only is all ownership temporary, but there are only certain aspects of the land that are possible to own… or rather, the “ownership” is non-exclusive and open to anyone who recognizes the non-tangible value that lies hidden in plain sight.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)

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