The wild men (Walden 179)

“Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men come with fishing-reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines through the snowy field to take pickerel and perch; wild men, who instinctively follow other fashions and trust other authorities than their townsmen, and by their goings and comings stitch towns together in parts where else they would be ripped. They sit and eat their luncheon in stout fear-naughts on the dry oak leaves on the shore, as wise in natural lore as the citizen is in artificial.” — Henry David Thoreau, “The Pond in Winter,” Walden

As with the Canadian woodchopper that Henry wrote about in an earlier chapter (see this post) , he is fascinated with — and admires — men of low social standing live close to nature and are “wise in natural lore.” They are not bookish like Henry. Theirs is a world deeds and not of words — they “know and can tell much less than they have done.” They live in a material world and not an abstract one.

“His life itself passes deeper in Nature than the studies of the naturalist penetrate.”

Thoreau is himself a naturalist, of course, and recognizes that in some ways these uneducated men understand nature more deeply than he does. Cocky as he can sometimes be, he recognizes the value of other kinds learning besides books.

His goal seems to be to combine the experiential knowledge of the “wild man” with the learning of the scholar and the aesthetics of a poet.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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