We’ve come to the final anecdote of Walden. A year of blog posts about this book and here we are. The end of the trail. The last roundup. The final lines are to be delivered, and then it’s roll credits and cue the theme song.
So what does Henry have for us today? What is his grand summation of his magnum opus?
He’s going to talk about the eggs of a bug.
That’s it. That’s his grand sendoff. But listen to it:
“Every one has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years… from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this? Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society…may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!”
And that’s why he ended the book in spring rather than winter. Spring is the time of renewal, and renewal is the theme here. What lies dormant within you? This is an incredibly hopeful way to end the book.
In the words of biographer Robert Richardson, “Walden is an affirmation of life — not an easy acquiescence, but the earned affirmation of a man who had to struggle almost constantly against a sense of loss, desolation, and decline that grew on him with age.” (Henry Thoreau, p. 256)
But — and this is key — you have to be ready for this renewal. Henry admits that “John or Jonathan” (referring to common stage characters that represented Britain and the US) might not get it, but he hopes you do. Are you ready to greet the morning?
“Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”
This concludes “A Year in Walden.” Since I have no plans for another extended series of posts, this blog will resume the more eclectic format it had prior to this past year. See you a week from Wednesday, and thanks for reading!