Tag Archives: objectivity

Standing inside a rainbow (Walden 145)

We’ve begun a new chapter, titled “Baker Farm,” and here Thoreau makes an astonishing claim:

“Once it chanced that I stood in the very abutment of a rainbow’s arch, which filled the lower stratum of the atmosphere, tinging the grass and leaves around, and dazzling me as if I looked through colored crystal. It was a lake of rainbow light, in which, for a short while, I lived like a dolphin. If it had lasted longer it might have tinged my employments and life.”

This is one of the more puzzling and tantalizing statements in Walden. An abutment is the end of an arch — Henry is claiming to have stood inside the end of a rainbow! Which, of course, is impossible. Everyone knows that rainbows recede from you as you approach — you can never reach rainbow’s end any more than a dog can catch his shadow. Continue reading