I know what you’re thinking: Thoreau, a poet? But, if you’ve read his journals and other writing, you will appreciate that the musicality, philosophy, lyricism, and metaphors of his language are nothing short of poetic. This Hermit of Concord has fallen in and out of style over the decades but what has remained constant is how his words and ideas continue to ring truer than ever before.
It has been a while since I picked up one of his books, though I do turn to Thoreau particularly when I find my world all upside down and rushing headlong ahead of me. This time, as I am going through yet another major, chaotic, and cacophonous life transition, Thoreau has turned up without any notice or intention. This morning, I opened a box of books that I’d packed in mid-June and there he was, God bless him. If you think that’s serendipity, consider this first passage below that my book fell open to. Surreal, right?
I daresay that your own hunger for silence and solitude will grow even more after a few readings. But, in keeping with the theme, I’m going to let you enjoy these words in, well, silence.
Silence alone is worthy to be heard. Silence is of various depth and fertility, like soil. Now, it is a mere Sahara, where men perish of hunger and thirst, now a fertile bottom, or prairie, of the West. As I leave the village, drawing nearer to the woods, I listen from time to time, to hear the hounds of Silence baying the Moon ― to know if they are on the track of any game. If there’s no Diana in the night, what is it worth? I hark the Goddess Diana. The silence rings; it is musical and thrills me. A night in which the silence was audible. I hear the unspeakable.
~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals‘, edited by Odell Shepherd
Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality disturb us.
~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers‘