Saturday, September 24, 2005


Untamed Literature

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (November 16, 1850):
In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is only another word for tameness. It is the untamed, uncivilized, free, and wild thinking in Hamlet, in the Iliad, and in all the scriptures and mythologies that delights us, -- not learned in the schools, not refined and polished by art. A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile, as a fungus or a lichen. Suppose the muskrat or beaver were to turn his views to literature, what fresh views of nature would he present! The fault of our books and other deeds is that they are too humane. I want something speaking in some measure to the condition of muskrats and skunk-cabbage as well as of men, -- not merely to a pining and complaining coterie of philanthropists.

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